Clarence Thomas Thinks He Has It Hard

But really he has no idea. Dig this:

Especially harsh reprisals could be brought against blacks aligned with conservatives and Democrats, for they were generally regarded not merely as opponents but as "traitors."...In the rural hinterlands of Portsmouth, Virginia, black Republicans attacked "colored conservatives" at a prayer meeting and beat two of them badly. In southside Virginia's Campbell County, a black man who betrayed the Union League was tied up by his heels and suspended from a tree for several hours until he agreed to take an oath of loyalty. Two "conservative negroes" in Lincoln County, North Carolina, had their houses stoned and doors broken down...One black man living outside Augusta, Georgia, went so far as to insist that he would cut the throat of any son "willing to be a Democrat."

Even knowing the history, it's surreal to read about a black dude saying he would "cut the throat" of any of his kids, should he turn about to be a Democrat. This is taken from Steven Hahn's wonderful and epic history A Nation Under Our Feet. I want to thank all the commenters and e-mailers who urged me to read this book. It really is incredible and it gives such a textured portrait of black people living in the 19th century.

As I've talked about before, it's really unfortunate that our narrative of black life goes something like this--Slavery, Civil War, Dark Ages, Civil Rights, Dark Ages Again, Barack Obama. Maybe those last two can still change. But my point is that this notion of summits and valleys does a disservice to all the black people, many of whom were killed, who worked to make all those summits possible. There's a portion in the book where Hahn just reads down this list of names of black folks who were murdered for defying the the conservative white supremacists in the South. The handles are so ordinary and there's an incredible power in seeing them one after the other. So many people who are just names. So many martyrs forgotten.

I think Hahn's book will be hard for those who don't have an intense interest in the subject. It's really well-written, but also dense (as it should be).  Still this is a major, major work in the effort to break this notion of black passivity and victimhood. I'm 160 pages out. I'll write again when I'm done.