Skip to content

Jim Crow racism: Always there to remind us


The racism that exists in our everyday lives seems to be inseparable from our everyday lives.  No matter where a situation may exist the ugly head of racism seems to rise above us and scream “I’m still here Americans.”  Yes, it is still here and it appears to be with us for, perhaps, forever.

This nation was founded with racism being a part of our flesh and blood. A single decade cannot pass us by with a major event proving that our dirty legacy remains with us. Will it ever go away and leave our culture alone?  Makes you wonder.

I remember the time my mother thought it would be beneficial to my upbringing and my understanding of our complex nation if I would spend a good summer in Louisiana with my relatives who planted in the “Bayou State” in the 1860’s. They originated from the Ports of Richmond, La. and Savannah, Ga.   Fresh off the “Voyage” and into the cotton fields.

It appears that most of them entered slavery through the Port of Onakery in Nigeria. The ending of the Civil War closed the chapter on official slavery and began hard segregation from there on.

The vast majority of my people were “mulattoes” according to the United States Census. We owe our physical prowess to our forefather, Bill Brown. His claim was that of a “breeder” and the story goes that he fathered at least 70 “bastard” children. From Georgia to Texas he spread his “seeds”.

Another colorful forefather was Harry Watkins. He seemed to do good as a freed slave with real estate. His last big deal in 1872 was a loan for 225 acres of good timber land.  On the payoff date of the 225 acres he disappeared and has not been seen since.  Nor him or his sweet land would ever belong to my forefathers again. Some say he went off and settled in Virginia after the Civil War.

Our land holdings would exist with the above exception for pretty much of the 20th Century.  The few thousands of acres would bring in a very handsome payload if we could be given the opportunity to cash in.  But slick and vicious racist traps would deprive our elders of most of the land value.  Loan sharks and crooked judges were a common villain in the scheme of things.  The value of lost land by freed slaves must be ranked into the millions of dollars.  Someone should do a documented study on what happened to our land.  The facts can be found in local courthouses where real estate activity is recorded and documented.

How much blood have we lost while becoming prey to the vicious evil Jim Crow participants?  How many of our forefathers have suffered the pains of the documented evilness and legacy destroying antics?

It is amazing how I can take out and show deeds, contracts, land sales, etc. that once belonged to my family elders and relatives become amazed and in shock having never known about the entrepreneurial vitality that once existed in our family and has now mysteriously disappeared.

Check out the courthouses that exist in your hometowns and be shocked at what you find.

Kay’s family has similar stories to share.  Would you believe it if we say that the legendary musician John Philip Sousa is her forefather? Shssss! Don’t tell the Sousa’s and they certainly won’t believe it. What happened to the riches he made while he traveled around the world conducting some of the greatest music and performances known to mankind.  Where’s the loot?  Could it be a Black thing?

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.  Kay  DeBow is the co-founder, executive vice president of the Chamber.