“How many more niggers did they hire?” A strange question to ask a younge black man back in 1965 after he was hired by the Twin City Transit to become the first black bus driver for the City of Little Rock, Arkansas. The man was my uncle, Ulysess S.Grant. He had filled out an application for employment at the bus company and as was his routine, he would always return back to the personnel office to “up date” his application to make sure that the application did not go into the trash can. But in the shadows of the “Little Rock Nine” at Central High School, Little Rock like other Southern and Northern cities were witnessing the hand writing on the wall. To cling on to those dark dreadful days of degradation and discrimination was proving too costly, hence it was time for a change.
Generally on the Fourth of July, “your” Independence Day, I read Fredrick Douglass famous speech, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. Douglas gave this speech at Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852 and it is a “must read” for all Americans. This year I re-read the Race Riot at East St. Louis July 2, 1917, by Elliott Rudwick. Back in 1917, East St. Louis boasted of a population of over 70,000 residents with less than one third of the citizens being black or “colored” in those days. The account of the “race riot” (It really was not a race riot but a massacre) stirs up one’s mind to ask the question, how cruel can one person become toward another? Just in case you need the answer it is found in Genesis 6:5-7. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart…” (NKJV). Now you can see and better understand how one group of people can set fire to a house with black occupants inside and shoot down the occupants as they escape the fire, or grab blacks off of a street car and beat the innocence black riders to death and later throw their bodies in a flowing Cahokia Creek, wreaked with the blood of those yearning to be free. But let us return back to the black bus driver named after the white general of the Civil War or the War Between the States.
My uncle would tell me the story of how he stopped to pick up his fare, this old white woman who said, “a colored bus driver and a cute one at that.” Later when the woman had made it safely to her destination she asked as politely as possible, “How many more niggers did they hire?” I knew about the Little Rock Nine, as one of the students later relocated to East St. Louis and taught here for years. I did not know about Elane, Arkansas, and the massacre (race riot) of 1923, but I knew of similar stories in Chicago, Black Wall Street in Oklahoma, and numerous other northern and southern cities where hate and race met up together.
“South” really means south of Canada, hence all of America has a bloody history mired by Slavery, Our National Taboo (previous post). So as we celebrate this Fourth of July, especially black folks who spends millions of dollars purchasing fireworks, and any thing that goes pop or bang and creates “bombs bursting in the air”, we should be thankful that “our flag was still there.” The same flag that over 50,000 children from South and Central America sees flying over the home of the free and the land of the brave…especially as we show them the intent of our heart and send them back to a life of mayhem and murder. As we celebrate this Independence Day, this Fourth of July 2014, answer the question asked by Fredrick Douglas or the black Ulysses S. Grant, and the survivors of the Race Riot (massacre) at East St. Louis back on July 2 and July 3, 1917. What do your holiday mean to me? Let us keep our borders free of these unwanted brown people, 50,000 strong and our hearts in chains…Hmmm.