Sterling, Ahead of Her Time: Abbey Kelley and the Politics of Antislavery
Here at Race Traitor,
we take the abolitionists seriously. A small, isolated minority, dismissed
as hopeless fanatics even by many who agreed with their goal of abolishing
slavery, they played a crucial role in the history of the country. Part
of the reason for their importance was their commitment to what might
be called a strategy of creative provocation. They never won a majority
to their point of view, but, as Wendell Phillips said, they "startled
the South into madness," setting in motion a mighty chain of events.
Among the greatest of them was Abby Kelley, who,
probably more than anyone else, was responsible for building the organizations
in the field. She was a fearless and tireless traveler and speaker,
enduring numerous insults and physical hardships for the cause. She
put off marriage and children for fear they would take her out of activity.
And when she left her baby with her sister to go on the road again,
she said nothing in her life ever hurt her as much as that, but she
did it out of consideration for those mothers whose babies were sold
away from them.
She was so radical that sometimes she made even
Garrison nervous. (Her husband, Stephen Foster, was even more radical
than she. He regularly broke up church services, denouncing the minister
and congregation as hypocrites and man-stealers.) Her radicalism was
of the mind as well as the heart, and although she could weep for the
slave, she had not an ounce of sentimentality toward former comrades
who sought to water down abolitionist principles to make the movement
Those of us who identify ourselves as new abolitionists
need more than anything else to know about our predecessors -- not merely
the resolutions they passed at conventions (that information is easy
to obtain) but the details of their day-to-day work: what their meetings
were like, how they raised money, their relation to the vigilance committees
and other ad hoc groups, members' responsibiities, how they divided
tasks, how they sustained themselves through periods of disappointment,
etc. This biography by Dorothy Sterling does more to open a window on
these questions than any other generally available book I know of.
Lowell Thompson, "Whitefolks":
Seeing America Through Black Eyes (Partnership Against Racism,
After twenty-five years in the advertising industry, Lowell Thompson
quit his job and founded, together with a friend, a firm called Partnership
Against Racism. By "whitefolks" he means the "man-made-covert-class-conscious-race-based-hierarchical-hypocritical-mentality"
known as "the American way." He believes that "`white'
folks and `black' folks were created by greedy folks who became the
rich and powerful folks who control America to this day."
Mr. Thompson takes aim at Thomas Jefferson, "the
founding father of our race problem," the film and print media,
the advertising industry, The Bell Curve, and most politicians,
past and present. He seeks to free the "Caucasian 200 million,"
who, he believes, have always been as enslaved as black people. "America's
elites forced `black' Americans into slavery and chained their bodies.
But they talked `white' Americans into enslaving themselves..."
Mr. Thompson gives a lot of credit to Lerone Bennett, Jr., author of
The Shaping of Black America, for helping him overcome the
harmful effects of his public-school miseducation.
Mr. Thompson writes, " 'Blackfolks' are 'white'
America's mirror whether they realize it or not. And we can show them
a view of themselves they've avoided from the day they landed on these
shores." Americans are indeed fortunate to live in a country where
there are still people like Lowell Thompson willing and able to write
and publish at their own expense a book of this nature. He says he will
personally sell (or give away), sign, number, and register all 500 copies.
All readers of Race Traitor are advised to get one.
Clarence Page, Showing My Color: Impolite
Essays on Race and Identity (HarperCollins, 1996)
Clarence Page is a nationally-syndicated columnist and a frequent voice
on radio and TV talk shows. He is in many respects the ideal spokesman
for those black professionals who operate in largely white areas of
the economy and public life. In these essays he addresses the social
separation of the races, the meaning of blackness, relations between
the sexes, the Nation of Islam, Black-Jewish relations, entrepreneurs
in the black community, intermarriage, and other issues. Mr. Page says
he upholds the capitalist system, and has moved away from what he calls
his youthful radicalism. But moderation means something different for
him from what it would mean to a white politician. Insofar as he offers
direction for black people, his book is beyond the scope of this review.
We are sure that many readers of this journal would find things in it
to disagree with, but it is worth noting that Mr. Page, for all his
efforts to locate himself somewhere in the world of practical politics,
opposes racial oppression when he sees it. Thus he forcefully defends
race-based affirmative action, in contrast to many whites who would
like to call themselves radical. He also says nice things about Race
Traitor; he, for one, is not put off by its "extreme"
Mansfield B. Frazier, From Behind the Wall:
Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race, and the Underclass by a Prison
Inmate (Paragon, 1995)
So long as there are prisons, there will be writers. Mr. Frazier is
an Afro-American professional outlaw who spent a good deal of time behind
bars for "stealing without a licence." He has put together
a collection of very readable essays. Eschewing rhetoric and visionary
schemes, he seeks practical solutions to a number of contemporary problems.
Many of his observations are right on target, and his opinion is always
worth thinking about. One of his pieces -- not included in this book
-- was published in Race Traitor.
Theresa Perry, ed., Teaching Malcolm X
In the first part of this book teachers tell of their experiences teaching
Malcolm X to different groups of students; in the second part various
writers comment on Malcolm's legacy. It is often forgotten that for
Malcolm X, literacy was a means of obtaining freedom, not social mobility.
The introduction sets the tone for the book by placing Malcolm's educational
philosophy in the Afro-American tradtion, and making a powerful argument
for its continuing relevance. A number of the pieces in this collection
are noteworthy; one, called "The Perquisites of Whiteness,"
contains as succinct a statement of what Race Traitor is about
as any we have seen: the writer, Robert Lowe, a European American, recounts
being arrested at some demonstration. In jail awaiting arraignment and
release he met a young black man in for confronting a cop who was beating
a black woman. Lowe writes, "Although I think I was doing the right
thing by participating in the protest, the risk I was taking was trivial.
I knew I would be out of jail by morning, and would have legal counsel
to exonerate me. He, on the other hand, would go to prison and do serious
time. Although many whites have demonstrated against the Klan and neo-Nazis
in typically ritualistic, face-to-face confrontations, I know of neither
individual whites who have interceded with the police the way that young
man did, nor of white groups who have followed the example..."