Tuesday, June 21, 2022


The BROOKS BLACKBOARD is an online political news and political education site with links to our news articles, analysis and books reviews. See the links below to our recent posts in May and June 2022, and take a look at our political education pages, INTEL and OPEN MIND.   


Juneteenth celebrates just one of the United States’ 20 emancipation days – and the history of how emancipated people were kept unfree needs to be remembered, tooKris Manjapra

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Juneteenth celebrates just one of the United States’ 20 emancipation days – and the history of how emancipated people were kept unfree needs to be remembered, too

Emancipation Day celebration, June 19, 1900, held in ‘East Woods’ on East 24th St. in Austin, Texas. Austin History Center
Kris Manjapra, Tufts University

The actual day was June 19, 1865, and it was the Black dockworkers in Galveston, Texas, who first heard the word that freedom for the enslaved had come. There were speeches, sermons and shared meals, mostly held at Black churches, the safest places to have such celebrations.

The perils of unjust laws and racist social customs were still great in Texas for the 250,000 enslaved Black people there, but the celebrations known as Juneteenth were said to have gone on for seven straight days.

The spontaneous jubilation was partly over Gen. Gordon Granger’s General Order No. 3. It read in part, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

But the emancipation that took place in Texas that day in 1865 was just the latest in a series of emancipations that had been unfolding since the 1770s, most notably the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863.

As I explore in my book “Black Ghost of Empire,” between the 1780s and 1930s, during the era of liberal empire and the rise of modern humanitarianism, over 80 emancipations from slavery occurred, from Pennsylvania in 1780 to Sierra Leone in 1936.

There were, in fact, 20 separate emancipations in the United States alone, from 1780 to 1865, across the U.S. North and South.

In my view as a scholar of race and colonialism, Emancipation Days – Juneteenth in Texas – are not what many people think, because emancipation did not do what most of us think it did.

As historians have long documented, emancipations did not remove all the shackles that prevented Black people from obtaining full citizenship rights. Nor did emancipations prevent states from enacting their own laws that prohibited Black people from voting or living in white neighborhoods.

In fact, based on my research, emancipations were actually designed to force Blacks and the federal government to pay reparations to slave owners – not to the enslaved – thus ensuring white people maintained advantages in accruing and passing down wealth across generations..

Reparations to slave owners

The emancipations shared three common features that, when added together, merely freed the enslaved in one sense, but reenslaved them in another sense.

The first, arguably the most important, was the ideology of gradualism, which said that atrocities against Black people would be ended slowly, over a long and open-ended period.

The second feature was state legislators who held fast to the racist principle that emancipated people were units of slave owner property – not captives who had been subjected to crimes against humanity.

The third was the insistence that Black people had to take on various forms of debt in order to exit slavery. This included economic debt, exacted by the ongoing forced and underpaid work that freed people had to pay to slave owners.

In essence, freed people had to pay for their freedom, while enslavers had to be paid to allow them to be free.

Emancipation myths and realities

On March 1, 1780, for instance, Pennsylvania’s state Legislature set a global precedent for how emancipations would pay reparations to slave owners and buttress the system of white property rule.

The Pennsylvania Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery stipulated “that all persons, as well negroes, and mulattos, as others, who shall be born within this State, from and after the Passing of this Act, shall not be deemed and considered as Servants for Life or Slaves.”

At the same time, the legislation prescribed “that every negroe and mulatto child born within this State” could be held in servitude “unto the age of twenty eight Years” and “liable to like correction and punishment” as enslaved people.

After that first Emancipation Day in Pennsylvania, enslaved people still remained in bondage for the rest of their lives, unless voluntarily freed by slave owners.

Only the newborn children of enslaved women were nominally free after Emancipation Day. Even then, these children were forced to serve as bonded laborers from childhood until their 28th birthday.

All future emancipations shared the Pennsylvania DNA.

Emancipation Day came to Connecticut and Rhode Island on March 1, 1784. On July 4, 1799, it dawned in New York, and on July 4, 1804, in New Jersey. After 1838, West Indian people in the United States began commemorating the British Empire’s Emancipation Day of Aug. 1.

The District of Columbia’s day came on April 16, 1862.

Seven white men gather around a table to watch President Abraham Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. Getty Images

Eight months later, on Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the enslaved only in Confederate states – not in the states loyal to the Union, such as New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri.

Emancipation Day dawned in Maryland on Nov. 1, 1864. In the following year, emancipation was granted on April 3 in Virginia, on May 8 in Mississippi, on May 20 in Florida, on May 29 in Georgia, on June 19 in Texas and on Aug. 8 in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Slavery by another name

After the Civil War, the three Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution each contained loopholes that aided the ongoing oppression of Black communities.

The Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 allowed for the enslavement of incarcerated people through convict leasing.

The Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 permitted incarcerated people to be denied the right to vote.

And the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 failed to explicitly ban forms of voter suppression that targeted Black voters and would intensify during the coming Jim Crow era.

In fact, Granger’s Order No. 3, on June 19, 1865, spelled it out.

Freeing the slaves, the order read, “involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor.”

Yet, the order further states: “The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The meaning of Juneteenth

Since the moment emancipation celebrations started on March 1, 1780, all the way up to June 19, 1865, Black crowds gathered to seek redress for slavery.

with a blue sky in the background, a Black woman stands over a crowd of people, raising her fist in the air.
A Black woman raises her fist in the air during a Juneteenth reenactment celebration in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 2021. Mark Felix /AFP/Getty Images

On that first Juneteenth in Texas, and increasingly so during the ones that followed, free people celebrated their resilience amid the failure of emancipation to bring full freedom.

They stood for the end of debt bondage, racial policing and discriminatory laws that unjustly harmed Black communities. They elevated their collective imagination from out of the spiritual sinkhole of white property rule.

Over the decades, the traditions of Juneteenth ripened into larger gatherings in public parks, with barbecue picnics and firecrackers and street parades with brass bands.

At the end of his 1999 posthumously published novel, “Juneteenth,” noted Black author Ralph Ellison called for a poignant question to be asked on Emancipation Day: “How the hell do we get love into politics or compassion into history?”

The question calls for a pause as much today as ever before.The Conversation

Kris Manjapra, Professor of History, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Texas is a top target for gun rights lobbying and political contributions

photo credit:urluko

Texas representatives in the 117th Congress took more money from gun rights groups than lawmakers in any other state, a new OpenSecrets analysis found. 

Senators and House members representing Texas have received more than $14 million in contributions from gun rights interests over the course of their careers, with much of that coming from the National Rifle Association.

Texas also ranks second among the 19 states tracked by OpenSecrets for state-level lobbying by gun rights groups with more than $3 million in spending from 2015 through 2021. During that period, the NRA spent more on state-level lobbying in Texas than any other state in the 19 states tracked by OpenSecrets with over $2.5 million in spending. 

The influence gun rights groups exert in Texas is also evident in grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts spearheaded by the NRA. 

The NRA is scheduled to hold its annual meeting this weekend in Houston — just a few hours drive from the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where at least 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting on Tuesday.

Multiple politicians are slated to speak at the event, which is expected to be the year’s largest for the gun lobby after previous events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the convention’s planned headliners — including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — canceled in-person appearances after facing criticism for taking money from the NRA and continuing with plans to speak at the event after the shooting. Abbott is still scheduled to address attendees in a pre-recorded video message.

The NRA convention schedule also still includes multiple in-person appearances from politicians who have benefitted from the gun rights group’s largesse, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former President Donald Trump.

Trump is scheduled to headline a forum at the NRA’s annual meeting, and the NRA issued a notice telling attendees they will not be able to carry firearms, toy guns or “weapons of any kind” during the forum headlined by Trump.

Trump’s presidential election bids received significant financial support from the NRA. The gun rights group spent a record $54.4 million on 2016 federal elections, with most of that spending routed through the NRA’s flagship lobbying arm, a 501(c)(4) “dark money” group that does not disclose its donors. Nearly all of the NRA’s 2016 spending went to boosting Trump’s presidential election.

Though tax records show the main NRA lobbying arm’s revenue dipped down to about $282 million in 2020 after ending multiple years in the red, the group still poured tens of millions of dollars into influencing elections. Most of the $29 million that the NRA spent on 2020 federal elections also went to supporting Trump in the final months before Election Day. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is slated to speak at the NRA’s annual meeting, is the top recipient of political contributions from gun rights interests, drawing about $749,000 over his career.

Gun rights interests have also poured money into outside spending boosting Cruz. Of the more than $154,000 gun rights interests spent boosting Cruz since he was elected to Congress in 2012, about $122,000 was bankrolled by the NRA.

The NRA event schedule includes a prerecorded video message from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican with a long history with the gun rights advocacy organization. Abbot has received more than $20,000 in contributions from gun rights groups with most of that coming from the NRA and the Texas State Rifle Association.

In June 2021, multiple members of NRA leadership – embattled NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and NRA president Carolyn Meadows — joined Abbott for a special bill signing ceremony for House Bill 1927, NRA-backed legislation that allows Texans to carry handguns for self-defense without a license from the state so long as they don’t have a criminal history.

Texas’ Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, is still scheduled to speak at the event.

Paxton won the GOP nomination Tuesday in a runoff against Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. In November, Paxton will face off against Rochelle Garza, a civil rights attorney who won the Democratic nomination.

As he runs for reelection, Paxton is under indictment for felony securities fraud charges from 2015 but has pleaded not guilty and is still awaiting trial. In addition to the felony charges, Paxton is also reportedly under FBI investigation for accusations of corruption and the State Bar of Texas is considering whether to take action against Paxton for his role in filing a lawsuit challenging presidential election results in four states won by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. 

After the shooting, Paxton suggested arming teachers as a possible solution. 

Paxton is a longtime champion of the firearms industry, and the industry in turn has poured money into supporting the controversial politician. 

The NRA, the Texas State Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America Political Victory Fund have all given political contributions to Paxton.

But Paxton’s relationship with gun rights interests goes far beyond money.

Paxton “welcomed” the NRA to Texas when the gun rights organization ​​filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January of 2021, seeking to restructure in Texas and avoid legal action in New York. New York’s attorney general began investigating the National Rifle Association on corruption charges in 2019 and moved to dissolve its 501(c)(4) nonprofit in 2020. 

“The NRA has been instrumental in defending our Second Amendment rights and we would welcome them with open arms to relocate in Texas!,” Paxton tweeted at the time. 

In April, Paxton signed on to an amicus brief supporting the NRA’s petition in partnership with the California Rifle and Pistol Association asking the Supreme Court to hear Duncan v. Bonta, a case challenging California’s ban on magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Gun money across party lines

Contributions from gun rights groups in the Lone Star State are not limited to Republicans. 

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is one Democratic incumbent who has a history with the NRA.

Cuellar faced progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros on Tuesday in Texas’ primary. While Cuellar declared victory, his lead was less than 200 votes and ballots are still being counted so the race may be headed for a runoff. The winning Democrat will go up against Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who won her own runoff in the Republican primary Tuesday.

The NRA has poured tens of thousands of dollars into donations to Cuellar and outside spending boosting Cuellar since he was elected to Congress, totalling $31,669 since 2002.

Most recently, Cuellar’s 2018 reelection campaign accepted $6,950 in donations from the NRA Political Victory Fund. A campaign spokesperson told CNBC that Cuellar doesn’t plan on giving the NRA’s money back or to charity, reportedly asking, “Why would he do that?” 

Cuellar held an A rating with the NRA going into the 2018 midterms and was one of only three Democrats who received campaign contributions from the NRA that cycle. But his rating dropped from an A to a C after he backed an expansion of background checks. The NRA has not given to him since the 2018 election cycle. 

Both sides of the gun control debate spend big in California  

California ranks No. 1 for members of Congress taking money from groups advocating gun control with $968,754 in contributions over the course of their careers but lawmakers in the state have taken money from groups on both sides of the issue.

As two of the biggest states in the country, California and Texas each have more representatives in Congress than any other state, meaning more lawmakers in the states may already be more likely to cumulatively attract more money. 

But many individual lawmakers in these states are also major recipients of funds from gun groups, and the states were the two top targets of lobbying spending by gun rights interests in the 19 states tracked by OpenSecrets. 

California ranks second among the 19 states tracked by OpenSecrets for most money spent on lobbying by the NRA from 2015 through 2021 and first overall for gun rights groups lobbying during that time period. Gun rights groups spent over $2.1 million on lobbying in California from 2015 through 2021 with $811,899 of that spending bankrolled by the NRA.

California lawmakers recently advanced a package of gun control bills, including one sponsored by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom that uses the structure of Texas’ abortion ban to crack down on illegal firearms.

Newsom opened the legislative session this year with a call to action inspired by Texas Republicans and the conservative majority on the nation’s highest court. 

The law would give Californians the right to sue manufacturers, sellers and distributors of illegal assault weapons, ghost guns and certain firearms and to collect at least $10,000 in civil damages per weapon – effectively putting a bounty on guns.

Other gun proposals in California include bills to ban the advertising of certain firearms to minors, require school officials to report any “perceived threat” of a mass shooting to law enforcement, ban firearm sales on government property and compel firearm dealers to increase security.

This article originally appeared at OpenSecrets.org on May 26th, 2022. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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BOOK REVIEW: Walter Rodney's Intellectual and Political Thought, Reviewed by L.V. Gaither

Reviewed by L.V. Gaither
Walter Rodney, born in British Guiana in 1942, was one of the most outstanding historians within the radical, international Caribbean tradition. Largely remembered for his Marxist reading of the underdevelopment of Africa, Rodney possessed that rare capacity to take theory and situate it into practical politics; to push liberating ideas beyond the limits of one’s imagination into concrete reality. Although Rodney’s life, and correspondingly his course of revolutionary activity, ended when he was assassinated at the young age of 38, his intellectual production continues to resonate in the international arena.

 Rupert Lewis’s new book delves deeply into the impressive and wide-ranging panorama of Rodney’s political and intellectual thought. As I read it, I was reminded over and over again that at a time when a reassessment of Rodney’s ideas could benefit us most, his contributions to Caribbean and African political thought are unfamiliar to the present generation. Popular awareness of his contributions to the intellectual formation of black radicalism in North America is limited mostly to his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. But even here, as the next generation emerges to take the reins of political, social, and intellectual leadership, prospects for understanding the importance of this major work are fading.