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A traveling London merchant to the area in the late seventeenth century

recorded his impressions. Those in bondage, comprising more than sixty

percent of the people in Virginia colony, endure conditions "far worse

than the poorest gypsy in England," he noted. "Their usual food is maize

bread to eat, and water to drink, which sometimes is not very good

and scarcely enough for life . . .



Book by Jonathan Scott

Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes

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The Origin of Violence in Virginia: A Brief History

By Jonathan Scott

The present is also history.José Carlos Mariátegui


While Seung Hui Cho was purchasing the two Glock 9 mm handguns as well as fifty hollow point bullets he would use a few months later on his classmates and professors at Virginia Tech, the state of Virginia was into its third month of spirited quadricentennial festivities dubbed by the state "America's 400th Anniversary."

There is certainly a great deal of distance between the two events, and Seung Hui Cho himself appears to have been either oblivious or completely indifferent to the fact that he was carrying out single-handedly one of the worst massacres in Virginia history at the exact same time the state was proudly remembering its historical beginning.

All the same, Seung Hui Cho's elaborately planned act of gruesome revenge against Virginia Tech is now having the effect of a sudden paradigm shift, from romantic and windy invocations of Jamestown's iron-willed Captain John Smith and his enabling and admiring Indian mistress Pocahontas, to Virginia's totally unregulated gun weapon market: in a word, to America's culture of blood-curdling violence.

In this spirit, let us review Virginia's history of violence, for it's truly second to none. Before that though it should be noted that so-called "Pocahontas" and the precious  legend of her passed down for the past three centuries is pure fiction. As many American Indian historians have pointed out, "Pocahontas" was entirely the invention of Captain Smith. In fact, as Jill Lepore points out in recent article ("Jamestown at four hundred," New Yorker, April 2, 2007), American historian Henry Adams had already proved in 1867 that Smith made it all up. Smith's story, wrote Adams, is nothing more than a collection of "falsehoods of an effrontery seldom equaled in modern times."

Virginian violence is by now a many-headed hydra, yet it has a singular historical origin. Because of the necessarily schematic presentation here, I've reduced violence in Virginia to three salient characteristics: (1) the preference for mass murder along ethnic lines or genocide; (2) capitalist barbarism aimed at workers; and (3) racial terror of the kind that in the late 1930s had an envious Hitler sending Nazi scouts to the US to closely study.

This distinctly Anglo-American style of violence is intimately familiar to most of the world's poor and oppressed, but unfortunately it continues to be barely recognizable by most Americans themselves. In terms of the first, the systematic slaughter of the Powhatan Indians by Governor Berkeley's colonial militiamen reached its apogee in Virginia during the 1650s, yet it proceeded without interruption until the entire Chesapeake had been ethnically cleansed of its diverse indigenous peoples.

Estimates vary on the number of Chesapeake Indians dispossessed and massacred for their rich tidewater lands, but whatever figure to which historians eventually agree is beside the point. All acknowledge it was conscious and deliberate genocide. By the end of the seventeenth century only charred remains were left of Chesapeake Indian society. Virginia colony administrators referred to the genocide as "land improvement."  The second is the massacre of Virginia's tenantry. While massacring the Chesapeake Indians, colony elites were also seeing to the massacre of Virginia's laboring classes.

 Here they didn't use long smooth bore-iron guns, for the aim of course was not to murder the new emigrants but rather to reduce them to chattel. Between 1607 and 1625 only one of out every six of the immigrants who came during that period was still breathing by the end of it. The death rate was seven times that of the England, around 80 percent. It takes no genius to understand why. The English emigrants arrived in Virginia in the midst of the English imperialists' rapid and aggressive encroachment upon the land. The new immigrants from England were mere cannon fodder. The Anglo-American plantation bourgeoisie achieved the massacre of the tenantry by attacking the social status of the laboring people in the colony. They used two tactics.

First, every share of Virginia stock entitled each capitalist investor a free title to 100 acres of land. The four incorporators of Berkeley Hundred, for example, purchased forty-five shares of the company and were given a patent for 4,500 acres of Virginia's finest soil. That is, the newly arrived laborers had no rights that a wealthy planter was bound to respect: unless they were capitalist investors, they had no legal claim to either land or civil rights.

Second, the wealthy planters devised a "headright" system whereunder each laborer they brought to the colony earned them fifty acres of free land. This is how America's slave trade began, not along the coast of West Africa (that would come next) but rather from London and Liverpool, where tens of thousands of poor English were "spirited away," as they called the practice of legal kidnapping, to Virginia by slave traders. Consequently, by the end of the seventeenth century Virginia's laboring people consisted mostly of bond laborers, 70 percent from England, Scotland, and Ireland and the other 30 percent from Africa via Barbados colony.

A traveling London merchant to the area in the late seventeenth century recorded his impressions. Those in bondage, comprising more than sixty percent of the people in Virginia colony, endure conditions "far worse than the poorest gypsy in England," he noted. "Their usual food is maize bread to eat, and water to drink, which sometimes is not very good and scarcely enough for life, yet they are compelled to work hard. Thus they are by hundreds of thousands compelled to spend their lives in Virginia in planting that vile tobacco, which all vanishes into smoke, and is for the most part miserably abused. The servants and negroes after they have worn themselves down the whole day, and gone home to rest, have yet to grind and pound the grain, which is generally maize, for their masters and all their families as well as themselves" (see James Horn, Adapting to a New World, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1994, p. 275).

The third component of Virginian violence is racial slavery. As seen in components one and two, the English capitalists that founded Virginia colony in 1607 possessed a singular vision of America, in which all the indigenous were violently disappeared, all the laborers violently reduced to chattel, and gargantuan profits accumulated instantly without the annoying presence of parliaments and other such regulatory bodies. They were corrupt and scheming right-wing royalists recently forced out of England by Cromwell's army, their sights set solely on fertile Virginia tidewater land and how they might exploit it to the fullest.

Thus it comes as no surprise that these particular men were eager to get in on the African slave trade. Yet they soon found themselves in a very difficult dilemma, for the newly transported Africans entered an already chattelized labor force. It's true that the kidnapped Africans were sold into lifetime hereditary slavery whereas the kidnapped English, Scots, and Irish had been sold into limited-term slavery. Yet in the oligarchic plantation monoculture of seventeenth-century Virginia, the two groups of bond laborers found themselves in exactly the same boat. They lived together in the same slave quarters, fell in love together, escaped together, revolted together. Bacon's Rebellion of 1676-77 was the outcome of their common chattelization under Virginia's plantation bourgeoisie in which thousands of African slaves and thousands of European slaves took up arms together (15,000 in total), seized control of Virginia colony, murdered slave-owners, and drove the entire ruling class of capitalist planters into exile for more than eight months straight.

This third component of Virginian violence, racial slavery, is the most barbarous for obvious reasons and it's not necessary to delve into it here. Suffice it to say that Virginia's planter elite responded to Bacon's Rebellion by masterminding a system of racial slavery through which they could continue the chattelization of Virginia's laboring people by now imposing it exclusively on African Americans.

Bacon's Rebellion had forced the capitalist planters' hand: to continue with chattel slavery in Virginia they had, from now on, to prevent such bond-labor uprisings in advance, preemptively. This they achieved by passing laws in the early eighteenth century prohibiting the enslavement of European Americans (now called "whites," for the first time incidentally). In return, that is to say the condition on which they had the right of non-enslavement conferred on them, these poor and propertyless European Americans were to make certain that African American bond laborers stayed under the lash and had their labor exploited by capitalist planters as efficiently as possible; thus the birth of the "poor whites" as overseers, patrollers, slave-catchers, county sheriffs, and lynch mobs.

The scarcely comprehensible scale of violence in Virginia that followed the imposition of racial slavery and racial oppression, the hundreds of thousands of nameless African Americans starved, raped, lashed, kicked and beaten, tortured, and murdered, which then spread like a cancer everywhere else in America, is really just beginning to be felt and understood by Americans, thanks largely to our greatest writers, beginning with the antislavery activists and authors of the nineteenth century (Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, Fred Douglass, Ida B. Wells), down to Charles Chesnutt (his 1901 masterpiece  The Marrow of Tradition is one of the fullest descriptions of it) and W.E.B. Du Bois. Then Mark Twain, Richard Wright, Sinclair Lewis, Langston Hughes, William Faulkner, John O. Killens, Margaret Walker (Jubilee), William Styron (The Confessions of Nat Turner), August Wilson, Toni Morrison (Beloved, of course, but it's in all her novels). There are many others. It's difficult to come up with a good American writer who hasn't been preoccupied with this society's most dominant tendency, that of violence on a mass scale. 

Yet and still, we can expect the corporate media to go on calling Seung Hui Cho an unfathomably bizarre lunatic and all that. He was clearly a sociopath, but compared to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said she felt the mass murder of 500,000 Iraqi children, through starvation, under her and Clinton's sanctions policy was "worth it," he's small fry. And with the so-called US Left, we're already seeing their predictable response: they blame it all on non-existent gun laws in Virginia and are barking again for tighter restrictions.

In a country whose origin is so deeply drenched in the blood of workers, Indian, European, and African, and that has never for a moment strayed from this origin but rather expanded and systemized it in the most horrific and catastrophic ways imaginable, including against the nation of Korea where between 1950 and 1953, the US military murdered more than a million civilians, through death squads and napalm, tighter gun laws are at best a political diversion and at worst a transparent means to keep America's laboring people in the same defenseless position they've always been, where the sociopaths above have all the guns and everyone below is at their mercy. American violence and mass murder, which began in Virginia, will not be prevented by gun control laws in Virginia today or any time in the future. This kind of violence can only be ended by putting a stop to the law superseding it and every other one, the law of rich eat the poor and the use of imperialist war to keep the rule of money continuously functioning.

In communiqués to NBC that the network aired and that the authorities are now trying to suppress, Seung Hui Cho returned again and again to the class character of his violent rage. While the comparison of himself with Jesus Christ seems outrageous and beneath contempt, it was after all Jesus who said, "Woe unto the rich! For ye have received your fill." He was also known to violently attack loan sharks doing business in the temple of God.

Only the faint-hearted and delusional will try to twist Seung Hui Cho's massacre at Virginia Tech and his explicitly stated reasons for doing it into the work of an isolated psycho. Had we only acted more decisively on his obvious cries for help, so they say, he could have been heavily medicated and then properly disposed of in some local lunatic asylum.

What he did was barbaric, and this barbarism is what made Seung Hui Cho finally into the true American he always wanted to be.

Source: Black Agenda Report  / Read also, Theodore Allen's Invention of the White Race

Jonathan Scott is Assistant Professor of English at Al-Quds University in Abu Dees, the West Bank, and the author of Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes .

posted 2 May 2007

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How William Faulkner Tackled Race—and Freed the South from Itself—John Jeremiah Sullivan on Absalom, Absalom!—You are my brother. — No I’m not. I’m the nigger that’s going to sleep with your sister. Unless you stop me, Henry.

This is a novel [Absalom, Absalom!] that uses the word “nigger” many times. An unfortunate subject, but to talk about it in 2012 and not mention the fact hints at some kind of repression. Especially when you consider that the particular example I’ve quoted is atypically soft: Bon, the person saying it, is part black, and being mordantly ironic. Most of the time, it’s a white character using the word—or, most conspicuously, the novel itself, in its voice—with an uglier edge. The third page features the phrase “wild niggers”; elsewhere it’s “monkey nigger.”

Faulkner wasn’t unique or even uncommon in using the word this way. Hemingway, Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein—all did so unapologetically. They were reflecting their country’s speech. They were also, if we are being frank, exploiting the word’s particular taboo charge, one only intensified when the writer is a white Southerner. Faulkner says “Negroes” in plenty of places here, also “blacks,” but when he wants a stronger effect, he says “niggers.” It isn’t a case, in short, of That’s just how they talked back then. The term was understood by the mid-’30s (well before, in fact) to be nasty. A white person wouldn’t use it around a black person unless meaning to offend or assert superiority—except perhaps now and then in the context of an especially close humor.

Even if we were to justify Faulkner’s overindulgence of the word on the grounds of historical context, I would find it unfortunate purely as a matter of style. It may be crass for a white reader to claim that as significant, but a writer with Faulkner’s sensitivity to verbal shading might have been better tuned to the ugliness of the word, and not a truth-revealing ugliness, but something more like gratuitousness, with an attending queasy sense of rhetorical power misused. I count it a weakness, to be placed alongside Faulkner’s occasional showiness and his incessant “not” constructions, which come often several to a page: “and not this, nor that, nor even the other thing, but a fourth thing — adjective adjective adjective — made him lift the hoe” (where half the time those things would not have occurred to you in your natural life, but old Pappy takes his time chopping them down anyway).

The defense to be mounted is not of Faulkner’s use of the word but of the novel in spite of it, or rather, in the face of it. Absalom, Absalom! has been well described as the most serious attempt by any white writer to confront the problem of race in America. There is bravery in Faulkner’s decision to dig into this wound. He knew that the effort would involve the exposure of his own mind, dark as it often was. You could make a case that to have written this book and left out that most awful of Southernisms would have constituted an act of falsity.

Certainly we would not want to take the word away from Bon, in that scene in the woods, one of the most extraordinary moments in Southern literature. A white man and a black man look at each other and call each other brother. One does, anyway. Suddenly, thrillingly, the whole social edifice on which the novel is erected starts to teeter. All Henry has to do is repeat himself. Say it again, the reader thinks. Say, “No, you are my brother.” And all would be well, or could be well, the gothic farce of Sutpen’s dream redeemed with those words, remade into a hopeful or at least not-hope-denying human story. Charles Bon would live, and Judith would be his wife, and Sutpen would have descendants, and together they might begin rebuilding the South along new lines.—nytimes

Psychology of Black Oppression   The N-Word Poem at Lakeside  H. Rap Brown's Die Nigger Die!   The Niggerization of Palestine  

Juneteenth and Emancipation   The Origin of Violence in Virginia   Just Another Dead Nigger  Nigguh Please

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

By Randall Kennedy

The word is paradigmatically ugly, racist and inflammatory. But is it different when Ice Cube uses it in a song than when, during the O.J. Simpson trial, Mark Fuhrman was accused of saying it? What about when Lenny Bruce uses it to "defang" it by sheer repetition? Or when Mark Twain uses it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to make an antiracist statement? Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and noted legal scholar, has produced an insightful and highly provocative book that raises vital questions about the relationship between language, politics, social norms and how society and culture confront racism. Drawing on a wide range of historical, legal and cultural instances Harry S. Truman calling Adam Clayton Powell "that damned nigger preacher"; Title VII court cases in which the use of the word was proof of condoning a "racially hostile work environment"; Quentin Tarantino's liberal use of the word in his films Kennedy repeatedly shows not only the complicated cultural history of the word, but how its meaning, intent and even substance change in context.

Smart, well argued and never afraid of facing serious, difficult and painful questions in an unflinching and unsentimental manner, this is an important work of cultural and political criticism. As Kennedy notes in closing: "For bad or for good, nigger is... destined to remain with us for the foreseeable future a reminder of the ironies and dilemmas, the tragedies and glories, of the American experience." (Jan. 22)Forecast: This may be the book that reignites larger debates over race eclipsed by September 11. Look for a bestselling run and huge talk show and magazine coverage as the Afghanistan news cycle continues to slow; the book had already been the subject of two New York Times stories by early January.—Publishers Weekly

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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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Related files:  Psychology of Black Oppression   The N-Word Poem at Lakeside   Retrospective on Die Nigger Die    The Niggerization of Palestine  Nigguh Please

Juneteenth and Emancipation   The Origin of Violence in Virginia   Just Another Dead Nigger   A Hip Hop Clothing Store Called Nigger  / Socialist Joy in  Langston Hughes  

Rudy I want to know....    Cynthia McKinney Confronts Corporate Media   Time To Impeach Bush