Pages

Thursday, 12 November 2015

9 People Other Than MLK Jr. Who Sacrificed Their Lives to Fight For Black Liberation.

February 5, 2014 | Posted by


Black history has been celebrated in America throughout the month of February since 1976, and 50 years prior in Negro History Week. During this time, classrooms across America typically engage in activities from plays and artwork to writing assignments that highlight the contributions of Black people.
Despite its nearly 100-year history, Black History Month often excludes the contributions of African and Caribbean-born leaders and even some American-born leaders, who get buried beneath staples such as civil rights activists Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. These leaders and activists have earned their rightful place in history, however a disservice is done to countless other leaders from around the world who too fought for Black liberation.
liberation lumumbaPatrice Lumumba, 35 (July 2, 1925 – Jan. 17, 1961)

Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected leader of what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lumumba was a Pan-Africanist who spoke boldly and bravely against the atrocities of colonialism and passionately about a united Congo with full political and economic independence.
The Congo, considered then to be Africa’s richest country, had been a colony of Belgium since the late 1800s, which ruled over it with brutality while plundering its natural resources. Lumumba’s vision for making the Congo the “pride of Africa” through true political and economic independence was a threat to the Belgians and the United States who were not prepared to relinquish full control of the country’s resources and labeled him a communist.
The CIA, acting under the orders of  U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, conspired but failed to assassinate Lumumba via poisoning. Instead, the United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and to aid rival politicians headed by Joseph Désiré Mobutu, who seized power and arrested Lumumba.
According to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, on Jan. 17, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, Lumumba was shot and killed by a firing squad along with his newly appointed ministers Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito.
liberation biko 1
Stephen Bantu Biko, 30 (Dec. 18, 1946 – Sept. 12, 1977)
Steve Biko, regarded as an icon in the anti-apartheid movement, founded several organizations in an effort to mobilize Black people against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Biko co-founded the South African Students’ Organization in 1968, an all-Black student organization focusing on the resistance of apartheid. He later founded the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), which would empower and mobilize much of the urban Black population, and co-founded the Black People’s Convention in 1972.
The BCM gained the most ground as it not only called for resistance to the policy of apartheid and more rights for South African Blacks, but also helped to instill Black pride among Black people in the country.
Biko was arrested many times for his anti-apartheid activism. On Sept. 12, 1977, Biko died in police custody from injuries he sustained from the arresting officers. In 1997, five officers confessed to killing Biko after reportedly filling an application for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Pages: 1 2 3 4
http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/02/05/9-people-other-than-mlk-jr-who-sacrificed-their-lives-to-fight-for-black-liberation/?utm_content=buffer1dc08&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Friday, 26 December 2014

Leigh Anne Tuohy, Racism, and the White Saviour Complex

Leigh Anne Tuohy, Racism, and the White Saviour Complex

15 Dec Leigh Anne “That Nice Woman Sandra Bullock Played In The Blind Side” Tuohy recently posted the following picture and caption on her Facebook and Instagram accounts:
10513495_789847224421069_4829368822853743530_n
We see what we want! It’s the gospel truth! These two were literally huddled over in a corner table nose to nose and the person with me said “I bet they are up to no good” well you know me… I walked over, told them to scoot over. After 10 seconds of dead silence I said so whats happening at this table? I get nothing.. I then explained it was my store and they should spill it… They showed me their phones and they were texting friends trying to scrape up $3.00 each for the high school basketball game! Well they left with smiles, money for popcorn and bus fare. We have to STOP judging people and assuming and pigeon holing people! Don’t judge a book by its cover or however you’d like to express the sentiment! Accept others and stoping seeing what you want to see!!!
The comments on both posts are full of people praising her – telling her how awesome she is, how open-minded, how kind. Reading these responses is completely baffling – like, did these people and I all read the same words?
Let’s break down what happened here:
1. Two teenagers were sitting alone and completely minding their own business.
2. A white woman decides that based on the fact that they are “huddled” in corner “nose to nose,” they must be “up to no good.” Because obviously whenever Black people (especially Black men) gather in public, it’s bad news for the rest of us!
3. Another white woman, one Leigh Anne “I Adopted A Black Boy So I Can’t Possibly Be Racist” Tuohy, decides that White Lady #1 is wrong. Which is actually the correct assumption for Ms. Tuohy to make, so I guess this is where some people are getting confused because we see that her intent is good, and that makes us want to believe that the action that follows will also be good. She’s at a crossroad here – two roads diverged, etc. Had she taken the road less travelled, Ms. Tuohy might have said to her friend, “Wow, you’re being really racist right now! I’m not comfortable with how this conversation is going.” Instead, she decided to confront the teenagers who, as a reminder, have done absolutely nothing wrong.
4. Leigh Anne Tuohy walks over to the two boys and sits there in silence. I’m sure that wasn’t scary for two Black teenagers at all, especially given recent events.
5. After what was certainly the most awkward ten seconds of those boys’ lives, Ms. Tuohy asks what’s “happening” at the table. Like, other than two teenagers sitting there talking like anyone sitting at a table might do? Some kids are hanging out and chatting. That is what’s happening.
Unsure of the correct answer to this question – other than “we are two friends sitting together and not causing any trouble,” which probably seemed too obvious for them to point out – the boys remain silent.
6. Leigh Anne tells them that this is her store and they need to “spill.” Again, these kids have done nothing except be in public and be Black.
7. After being interrogated by this woman, and probably afraid that at the very least she’s about the call the cops, the boys show her their phones. This part just breaks my brain, like, these two kids had to show this woman evidence that they are doing exactly what they seem to be doing: sitting at a table and having a conversation.
8. Apparently satisfied with the evidence the boys have presented her with, Leigh Anne Tuohy gives them bus fare and money for popcorn, but not before she has White Lady #1 take her picture with them.
9. Ms. Tuohy then posts this picture to social media and receives thousands of responses lauding her for being such a good person.
Leigh Anne Tuohy profiled two Black kids, invaded their privacy and interrogated them, but somehow people are behaving as if this is some kind of wonderful social justice moment. No. Not even a little. This is some fucked up racial profiling combined with white saviourism, and it is racist as hell. Assuming that those kids were doing something bad was racist. Assuming that she could take up space at their table was racist. Insisting that they talk to her was disrespectful and racist. Wanting evidence that they weren’t up to no good was racist. Treating those boys as props to make her look good and then posting this picture publicly (and honestly, I wonder if the boys consented to that) is incredibly racist.
Also, can we talk about how problematic using the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is when it comes to talking about race? First of all, it begins with the assumption that the “cover” (or in this case, skin) tells you something unappealing about the contents of the book or person. It also implies that there is something unattractive or bad about the “cover” (or, again, skin). I can’t believe that I have to say this, but: there is nothing wrong or bad about Black skin. Black skin is not unpleasant or ugly, and to imply that dark skin might devalue someone is really, really fucked up.
Black people aren’t things. They don’t exist just so that white people can make a point about themselves. These are two real kids who not only had to endure this woman’s microaggressions but have now had their image splashed all over social media – the Facebook picture alone has 150,000 likes and over 12,000 shares. Step away for a hot second from this white woman’s narrative, and think about how those teenagers must feel – having their privacy invaded, having assumptions made about them based on their race, and now having a white woman use their images to get praise for herself.
Now tell me again about how Leigh Anne Tuohy did a good thing.
UPDATE:
One of the two teens involved has responded on Instagram (his name has been blurred out for privacy):
1610829_10154910203090551_2129773649951817695_n
Person One aka Teen Leigh Anne Tuohy approached at KFC:
Yeah people don’t know what really happened because I actually had money I have a job and have had one for over a year I was gonna pay for my brother the other guy in the picture but he was insisting on waiting on his uncle but his phone was dying so we were charging it which is the reason we were in KFC in the first place.and the game was only a 3 min walk up the street I don’t see why she said bus fare that kinda ticked me off a little but the way she worded it is making us sound less fortunate and that isn’t the case at all & when she came over to us she never mentioned her initial reason was because of her friends comment im just now finding that out
Person Two:
May I ask how she asked for the photo?
Person One:
Yeah she never actually asked for it as she was handing us the money she was like “hey you know what I think this would be a great picture” and everyone with her was yeah totally so we just kinda went along with the situation like sure why not your Michael Oher’s mom but the whole time I was thinking you know why’d she come up to us in the first place I was still clueless up until she posted the picture on social media and stated “the person with me said I bet they’re up to no good.”

'Eyes On The Prize' the full series online.


 
"Eyes on the PRIZE is an American television series and 14-hour documentary about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The documentary originally aired on the PBS network and also aired in the United Kingdom on BBC2. Created and executive-produced by Henry Hampton at Blackside, Inc., the series uses archival footage and interviews of PARTICIPANTS and opponents of the movement. The title of the series is derived from the folk song "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," which is used in each episode as the opening theme music.
Since its debut, the series has been lauded for its depiction of the Civil Rights Movement. The documentary is used extensively in primary and secondary schools, as well as, other educational settings as a way to convey the experiences and struggle for civil rights in the United States."

Eyes On The Prize - 01 - "Awakenings" 1954-1956 http://youtu.be/hvi61zJRcJ0
Eyes On The Prize - 02 - "Fighting Back" 1957-1962 http://youtu.be/CSRSUp-nTZM
Eyes On The Prize - 03 - "Ain't Scared Of Your Jails" 1960-1961 http://youtu.be /CSRSUp-nTZM
Eyes On The Prize - 04 - "No Esay Walk" 1961-1963 http://youtu.be/kMFm2dSEwfo
Eyes On The Prize - 05 - "Mississippi, is This America" 1962-1964 http://youtu.be/hvi61zJRcJ0
Eyes On The Prize - 06 - "Bridge To Freedom" 1965 http://youtu.be/n58lSQxLs-s
Eyes On The Prize - 07 - "The Time Has Come" 1964-165 http://youtu.be/3tu9zcf-LVU
Eyes On The Prize - 08 - "Two Societies" 1965-1968 http://youtu.be/hy9S6sorjEk
Eyes On The Prize - 09 - "Power!" 1967-1968 http://youtu.be/RC14zAhmTA8
Eyes On The Prize - 10 - "The Promised Land" 1967-1978 http://youtu.be/Q3Ka9t1wCD4
Eyes On The Prize - 11 - "Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More" 1964-1972 http://youtu.be/t0Bltf60uEU
Eyes On The Prize - 12 - "A Nation Of Law?" 1967-1968 http://youtu.be/dijilFFa9ws
Eyes On The Prize - 13 - "The Keys To The Kingdom" 1974-1980 http://youtu.be/I2C3WqOrURQ
Eyes On The Prize - 14 - "Back To The Movement" 1979-1980s http://youtu.be/Z8OP2kLulOY

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Who sold the soul or the Misrepresentation of Black Music origins?

Who sold the soul or the Misrepresentation of Black Music origins?
So one of the most important music legends Sir John Holt died very recently and yet not a mention was made last night at the very awards that should have been paying homage to his musical legacy. Even the recipients of the MOBOs Reggae awards category omitted to say anything about Sir John Holt. Therefore it's time to ask some serious questions about this annual Corplantation back slapping event.                                                              
 Originally the idea behind the MOBO awards from the organisers seems to have been to hold an awards ceremony to acknowledge the Black contributions to various musical categories. Black Artists who were continually ignored in the British music industries own annual back slapping awards events would finally be recognised by their own.
The regular Music industry events usually led to if not a permanent place at least a temporary amount of quality access to the international and home commercial music markets that many thought were very too tightly controlled by larger concerns like the main Radio Stations (BBC), Major Record companies & Media in order to keep the profile of Black British music artists in check.                                                          
Every year without fail a succession of creditable Black British music artist were overlooked for any proper acknowledgement from the main music industry awards.
Some would say that White privilege was in full effect and the “We keep the masters and we will let you slave off that” Major Record company mentality ruled supreme!
Major award ceremonies like the 'BRITS' for example constantly promised but never delivered anything of worth to black music artists who were for all intents and purposes ‘Invited to the house’ but it always felt like they were made to metaphorically ‘stand in the garden’. Into this over the top white privileged music world strode the self appointed Black Music awards saviours the MOBOs who placed themselves right in the middle of the road to what we hoped would be to put a stop to this oversight and at the same time to supposedly be the antidote to all that was wrong with all the regular music Industry Awards, I mean didn’t the Black Americans have the BET awards? At the same time these MOBOs would take on the mantle of a kind of glittering noble Arthurian Black Knights club, by naming themselves the MOBOs - motto ‘Saviours of all Music of Black Origin’. We bring the funk to your awards world, however as we have seen all that ‘glitters is definitely not gold’, because the funk cannot only move, it can also remove! In this case it removed the main ingredient ‘Soul’.
From its inception however the MOBOs had a troublesome time in establishing or describing what it actually meant to do or stand for, by choosing an anagram name that probably had good intentions at the outset but unfortunately regularly missed the bus, by offering a kind of delusion of inclusion pick and mix awards. Important categories like Rock; Blues & Soul were excluded to the bemusement of everyone.
Instead the MOBOs seemed to take on the mantle of - in the words of Screaming Jay Hawkins "Black music for White folk" Words like Urban, R & B were the new grand titles or elements that were used on the frontline of this new dawn to bamboozle MOBOs followers into believing that the music of Black Origins were safe in their capable hands.

 “Show me the Mammy”
A showboating, all bells ringing Twerking spectacle was offered up for the Corplantations for each MOBO awards night. Posturing faux gangsters throwing shapes posing in Hired dinner jackets, clinking crystal - drinking champagne, these fashion Chaps and Chapettes were the Bizniz, The happiest and most welcome folk shown on our televisions in ages. Presented by Industry standard walking Auto tune stalwarts, who were constantly changing costumes like amateur dramatic pantomime Dames. What a show! Roll up, Roll up, Nuff Skin Tweet, Instagraming, Facebooking film it on your phone. These were Native instruments of a very different digital kind. If you were watching, looking, thinking you could dig at all. Well this was a sign of the times, Come on get real or get lost!
This really was a new beginning further exasperated by a heavy handed ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ manoeuvre that continually drained away at that most important of all the elements needed to have full credibility in a Black Music experience ‘Soul” Yes a troublesome but important four lettered word called Soul was fast becoming the MOBOs Kryptonite. 

The NOBROs a name that has quickly been gathering pace, was a term coined from influential Black British musicians, whose intelligent use of social media platforms has helped to highlight issues and problems within the music industry and to show their disapproval at the shallow path that the MOBOs has followed.

“Pop will eat its Selfie”
How much product did the artists shift?                                  
 Have they crossed over into the Pop charts?                            
 Are they on the front cover of any magazines?          
 These seem to have been the gleeful guiding criteria looked at by those MOBOs in choosing who were nominated and in designating categories as well as who actually won the MOBOs awards. Normally these would be the main Criteria taken into consideration for industry awards however the MOBOs had from the outset promised so much more.
The historic white privilege music industry key-holders sighed in relief as its own artists continually won the MOBOs awards, It was pretty much business as usual. 

"Stop talking all that Jazz”
There were also troublesome years when for instance the Jazz category was inexplicably dropped from the awards!!!! Leading to successful protest lead by Jazz musicians like Abram Wilson and Soweto Kinch. 
I mean if Jazz is not of black origin then what is?
Fortunately the organisers were made to see sense through the sheer weight of protests that they very quickly reinstated the jazz Category the next year. By the way did you know most years the Jazz award ceremony is held off camera? Yes, kind of like the Brother under the stairs or just the black Sheep of the family. The winners are almost hidden away.
So winners like his years much-deserved recipient Zara McFarlane are unfortunately denied the chance to reach a wider audience in their moment of triumph.

‘Soul the MOBOs Kryptonite’. 
Singer Omar & and Brit funk and Black music legend Bluey of ‘Incognito’ fame, led well orchestrated protests that brought much needed mainstream media attention to the fact that music with Soul was omitted from any category recognition... To think if James brown were alive even he would have trouble raising any interest from these MOBOs!

"Popularity breeds contempt or is it much Hilarity?"
So in conclusion, as yet another years MOBO awards ceremony garners ridicule, frustration & bemusement partly at the Presentation, but mostly at the validity of something that is clearly not fit for purpose.
It once again raises vexed and very valid questions that have rose each year.
If music such as Rock, Blues, Soul, Funk are still not afforded any place or recognition at the MOBOs then for what purpose does this award ceremony actually serve?
What in the eyes of MOBOS constitutes Black origin music?
Or should the words Misappropriation or Misrepresentation of Black Music origins be used instead?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bob Law: History of Black Radio and the Removal of Black Militant Thought.... written by Bob Law

Bob LawOver the past few weeks Hard Knock Radio has been doing a series of interviews focusing on the state of Black media. Such a series would not be complete without getting some critical insight from long time freedom fighter and media justice advocate Bob Law.  He is one of the Godfathers of Black radio and has never wavered in using the airwaves as a tool for liberation.
In our conversation, he gives a serious history lesson not just on the evolution of Black Radio and the role it has long played in the Black Freedom Struggle, but he also talked to us about how there has been an attempt to remove, silence and erase any institutional memory of Black militant and radical thought.  Law painstakingly details how that has been happening and breaks down the reasons why.
Law pinpoints much of this removal with the release of the 1972 Harvard Report, officially known as Study of the Soul Music Environment‘ . This was a white paper commissioned by Columbia Records and done by a group of Harvard Business students on how to take over the Black independent music scene. Clive Davis was the head of Columbia at that time. Law details how that report coincided with other attempts in film and TV to eradicate, marginalize and ridicule strident, politicized Black voice in the music and entertainment industry.
During our discussion, we play an excerpt from a speech given to Black music industry executives by Minister Farrakhan in 1979 who makes note of this change. That speech is contrasted with a speech Martin Luther King gave to a similar body of Black music industry folks in August 1967, where he heaped praise on them and emphasized that there would be no Civil Rights Movement had it not been for Black Radio. The organization he spoke to at that time was called NATRA (National Association of Television and Radio Announcers)
During our interview Law details what took place after King gave that speech. He explained that NATRA was destroyed by white industry executives who were concerned about their growing power and political influence. That destruction and silencing has never stopped.
This interview is a serious history lesson from a pioneering figure who really knows his stuff.
Here’s a couple of things to give more context to Bob Law’s remarks.. First is a video fo from ABC News with former FBI agents talking about studying and destroying Black Culture.

The second is excerpts from that Dr King’s speech given to NATRA juxtaposed with Minister Farrakhan’s speech given 12 years later.

Below is an article Law recently penned called Up Above My Head I Hear Music In The Air. It his take on where Black radio is at right now
 If one should desire to know if a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality
of its music will furnish the answer. — Confucius
 Bob LawCurrently the airwaves are filled with messages that are violently anti woman, anti Black and in a real sense anti life itself. We are inundated with lyrics, dialogue, and images, from music videos, song lyrics and DJ comments that glorify violence while encouraging the degradation and exploitation of women, to video games that require that you kill people in order to stay in the game and move forward.
To understand our concern, perhaps it is helpful to understand the emotional significance and influence of music. As noted musician David Byrne has explained, music tells us things, social things, psychological things, physical things about how we feel and perceive our bodies, and it does it in a way that other art forms cannot. It is not only in the lyrics as Byrne and others have pointed out, it is also the combination of sounds, rhythms, and vocal textures that communicate in ways that bypass the reasoning centers of the brain and go straight to our emotions.
Poet Larry Neal, one of the architects of the Black Arts movement of the 1960’s has said that our music has always been the most dominate manifestation of what we are and how we feel. The best of it has always operated at the very core of our lives. It is the music that can affirm our highest possibilities. That may be precisely why the best of our music is under siege.
It is also important to understand that in this society, music conveys social status. Being associated with certain kinds of music can increase your social standing, Consider the higher level of sophistication associated with opera or classical music, or the level of cool sophistication associated with the music of Coltrane, Monk and Miles.
Some have suggested that while we may indeed like the music, often what we really like is the company it puts us in. In this sense the music creates a community or life style that is validated by the acceptance of the music. It is the music that validates the “Gangsta”
Currently the airwaves are dominated by a body of music, images and ideas that has established a code of behavior that denigrates women, and encourages the murdering of Black people. It is a lifestyle where all women are “Hoes” and “B—–s”. Consider this “gangsta” lyric. “I got a shotgun, and heres the plot. Takin Niggas out with a flurry of buckshots . Yeah I was gunnin and then you look, all you see is niggas runin”.
Music, images and dialogue that offers another view cant get reasonable airplay. The airwaves are regulated by the FCC, a commission that was established in 1934 to regulate in the public interest. When George Bush installed Michel Powell as Chairman of the commission, in 2001, Powell said he did not know what in the public interest meant.
Since the 1996 telecommunications act which set the framework for deregulation, the FCC has been reduced to pablum serving only to sanction the acquisition of broadcast frequencies and license to the mega media corporations which has resulted in the concentration of media ownership into the hands of very few.
Under the major revisions of US telecommunications law, the first since the 1930s, members of the general public no longer have “legal standing” to challenge broadcast policy or to insure that the public interest is served. Now it is the licensee (station owner) that controls content.
Previously the station owners rented the airwaves, while the general public owned the airwaves. That is no longer the case. None the less the Federal Communications Commission is still directly responsible to congress, and since Black media ownership is a major casualty of deregulation, and since the diversity of opinion and ideas coming directly from the Black experience in the world are being removed from the marketplace of ideas, we have appealed to the Congressional Black Caucus in general and the New York congressional delegation in particular to urge congress to reexamine the current function and effectiveness of the FCC.
Our first appeal to the CBC was December 6 2012, and in spite of additional attempts to reach members of the CBC, to date congress members, Evette Clark, Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries have freely dismissed our appeals to them.
Perhaps if there is a link established between the murderous video games and the young white boys who routinely walk onto a school campus or shopping mall with automatic weapons and open fire, congress might then act to reestablish some guidelines that would force broadcasters to allow for input from the community in the effort to balance what is being offered on Americas broadcast spectrum.
But as long as Black people, especially Black women are the primary victims of this insidious violence, even the increasingly irrelevant Black congressional leadership ignores us.
Franz Fannon is correct, “Ultimately a people get the government / leadership they deserve” It is time to support the kind of leadership we truly deserve.
written by Bob Law

Friday, 10 October 2014

Julius Eastman: Gay Guerrilla (1979) 2/2

Julius Eastman: Gay Guerrilla (1979) 1/2

Julius Eastman: Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc (1981)

Julius Eastman: The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc (1981) 2/2

Julius Eastman: The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc (1981) 1/2

Julius Eastman - Crazy Nigger

Julius Eastman - Evil Nigger (Part 2)

Julius Eastman - Evil Nigger (Part 1)

52 Niggers By Stacy Hardy.

52 Niggers 

Julius Eastman had a way of walking. He had a swagger, a way of swinging hips.  He rarely strolled or ran. Instead, skin tight jeans/ black leathers slung low on his waist, sucked down by the velocity of his gait, he cruised and rolled. He played loose. He played cool. He worked fast.
Julius Eastman Photo - Donald Burkhardt
He scored Stay on It in one sitting. He wrote through the night, the full next day, the next night. He wrote fast. He wrote moment, place. He wrote sentiment and soul. He orchestrated the body: his body, body in motion, body as it flexes to move a pen, form a fist, make mark, lift a drink.

He rewrote the classical music canon. He inserted pop. He noted free improvisation. He bucked the conventions. He fucked minimalism. He reworked the rulebook: Cage’s anal atonal progressions, Glass’ linear additive processes, Reich’s phasing and block additive methods. He started the Post Minimalist revolution, New Music, Improvisation, call it whatever you like.

He made the call. He beat them all to it: John Cage, Steve Reich, Philip Glass. This was 1973. This was America. Glass was still only glistening on the surface. Reich was outside the country, hauled up somewhere in Africa, playing poacher, plundering Ghanaian polyrhythmic beats. Cage was still stuck in his cage, his soundproof room, his anechoic chamber. Cage was still tuning silence; tuning into his nervous system in operation, low throb of his blood in circulation. Cage was tuning: “Until we die there will be sounds.”

Who needs them? Eastman was already at the edge. While Cage could only hear his body, Eastman’s music mapped those sounds: pulses pounding, sweat producing, blood surging in veins. While Reich filched, Eastman felched, digging his tongue deep, exposing himself, getting off on his own shit. Fuck the division between private and public, feral cruise and cocktail soirée. Fuck stuffy formalism of avant-garde composition: “forms”, “malls”, “isms” and restrictions.

“He had radar that could detect bullshit.” He hated that shit. He hated hip hyp-o-crazy: the lecture halls, the concert chamber; the sound proofed rooms and white gallery cubes. Everything purged of colour. Specifically: all the walls and the ceilings and the floors; white. More white than white, the kind of white that repels. No smells, no noise, no colour; no doubt and no dirt. No nothing. No eating, no drinking, no pissing, no shitting, no sucking, no fucking.

He rebelled. He headed out. He hit the gay clubs, the crack houses, disco dens. He listened up to the sound on the street. He saw the violence. He saw the hate. He saw anger. It moved him. It ran him. It called his shots. He stayed cool with it. He stayed justified. He channelled the rage. He wrote it down. He stayed on It; He spread the word. He said: “Find presented a work of art, in your name, full of honour, integrity, and boundless courage.”

It was futile. They ignored him. They indulged him. They used him. They strung him along. A black face looked good on record. 1974. The Creative Associates on the bench of the Albright-Knox Gallery. Official photograph. Used by permission. Front, l-r: Julius Eastman. His features a blur, the white balance thrown out – shooting for white – just a duffle coat and sneakers, just an outline, a black smudge, a dark mark, stop gap framed by smiling white faces.

They used him to fill the gaps. Petr Kotik looked him up. He was putting together a concert series. Big names: John Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff, the original New York School. They wanted to diversify. They were looking for someone to represent. Kotik wooed him. Kotik went through the motions. Kotik invited him around. Uptown apartment. Konik at the door. He said, “Come in. Straight through here.” He pointed with his hand. He led the way. He said, “Grab a seat.” Eastman sat. Eastman stared. Fancy pad: white walls, plants and lights, stiff long-back chair. Konik poured drinks. Konik smiled. Konik paid lip service. “What kind of music do you want to hear? You hungry?”

He said, “Big Break.” He said, “Big names: John Cage, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff.” Eastman sat, stared. Eastman listened. Eastman timed the pause. He felt the hate. He felt the anger. He started to say – No, wait. Maybe? He took a breath. He challenged the rage. He counted notes. He took the score. He said, “Sure Pete!” He sat. He smiled. He had this craaazy idea.

The performance took place. 1975. The June in Buffalo Festival, SUNY Buffalo. Now legendary. Now infamous. Kyle Gale told and retold the story: “Chaotic at best! Eastman performed the segment of Cage’s Songbooks that was merely the instruction, ‘Give a lecture.’ Never shy about his gayness, Eastman lectured on sex, with a young man and woman as volunteers. He undressed the young man onstage, and attempted to undress the woman…”
Julius Eastman laughing
He started with her top button. He worked fast. He worked fastidiously. His hands jumped. He dripped sweat. Second button, third. She wasn’t sure. She trembled. She shut her eyes. Fourth button. The audience twittered. The audience buzzed. She looked up. She made eye contact. Her eyes swam. She grabbed his hand. Everything froze. Time hung back. She looked down. She broke free. The audiences erupted. The audience roared. Someone stormed the stage. Someone hit the lights.

All hell broke loose. John Cage freaked. Cage raged. Was that meant to be a joke? Who’s laughing? Am I laughing? He came down hard. He came down spitting words, throwing authority. He said, “I’m tired of people who think that they can do whatever they want with my music!” He stormed. He banged the piano with his fist.

He said, “The freedom in my music does not mean the freedom to be irresponsible!” He used his lecture’s voice. He couldn’t make the break. For all his talk about crossing boundaries – noise/ music, life/ art – he couldn’t take the leap. His “anti-art” was still the same old shit: natural law devalued, social tradition minimized, rebellious gestures only accepted if they stayed safely walled in, caged within the tradition they sought to denied. Cage as cage.

Even his thinking on silence was caged, locked within the audible order, a lecturer’s voice: something to learn, rather than lose yourself in. Silence as ambient sound, nonintended sound. Silence as the sounds of life. He said, “Until we die there will be sounds.” He said there will only be silence in death. The implication was left hanging: we can’t experience our own death so we can’t experience silence. Silence, like death was the impossible crossing of a border. Audibility vs. inaudibility, life vs. death: oppositions that can’t be overcome, borders that can’t be crossed. And the hierarchy was clear: Life was where it was at. Death was the undesirable, a dispensable deviation, something to be silenced.

Cage said, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it.” Eastman had something to say and he was unsaying it. Cage raged and lectured. Eastman acted. He showed up the con of Cage’s “instructions”. He de-con-structed. He gave voice to silence. He injected real life, lived experiences, street politics into art. He created an unsound politico-musical discourse, a line of flight that radically threatened Cage’s abstract political discourse, the white language of the classical avant-garde. He scared the shit out of Cage.

Cage reacted. Cage hit back. He said, “Irresponsible!” He rallied support. Walter Zimmermann called it “rotten”. Peter Gena said, “Abuse!” Petr Kotik called it “sabotage”. He said, “I should have guessed he was unsuitable.” He said, “scandal.” Eastman was tagged: Crazy Nigger. The reputation stuck. The blacklist built: Eastman the Evil Nigger, Eastman the Savant Saboteur, Gay Guerrilla sooo-preme.

His guitarist brother Gerry said, “Give it up Julius. Play jazz. At least a black man can make half a living playing jazz.” Fuck that shit, man. He refused. He knew the score; their story is history: crazy black gay mutherfucker, all danger and despair and downward trajectory. Ismael Reed’s old “post-Mailer syndrome”, the “Wallflower Order”: “Jes Grew, the Something or Other that led Charlie Parker to scale the Everests of the Chord… manic in the artist who would rather do glossolalia than be neat clean or lucid.”

He refused to be composed. He answered them with If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? A 20-minute fuck you. Fuck you to your score. Your over-determined definitions of what it means to be black. Pre-de-scribed borders and hierarchies: beginning/end, classical/jazz, silence/sound,  hite/black, between order/ disorder, meaning and meaninglessness, life and death.

He worked on unweaving the whiteness from within. He started at the end, a funeral march, a single line, chromatic scales on slow ascent, going going then BAM! Drawing it up, drawing it out, ripping it open, a quickdraw halt, a slash, a silence, coma, full stop, semicolon connoting rhythm of speech, interrupted thought. Then more scales, building slowing, coalescing, multiplying the metre into a seething swarm, a glowing brass mass where desire equals death, where death, and the approach to human death, is no longer an end but a beginning.

He kept his own score. He rocked up for rehearsals dressed like a jazz cat, a disco queen. All black leather and chains and dripping desire and fuck yous. He pitched high or drunk. He hung loose, he jived, whisky slung low in left hand, a tight fist. Then he hit the piano and everything changed. Time changed. Time redacted. Space erased. Knuckles became fluid, joints broken down, fingertips riding hard and wide; trembling then going taut.

The contradiction was too much. They wrote him out. They wrote him off. They accused him of silencing himself. “He could have had it so good if only he hadn’t had the personality problems.” He lost his post at SUNY-Buffalo. They called him in. The office. Two chairs. One desk. The books lining the walls like ghosts from another epoch. The Professor shuffled papers. His button down shirt perfect white, white on white. He cleared throat. He glanced up. He said, “Take a seat”. He cited, “Neglect of administrative duties.” Eastman didn’t stay for the rest. He walked. He took the stairs. He said, Paperwork? Fucking paperwork? He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Outside it was warm. Thirty degrees at noon. Campus was crammed. Students between lectures, taking lunch. They jostled him. They pushed past.

He kept walking. He followed the sound on the street. Downtown, 1980, music pumped from open windows and revved motors, fragments and samples, notes and the repetitions. Richard Pryor’s world of “junkies and winos, pool hustlers and prostitutes, women and family” all screaming to be heard.

He wrote hard and fast. He scored Evil Nigger, Gay Guerrilla, Crazy Nigger in close succession. He tore into classical tropes and constructs. He deconstructed. He found rhythm. Street politics embedded in the beat, the repeated piano riffs, the propulsive badbadDUMbadaDUM brass blasts. Cool cadence balanced rhythmic flow, as in poetry, as in the measured beat of movement, as in dancing, as in the rising and falling of music, of the inflections of a voice, modulations and progressions of chords, moving, moving through a point beyond sight, sound, vision, being.

He played the preacher man, rocking out on a counting-in chant, “one-two-three-four”. He played the poet. He re-dubbed Lee Perry’s “I am the Upsetter. I am what I am, and I am he that I am”. He wrote The Holy Presence of Joan of Arc. He said, “This one is to those who think they can destroy liberators by acts of treachery, malice and murder.” He rapped Richard Pryor’s Supernigger. He was unstoppable.

He played The Kitchen. He hit the stage alongside Merdith Monk and Peter Gordon. He hooked up  with Arthur Russell. He toured Europe. He filled houses. He flew off. He came back. He put out feelers to record. He was ready to get it down. To get it out. Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians was going massive. Glass’ Metamorphosis was everywhere. He contacted cats he knew via the circuit. He said, “What’ve you got going?” He waited. He made more calls. He chain smoked and watched TV. He slept through whole days. He woke. He drunk whisky. He slept. He watched TV. Old Pryor skits on NBC. “White. Black. Coloured. Redneck. Jungle bunny. Honky! Spade! Honky honky! Nigger! Dead honky. Dead nigger.”

Julius Eastman - Evil Nigger Score
He played the college circuit just to keep going. North Western 1980. Members of the faculty took offence. The African American fraternity didn’t like the nigger shit. It was like Édouard Glissant never existed. Like Ismael Reed, Richard Pryor, hip-hop never happened. No word on the street. He had to explain. From the beginning. “Recontextualization? You know the whole ‘re-appropriation’,  ‘recannibalisation’ thing?”

He took to the mic. He said: “There are three pieces on the programme. The first is called Evil Nigger and the second is called Gay Guerrilla and the third is called Crazy Nigger.” He spoke smooth. He flowed easy. He mirrored Pryor’s buzz in making obscenities sing. He paused after each title. He let it hang. He waited for it: the reaction, breath suspended, waiting for a ripple, a laugh, some kind of recognition of the humour at play. Nothing. Fuck. His audience was silent. Not even a twitter, a nervous giggle. He held the pause a second longer – Jesus, even he felt like laughing – but no, nothing. Just silence, just Eastman, just his nerves’ systematic operation, his blood’s endless circulation.

He tried again. His voice wavered. His voice woofered. It bounced high and wide. FUCK – Overfeed. Overamp. From the start. He said, “Nigger is that person or thing that attains to a basicness or a fundamentalness, and eschews that which is superficial, or, could we say, elegant.” He said, “There are 99 names of Allah.” He paused. He said, “There are 52 niggers.” But still it wouldn’t go away. The whiteness always returned, whiteness woven into the fabric of Culture, whiteness locking everything else out. Silent. White faces stared back. Blank, unmoved: they could see only one.

One more drink. One more pill. It was getting tight. 1982. Nothing coming. The walls closed in. Cash was low. The apartment cost. The clubs cost. The drink cost. He got headaches. He drank himself to sleep. He swallowed whisky shooters. He popped uppers. He shot poppers. A downhill slide. Cornell University turned him down. “He was just too damn outrageous.”

A failed application to the Paris Conservatoire. The letter came in the post. One white envelope, black type. He said, “Damn them damn them damn them.” He tore it up. He let it drop. He headed out to score. He head east, the lower Eastside. Further out, the windows all covered meshed-over glass burglar proof stuff; homeboys on the sidewalks rhyming beefs, little men with big shirts and the chicks in tight skirts.

He kept going. He walked. He didn’t give a shit. He felt zero. He felt zip. He felt ate up. His skin buzzed. He took a left. He crunched glass underfoot. He took a right. Low door. Dark  interior. Match boxes and glass pipes. Cracker jacks on low stools. White smoke that hung in low clouds. He took a seat. He took the hit. He sucked deep. He held it in. He let go. He felt it hit. His mouth closed. His head  dropped black. His eyes rolled. And white appeared. Absolute white. White beyond all whiteness.
White of the coming of white. White without compromise, through exclusion, through total eradication of non-white. Insane, enraged white, screaming with whiteness. Fanatical, furious, riddling the victim. Horrible electric white, implacable, murderous. White in bursts of white. God of “white.” No, not a god, a howler monkey. The end of white.

[Julius Eastman died in 1990. Unjust Malaise, a 3 set CD of his compositions, culled from university archives, was released by New World Records in 2005. This was Eastman’s first official release. No commercial recordings of his work were made during his lifetime.]

Stacy Hardy is a writer living in Cape Town. This essay is also available in print as a Chimurenganyana and in Chimurenga 11: Conversations with Poets Who Refuse to Speak (2007).

Julius Eastman: Stay on It (1973)





Julius Eastman (1940-1990): Stay on It, per voce e strumenti (1973) --
Georgia Mitoff, voce; Petr Kotik, pianoforte; Benjamin Hudson, violino;
Amrom Chodos, clarinetto; Joseph Ford e Doug Gaston, sassofoni; Dennis
Kahle e Jan Williams, percussioni

---

The music published
in this channel is exclusively dedicated to divulgation purposes and
not commercial. This within a program shared to study learned music of
the 1900's (mostly Italian) which involves thousands of people around
the world. If someone, for any reason, would deem that a video appearing
in this channel violates the copyright, please inform us immediately
before you submit a claim to Youtube, and it will be our care to remove
immediately the video accordingly.

"Hit the Nigger Baby"

This was a common chant at numerous carnivals, fairs, and circuses across the United States throughout the late 19th century until the mid 1940s, as Americans took part in one of their favorite pastimes, "African Dodger."

The African Dodger, also known as "Hit the Nigger Baby" or "Hit the Coon" was as commonplace in local fairs, carnivals, and circuses as Ferris wheels and roller coasters are today. The purpose of the game was to hit the target with a ball-with one of your three throws-and win a prize. It sounds like a common carnival target game, but there was one unsettling part of the game, namely, the game's target was a real live human being, a "negro" human being. In St. Louis in 1913, it was reported that carnival organizers were "unable for hours today to secure an 'African Dodger' who would allow baseballs to be thrown at his cranium at the usual rate of three for 5 cents;" the reason was that future Hall of Fame fastball pitcher Walter Johnson was rumored to be at the fair ("Don't Want", 1913). The game was so popular nationwide that newspapers mentioned the African Dodger game along with trained animals, illusionists, penny arcades, merry-go-rounds and magic shows in the list of a carnival's attractions. Dodgers made headlines when they were seriously and horrifically injured-otherwise, they were nameless victims.

In 1904 in New York, the Meriden Daily Journal reported how a dodger was smashed in the nose by a professional baseball player. The Journal reported that Albert Johnson dodged "fifty or sixty cents" worth of balls thrown by "Cannon Ball" Gillen of the Clifton Athletic club. Finally Johnson "exposed his head and face a little farther than usual" and was caught by a curve ball that left him unconscious. The article, which was written as a play-by-play commentary on the incident, concluded with the report that it "will probably be necessary to amputate the nose in order to save Johnson's life" ("Hit African", 1904).

But this was not the only report of serious injuries to the dodger. There were numerous reports of such incidents; for example, at the Sheraden Methodist Protestant Church street fair in Pittsburgh, John Jones "failed to dodge" and was hit "squarely in the eye" ("Ball Hits", 1916). In Ohio, Grady Williams was struck in the eye by a stone by someone who "stood to one side and threw a stone at the negro" ("Threw Stone", 1915).

In Connecticut, Walter Smith was hit "with such force that several of the dodger's teeth were knocked out, and the ball was locked so securely within the negro's mouth that it had to be cut to pieces before it could be removed" ("His Mouth", 1908).

In Hanover, PA, William White was assaulted by local baseball players who brought their own heavy balls and "hit the 'coon' nearly every time." The reporter described how "courageously" White took the punishment and wrote that the "negro was pretty well used-up." Only after this, do we find out that the injuries sustained by White were internal and "may prove fatal" (" 'Coon Hitting' ", 1908).

At an Elks Lodge Jubilee in Washington DC, just 17 miles from the White House, the "visiting Elks were royally entertained" as "'nigger babies' were hit with baseballs until they were unable to maintain their upright position..." ("Elks Jubilee", 1908).

There may be no better example of the pervasiveness and brutality of the African Dodger game in American society than an advertisement in the Providence News on September 11, 1924.

    Wants African Dodger to Face Balls at Club Fair

    Do you want to earn a few precious dollars on the evening of September 19 and 20?

    If you do and if you are not at all particular as to what happens to your head why apply at Room 10 in the building at 144 Pine street. Ask for Charlie and tell him you "saw his ad in the paper". Charlie is looking for a lion-hearted and hard-headed young man who will act as an African dodger at the big carnival to be staged by the West Barrington Community Club. The reward? That is a little matter that you can adjust with Charlie. He will treat you fairly and will see that you reach the Rhode Island Hospital safely in the event that that [sic] one of the baseballs comes in contact with your head.

    We beg your pardon for not detailing the duties of an African dodger. He just puts his head through a hole in a big piece of canvass and permits the aforesaid head to be used as a target by young men who toss baseballs.

    One day last week an African dodger was killed in Elizabeth, N.J., and the week before a dodger was killed in Hackensack, but don't permit these deaths to influence you. ("Wants African Dodger", 1924).

The African Dodger game was widespread in American society, in every part of the country. If you could not make it to the fair, you could purchase for $.69 an African Dodger table game, which featured a caricatured black face poking through a canvas reading "Hit the Dodger! Knock Him Out! Every Time You Hit Sambo The Bell Rings" ("Bloomingdales", 1893).
African Dodger Game

But how could this all be? How could such a barbaric practice be such an integral part of a "civilized" society? How could Americans justify this practice? Were there any objections?

One response to objections to the brutality of the African dodger game was to summon authorities to provide "scientific" findings on the topic. A short article in The Wayne County Democrat cited "authorities on anthropology" who "state that the negro has a very heavy and massive cranium constituting a bony arch of great resisting power. One scientist refers to the 'common habit of negroes, of both sexes in butting like rams'[which]...indicates that a negro's head bones have defensive strength unknown in the Caucasian race." The newspaper assures its readers that the dodger doesn't mind. "He seems cheerful about it." The players of the game, the ones who throw the ball, are just men with a "man's desire to display his powers", particularly in front of "women friends." The article finally concludes that until there is evidence that shows "fractured skulls or brain contusions" or until the dodger takes issue himself, the game will continue. A final warning is provided to the dodger who may be considering a new line of work that "He might regret to lose a daily wage that comes with less effort than manual labor" ("The Black Dodger", 1913).

After all, what could be so bad about a game that was an "innocent" sport ("Large Crowd", 19"7) and a game that was "fun for the small boys and the grown-ups as well" ("Dodger", 1907)? A game played by Governors ("Preparing", 1912), famous ball players like Ty Cobb ("Bob Thayer", 1911) and Babe Ruth (Wagenheim, 1974, p. 35), what could be wrong with that?

When legislation was presented in 1915 to ban some forms of the game at Coney Island, the headline read: BAN ON "BONEHEAD" HITS. The proposed ban was framed as "depressing news" for those who may be unable to participate in the "soothing exercise of hitting with a baseball the head of an 'Ethiopian' as it protrudes from a hole in a canvas sheet." But don't just feel sorry for the players, understand that "many persons who have no more profitable use for their heads will join the army of the unemployed" if the bill is passed and Africans are no longer allowed to dodge ("Ban", 1915).
Hit the Nigger Baby

In 1911, some carnivals ushered in a new game for the "progressive era" called the African Dip, the precursor to the dunk tank. The game was "arranged that every time a baseball hits the target a colored man, seated upon a bar, is thrown into a large pool of water. It's said to be lots of fun..." ("It's Called", 1911). This new game didn't entirely replace the African Dodger. Versions of the original African Dodger were still found in the 1950s. Some carnivals and fairs decided to use targets that resembled African Americans instead of using real people. Promoters sold entire family doll racks that were used as targets at Amusement parks (A. J. Smith Mfg. Co., 1914). The development of Amusement parks in permanent locations increased the popularity of the African Dip game because it was hard to travel with the African Dip dunk tank. Riverview Amusement park in Chicago Illinois, was well known for their popular African Dip attraction, which was a staple there until the late 1950s.

It may be hard to imagine a world where such barbaric games were accepted and played, and to understand why people would allow themselves to be targets. This is another example of the complexities of relationships during the Jim Crow era. The idea that African Americans were sub-humans was prevalent and widely accepted. Religious speakers, politicians, and scientists all agreed and "proved" that the African was a "less evolved" creature and therefore not subject to humane treatment. Almost everything in American society pointed to a hierarchical structure, whites on top and blacks at the bottom.

With everyday objects, forms of entertainment, advertising and public policies confirming this hierarchy, it is possible to see how whites came to believe they were superior and how some blacks could internalize these images, practices, attitudes and policies and come to see themselves as inferior and to accept the role of target. It's also difficult for many to see the negative impact of racist games when playing them is associated with fondness of yesteryear. One of the most popular attractions at zoos during this time was the "Negro Village" or "Human Zoo", but that's a topic for another day.

Franklin Hughes
Diversity & Inclusion / Jim Crow Museum
2012

References

Smith Mfg. Co. (1914, March 21). Amusement devices [Advertisement]. The Billboard, p. 76. Retrieved from
http://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2015/Billboard/Billboard%201914/Billboard%201914%20-%200873.pdf

Ball hits African Dodger. (1916, July 22). The Gazette Times, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=J-ba04ztB30C&dat=19160722&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Ban on "bonehead" hits. (1915, February 10). The Washington Herald, p. 6. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1915-02-10/ed-1/seq-6/

The black dodger. (1913, September 19). The Wayne County Democrat, p. 3. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=wXCFTzxW9NYC&dat=19130919&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Bloomingdale's (advertisement). (1893, December 14). The Evening World, p. 8. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030193/1893-12-14/ed-4/seq-8/

Bob Thayer's sporting gossip. (1911, June 2). Washington Times, p. 15. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1911-06-02/ed-1/seq-15/

'Coon Hitting' peril. (1908, September 22). The Philadelphia Record, p. 4. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=QDEWnZBrHwAC&dat=19080922&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Dodger is an expert but sometimes he is hit. (1907, October 31). Richland Shield and Banner, p. 6. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=cInq4TRmCz8C&dat=19071031&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Don't want craniums pelted with balls by Walter Johnson. (1913, July 19). Omaha Daily Bee, p. 2. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1913-07-19/ed-1/seq-2/

Elks Jubilee ends. (1908, June 19). The Washington Herald, p. 14. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1908-06-19/ed-1/seq-14/

His mouth full of ball. (1908, August 6). The Philadelphia Record, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=QDEWnZBrHwAC&dat=19080806&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Hit African Dodger. (1904, August 17). The Meriden Daily Journal, p. 6. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=h-OLoDDdPfcC&dat=19040817&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

It's called the "African dip" and it's a new one out at Flemington. (1911, July 28). Trenton True American, p. 1.
Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=6g4f2aSzPAQC&dat=19110728&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Large crowd, ideal weather. (1907, September 19). Custer County Republican, p. 4. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94055463/1907-09-19/ed-1/seq-4/

Preparing for the fair. (1912, August 7). Red Bank Register, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://rbr.mtpl.org/data/rbr/1910-1919/1912/1912.08.07.pdf

Stegner, W. (1957). The Big Rock Candy Mountain. New York: Sagamore Press, Inc.

Threw stone at African Dodger; Hit him in eye. (1915, May 15). Youngstown Vindicator, p. 10. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=pqgf-8x9CmQC&dat=19150515&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Wagenheim, K. (1974). Babe Ruth: His life and legend. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Wants African Dodger to face balls at club fair. (1924, September 11). The Providence News, p. 19. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Dnd9Dw9jpwAC&dat=19240911&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
This was a common chant at numerous carnivals, fairs, and circuses across the United States throughout the late 19th century until the mid 1940s, as Americans took part in one of their favorite pastimes, "African Dodger."
The African Dodger, also known as "Hit the Nigger Baby" or "Hit the Coon" was as commonplace in local fairs, carnivals, and circuses as Ferris wheels and roller coasters are today. The purpose of the game was to hit the target with a ball-with one of your three throws-and win a prize. It sounds like a common carnival target game, but there was one unsettling part of the game, namely, the game's target was a real live human being, a "negro" human being. In St. Louis in 1913, it was reported that carnival organizers were "unable for hours today to secure an 'African Dodger' who would allow baseballs to be thrown at his cranium at the usual rate of three for 5 cents;" the reason was that future Hall of Fame fastball pitcher Walter Johnson was rumored to be at the fair ("Don't Want", 1913). The game was so popular nationwide that newspapers mentioned the African Dodger game along with trained animals, illusionists, penny arcades, merry-go-rounds and magic shows in the list of a carnival's attractions. Dodgers made headlines when they were seriously and horrifically injured-otherwise, they were nameless victims.
In 1904 in New York, the Meriden Daily Journal reported how a dodger was smashed in the nose by a professional baseball player. The Journal reported that Albert Johnson dodged "fifty or sixty cents" worth of balls thrown by "Cannon Ball" Gillen of the Clifton Athletic club. Finally Johnson "exposed his head and face a little farther than usual" and was caught by a curve ball that left him unconscious. The article, which was written as a play-by-play commentary on the incident, concluded with the report that it "will probably be necessary to amputate the nose in order to save Johnson's life" ("Hit African", 1904).
But this was not the only report of serious injuries to the dodger. There were numerous reports of such incidents; for example, at the Sheraden Methodist Protestant Church street fair in Pittsburgh, John Jones "failed to dodge" and was hit "squarely in the eye" ("Ball Hits", 1916). In Ohio, Grady Williams was struck in the eye by a stone by someone who "stood to one side and threw a stone at the negro" ("Threw Stone", 1915).
In Connecticut, Walter Smith was hit "with such force that several of the dodger's teeth were knocked out, and the ball was locked so securely within the negro's mouth that it had to be cut to pieces before it could be removed" ("His Mouth", 1908).
In Hanover, PA, William White was assaulted by local baseball players who brought their own heavy balls and "hit the 'coon' nearly every time." The reporter described how "courageously" White took the punishment and wrote that the "negro was pretty well used-up." Only after this, do we find out that the injuries sustained by White were internal and "may prove fatal" (" 'Coon Hitting' ", 1908).
At an Elks Lodge Jubilee in Washington DC, just 17 miles from the White House, the "visiting Elks were royally entertained" as "'nigger babies' were hit with baseballs until they were unable to maintain their upright position..." ("Elks Jubilee", 1908).
There may be no better example of the pervasiveness and brutality of the African Dodger game in American society than an advertisement in the Providence News on September 11, 1924.
Wants African Dodger to Face Balls at Club Fair
Do you want to earn a few precious dollars on the evening of September 19 and 20?
If you do and if you are not at all particular as to what happens to your head why apply at Room 10 in the building at 144 Pine street. Ask for Charlie and tell him you "saw his ad in the paper". Charlie is looking for a lion-hearted and hard-headed young man who will act as an African dodger at the big carnival to be staged by the West Barrington Community Club. The reward? That is a little matter that you can adjust with Charlie. He will treat you fairly and will see that you reach the Rhode Island Hospital safely in the event that that [sic] one of the baseballs comes in contact with your head.
We beg your pardon for not detailing the duties of an African dodger. He just puts his head through a hole in a big piece of canvass and permits the aforesaid head to be used as a target by young men who toss baseballs.
One day last week an African dodger was killed in Elizabeth, N.J., and the week before a dodger was killed in Hackensack, but don't permit these deaths to influence you. ("Wants African Dodger", 1924).
The African Dodger game was widespread in American society, in every part of the country. If you could not make it to the fair, you could purchase for $.69 an African Dodger table game, which featured a caricatured black face poking through a canvas reading "Hit the Dodger! Knock Him Out! Every Time You Hit Sambo The Bell Rings" ("Bloomingdales", 1893).
African Dodger Game
But how could this all be? How could such a barbaric practice be such an integral part of a "civilized" society? How could Americans justify this practice? Were there any objections?
One response to objections to the brutality of the African dodger game was to summon authorities to provide "scientific" findings on the topic. A short article in The Wayne County Democrat cited "authorities on anthropology" who "state that the negro has a very heavy and massive cranium constituting a bony arch of great resisting power. One scientist refers to the 'common habit of negroes, of both sexes in butting like rams'[which]...indicates that a negro's head bones have defensive strength unknown in the Caucasian race." The newspaper assures its readers that the dodger doesn't mind. "He seems cheerful about it." The players of the game, the ones who throw the ball, are just men with a "man's desire to display his powers", particularly in front of "women friends." The article finally concludes that until there is evidence that shows "fractured skulls or brain contusions" or until the dodger takes issue himself, the game will continue. A final warning is provided to the dodger who may be considering a new line of work that "He might regret to lose a daily wage that comes with less effort than manual labor" ("The Black Dodger", 1913).
After all, what could be so bad about a game that was an "innocent" sport ("Large Crowd", 19"7) and a game that was "fun for the small boys and the grown-ups as well" ("Dodger", 1907)? A game played by Governors ("Preparing", 1912), famous ball players like Ty Cobb ("Bob Thayer", 1911) and Babe Ruth (Wagenheim, 1974, p. 35), what could be wrong with that?
When legislation was presented in 1915 to ban some forms of the game at Coney Island, the headline read: BAN ON "BONEHEAD" HITS. The proposed ban was framed as "depressing news" for those who may be unable to participate in the "soothing exercise of hitting with a baseball the head of an 'Ethiopian' as it protrudes from a hole in a canvas sheet." But don't just feel sorry for the players, understand that "many persons who have no more profitable use for their heads will join the army of the unemployed" if the bill is passed and Africans are no longer allowed to dodge ("Ban", 1915).
Hit the Nigger Baby
In 1911, some carnivals ushered in a new game for the "progressive era" called the African Dip, the precursor to the dunk tank. The game was "arranged that every time a baseball hits the target a colored man, seated upon a bar, is thrown into a large pool of water. It's said to be lots of fun..." ("It's Called", 1911). This new game didn't entirely replace the African Dodger. Versions of the original African Dodger were still found in the 1950s. Some carnivals and fairs decided to use targets that resembled African Americans instead of using real people. Promoters sold entire family doll racks that were used as targets at Amusement parks (A. J. Smith Mfg. Co., 1914). The development of Amusement parks in permanent locations increased the popularity of the African Dip game because it was hard to travel with the African Dip dunk tank. Riverview Amusement park in Chicago Illinois, was well known for their popular African Dip attraction, which was a staple there until the late 1950s.
It may be hard to imagine a world where such barbaric games were accepted and played, and to understand why people would allow themselves to be targets. This is another example of the complexities of relationships during the Jim Crow era. The idea that African Americans were sub-humans was prevalent and widely accepted. Religious speakers, politicians, and scientists all agreed and "proved" that the African was a "less evolved" creature and therefore not subject to humane treatment. Almost everything in American society pointed to a hierarchical structure, whites on top and blacks at the bottom.
With everyday objects, forms of entertainment, advertising and public policies confirming this hierarchy, it is possible to see how whites came to believe they were superior and how some blacks could internalize these images, practices, attitudes and policies and come to see themselves as inferior and to accept the role of target. It's also difficult for many to see the negative impact of racist games when playing them is associated with fondness of yesteryear. One of the most popular attractions at zoos during this time was the "Negro Village" or "Human Zoo", but that's a topic for another day.
Franklin Hughes
Diversity & Inclusion / Jim Crow Museum
2012
References
Smith Mfg. Co. (1914, March 21). Amusement devices [Advertisement]. The Billboard, p. 76. Retrieved from
http://fultonhistory.com/…/…/Billboard%201914%20-%200873.pdf
Ball hits African Dodger. (1916, July 22). The Gazette Times, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Ban on "bonehead" hits. (1915, February 10). The Washington Herald, p. 6. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/…/1915-02-10/ed-1/seq-6/
The black dodger. (1913, September 19). The Wayne County Democrat, p. 3. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Bloomingdale's (advertisement). (1893, December 14). The Evening World, p. 8. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/…/1893-12-14/ed-4/seq-8/
Bob Thayer's sporting gossip. (1911, June 2). Washington Times, p. 15. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/sn84026749/1911-06-02/e…
'Coon Hitting' peril. (1908, September 22). The Philadelphia Record, p. 4. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Dodger is an expert but sometimes he is hit. (1907, October 31). Richland Shield and Banner, p. 6. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Don't want craniums pelted with balls by Walter Johnson. (1913, July 19). Omaha Daily Bee, p. 2. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/…/1913-07-19/ed-1/seq-2/
Elks Jubilee ends. (1908, June 19). The Washington Herald, p. 14. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/sn83045433/1908-06-19/e…
His mouth full of ball. (1908, August 6). The Philadelphia Record, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Hit African Dodger. (1904, August 17). The Meriden Daily Journal, p. 6. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
It's called the "African dip" and it's a new one out at Flemington. (1911, July 28). Trenton True American, p. 1.
Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Large crowd, ideal weather. (1907, September 19). Custer County Republican, p. 4. Retrieved from
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/…/1907-09-19/ed-1/seq-4/
Preparing for the fair. (1912, August 7). Red Bank Register, p. 1. Retrieved from
http://rbr.mtpl.org/data/rbr/1910-1919/1912/1912.08.07.pdf
Stegner, W. (1957). The Big Rock Candy Mountain. New York: Sagamore Press, Inc.
Threw stone at African Dodger; Hit him in eye. (1915, May 15). Youngstown Vindicator, p. 10. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…
Wagenheim, K. (1974). Babe Ruth: His life and legend. New York: Praeger Publishers.
Wants African Dodger to face balls at club fair. (1924, September 11). The Providence News, p. 19. Retrieved from
http://news.google.com/newspapers…