In the April 2018 “special issue” of National Geographic, named “The Race Issue,” the opening letter from the magazine’s current editor-in-chief, explores the racist history of National Geographic.
The editor’s letter contains the following acknowledgments of the publication’s historic racism:
• African Americans were not allowed to be members of National Geographic, at least through the 1940s. (NOTE: National Geographic was established in 1888.)
• For the April 2018 issue, National Geographic got Professor John Edwin Mason to explore the magazine’s archives and make an assessment of the publication’s coverage of Black people. He found that, “until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages- every type of cliché.
The Professor concluded, “National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.” He states: “Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan and crude racist caricatures. Segregation was the way it was. National Geographic wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority. National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism, and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized. That was a color line, and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”
• National Geographic printed a caption under a 1916 photograph of two Australian Aboriginals, “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”
• The magazine was guilty of omitting national news that dealt with major injustices involving people of African descent. Referencing a “massacre” that occurred in South Africa in 1959 where 69 Black South Africans were murdered by police in Sharpeville, “many shot in the back as they fled,” Professor Mason states that a subsequent article about South Africa in National Geographic: “Barely mentions any problems. There are no voices of black South Africans. That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances…servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”
The Wilmington race riot of 1898 is also historically known as the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, and the Wilmington Coup d’etat of 1898. This incident is reportedly the only instance of and attempted coup d’etat in the history of the United States.
On November 10, 1898, members of the Democratic Party attempted to overthrow elected officials in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Democratic Party members were purportedly angered that the Wilmington city council included elected officials who were African American. Therefore, they sought to oust the government officials.
During the racist riot, a group of 2,000 white people attacked the African American residents of Wilmington, killing dozens. The rampaging group destroyed neighborhoods and burned down the headquarters for the Daily Record, the only black newspaper in North Carolina.
While this savage attack went on, President William McKinley refused to send aid to the victims and residents who appealed to him. His reason for his dereliction of duty was that the governor had not requested his help.
In the aftermath of the riot, Wikipedia states: “More than 2,100 blacks left the city permanently, having to abandon their businesses and properties, turning it from a black-majority to a white-majority city.”
In March 1653, Peter Stuyvesant, the director of the slave-trading Dutch West India Company and the Director-General of New Netherland, now known as New York, ordered slaves to build blockades to serve as protective barriers for the area of lower Manhattan.
Stuyvesant reportedly demanded that the log-made barricade be “12 feet long, 18 inches in circumference, sharpened at the upper end,” and stretch from “river to river across Manhattan Island.
The slaves were burdened with the task of building “The Wall” to help shield the Dutch settlers from New Netherland’s native inhabitants.
After the construction of “The Wall,” the area on which the wall was located was called Wall Street.
[Bibliography: Slavery In New York]
Recently, burial vaults were discovered underneath Washington Square Park. Archaeologists are reportedly still trying to determine the exact origins of the vaults; however, they claim that they believe the vaults date back to the 19th century.
Way before the 19th century, African Americans who were brought to the United States as chattel, owned approximately 130 acres of land that comprise and surround the are in New York City that is presently known as Washington Square Park.
Ownership of the parcel of land was granted to a group of African Americans in the mid-17th century. The brewing conflict between Dutch “settlers” and the Native Americans was the catalyst for this land ownership. The Dutch granted the Africans ownership of the land in an attempt to create a geographic buffer between themselves and the Native Americans, thereby potentially protecting them from attacks by the Natives.
The Dutch granted Africans land between Manhattan’s southern tip- where they settled, and Manhattan’s northern area- where the Native Americans resided.
It will be interesting to see if the discovered vaults are announced to have any African American connections.
[Bibliography: Slavery In New York]
“Read history incessantly until you master it. This means your own national history, the history of the world, social history, industrial history, and the history of the different sciences; but primarily the history of man.
If you do not know what went on before you came here and what is happening at the time you live…you will not know the world and will be ignorant of the world and mankind. You can only make the best out of life by knowing and understanding it. To know, you must fall back on the intelligence of others who came before you and have left their records behind.” -Marcus Garvey
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus reportedly wrote in his diary, “I took some of the natives by force.”
[Source: “The Black West” By: William Katz]
A one time Dr. W.E.B Dubois lived in Brooklyn, New York. He lived at 31 Grace Court in Brooklyn Heights. Reportedly, Dr. DuBois bought the house from Arthur Miller, who wrote his play, “Death of a Salesman” at the address.”