The popularized version of US history underplays the important contributions towards civil rights made by American members of the socialist movement and underscores influences from abroad that informed the advances against slavery, Jim Crow and segregation.
That story of the forgotten, prideful history of black Americans is the topic of a Radio Sputnik interview. Historian Gerald Horne, the author of "Confronting Black Jacobins" and "Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary" joins Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker to revive the real history of the insipid racism of America’s founders, the influence of the Haitian slave revolt that bled over to America, and the heroism of Paul Robeson the forgotten civil rights champion.
The tale that is told begins with a distorted tale of the nation’s founder repelling the repression of the British monarchy to create a society where "all men are created equal," but in reality a primary grievance inciting the revolutionary war was a desire to maintain profitable slave labor against the pressure of British abolitionism.
"Black people didn’t support the idea of revolting against British rule in 1776," noted Horne. "In fact, they saw 1776 the way Africans in Zimbabwe saw the unilateral declaration of independence in Southern Rhodesia in November 1965 as a way to evade British decolonization, the US slaves saw 1776 as a way to evade British abolitionism."
Similarly, the tale of abolitionism – the principled forces that fought against slavery in the United States – focus on white, Christian abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips with the lone black influence being Frederick Douglas. In reality, the drive towards abolitionism that tilted the United States into the bloody civil war was instigated by the slave rebellion in Haiti.
Finally, one of the most powerful forces in the first phase of the Civil Rights movement, which occurred during the 1930s and 1940s paving the way for the successes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in the 1960s, was all but burnt away from the history books – that force was the late, great Paul Robeson.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Paul Robeson was not only the best known black man in America but was the most internationally recognized American white or black and was a fearless advocate for advancement in the face of bigotry. Robeson was the nation’s top athlete excelling in football, baseball basketball and track & field. He was a lawyer and graduate of Columbia University law school. He was a world-class singer and actor. He was a leading force for freedom and equality worldwide.
Yet his tale was erased from the history books after serving the country proudly in World War II because he believed that the US should maintain a relationship with Moscow given US-Russian unity in repelling the evil specter of Nazi fascism.
"That view fell in conflict with the views of the ruling political elite and so Paul Robeson was persecuted mercilessly, his passport was taken, he was practically under house arrest," explained Horne. "His income plummeted and he wasn’t allowed to book concert halls until an international movement to get his passport restored succeeded in 1958."