weekend update 9/29

panda wtf

This is a weekend in which I really would have loved to have been spared further aggravation, indignation, etc.  But enough about me.

Here are three news items that ruffled my feathers, and apparently I think you should know about them.  What these stories say to me is that there is something to be said for opening up the dialogue.  I know I’m always posting pictures with words on them.  I’m certain that if I went thru these archives of “inspirational” images I would find that I do not actually believe the message in a large percentage of them.  Here’s one I recently came across that sent up a red flag:

freeman stop racism

Mr. Morgan Freeman, I love and respect you.  Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Shawshank Redemption, whatever that movie that you played God in was called… I freaking love that shit.  And to top it all off you funded the first racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi.  Major Mahalo!

But, Mr. Freeman, do you really think that if we stop talking about it, it will stop?  Maybe you meant to say stop identifying and categorizing by race.  Which would mean me not calling myself a black girl or a biracial girl, and you not calling yourself a black man, and George Bush (either one) not calling himself a white man.  An inside-out kind of shift.  But if we just stop talking about it, Sikhs will continue to be perceived as terrorists, black folks as criminal/dangerous/depraved, and white people will be perceived as… perfectly normal.  I think we have to talk about it.  But from a place of seeking to understand the unity, not defend the separation.

For the record:  Tiffany Jones, do you really believe that Morgan Freeman actually said that just because you saw his face above those words on some random Facebook page?

All of THAT being said, on to this news.

I’m not at all surprised by Mississippi and the need for a civil rights lesson there… FOR the judge!  I am a bit surprised to come across another instance of Sikh-abuse so soon.  I suppose I’m tuned in to that community now.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have clicked on that story three months ago.  Not proud of that, but it’s the truth.  When you have experience unity and fellowship with an “other,” there remains no such thing as “other.”  How will we ever get to that place if we stay silent?

Omg, the middle one….my heart was racing and I started to sweat at the part in the story when the cop put gloves on…

Punky Brewster was a hero of mine.  By proxy Cherie also has a big piece of my heart!  SO, how dare they!?  Of course not because she’s Punky’s bestie, but because she’s a human being.   A human being who is conscious enough to approach her heritage openly and with reverence.  It truly makes my blood boil.


I did take a nugget of love and hope from Dennis White’s narrative of the incident though.  The love and respect with which he speaks of and treats his partner struck me as truly beautiful.  The way he handled the situation…I’d wager to say this guy meditates or something fantastically woo woo like that.  Most do not expect that of a black man.  On a bad day I include myself in that group.  So, just in case it seems otherwise, everything I post on this blog is a note to self.  That makes the title “diary” a little more digestible to me.

So,the third one here is an improvement of a situation.  If that wrong is righted, there will be clear-cut, undeniable manifestation of something positive coming out of something tragic.  The positive will be an acquittal for Marissa Alexander.  The tragic is literally the verdict in the George Zimmerman case.  Figuratively, I suppose it’s the death of Trayvon Martin.  What a huge universal purpose that youngster served.  Sat Nam.

Mississippi County Gets Civil Rights Lesson From A Harassed Sikh Truck Driver


In a move that Mississippi might be regretting, a Sikh man was arrested and humiliated in the state over refusing to remove religious attire. The incident happened last January when Jagjeel Singh, a long-distance truck driver, was stopped by state police officers for driving with a flat tire. During the stop, they harassed and mocked him for wearing a turban, while one officer stated that all Sikhs are ‘depraved’ and ‘terrorists’.


 Jagjeel Singh

Finally, the officers told Singh that the small, sheathed ceremonial sword, called a kirpan, that he was wearing was illegal. This isn’t true, but they ordered him to remove it. The kirpan is sewn into the waistband of a Sikh man’s trousers and is a sacred religious object, which Singh tried to explain. He declined to remove it and asked that he not be forced to do so. The result of this request was that he was arrested for refusing to obey a police command.

Matters got worse from here. The rest of the nation has long been accustomed to hearing about the abuses of Mississippi police officers when it comes to members of minority groups. Usually, the justice system isn’t much better — and that’s certainly the situation in this case. In March, Singh showed up for his hearing before the Pike County Court. As he sat in the courtroom waiting for his case to be called, four policemen approached to eject him from the room — at the judge’s behest.

Judge Aubrey Rimes ordered the removal because he didn’t like the turban Mr. Singh was wearing, which is also of religious significance. In chambers, the judge confirmed to the defendant’s lawyer that not only did he order the removal, but if Singh didn’t take off the turban, he would wait until all the cases were heard before calling up that one. And that’s precisely what happened. Singh spent the day waiting for his ‘turn’.

However, unlike many who have been targeted for discrimination in the state, Mr. Singh was not all on his own to face the Mississippi ‘justice’ system. First, the United Sikhs organization got involved, providing him with legal representation. Local lawyer LeeAnn Slipher not only stood up for her client in court, negotiating for charges to be dropped and her client released, but was a vital witness to the abuse that took place at the hands of the judge.

With irrefutable evidence available, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division opened an investigation and the results have been relatively immediate. Pike County agreed to institute sensitivity training and to revise their nondiscrimination policy in return for an end to the investigation. The county’s policy now specifically says that religious discrimination includes:

 … requiring an individual to remove a head covering or denying that individual access to a County office, building, program or activity because they are wearing a head covering, if that head covering is worn for religious reasons.

Although Mississippi has been notoriously bad at dealing with civil rights issues, there is hope that the good news doesn’t stop there — especially since federal intervention has already taken place at the county level. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, asking for an investigation of its officers on harassment charges. The ACLU also announced plans to file a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission, in cooperation with United Sikhs, asking for an investigation of Judge Rimes and for the imposition of consequences for his actions.

The outcome, of course, will depend on watchful eyes from elsewhere in the nation.


Two Hollywood Actors Get Stopped, But Not For An Autograph

by: Krystol Diggs  Posted September 28, 2013

Being violated is something that many haven’t had a chance to go through. Although we never want it to happen at all, it does and it happened to actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White. Cherie Johnson, who is known for her roles in Punky Brewster, Family Matters, etc and Dennis White who was in the film Notorious, a story about the late Christopher Wallace also known as “ Biggie Smalls” never imagined their vacation to be an experience they would never forget. As an African American myself I must say that this situation is has saddened me. Racism should cease to exist. Ms. Johnson and Mr. White should never have been violated to the fullest extent that it entailed. I hope that this article will show that we as people should be united as one and not divided.  Dennis White explained to me the terrible ordeal, here is his story.


On September 22nd, 2013 at approximately 3:40pm, I was reminded that at the end of the day I can be harassed by the police at their will. Regardless of how many movies or TV shows I have been in. Regardless of my education at WSSU. Regardless of how much money or accolades I have garnered. Regardless of my journeys across the globe. I will be forever at the white officer’s mercy.

My lady and I have had a long trip teaching our Acting workshops in NYC and in Fayetteville, NC, my hometown. We have been out of L.A. for about 10 days and we needed some R&R. I suggested Myrtle Beach because she has never been there before and it can be romantic in nature. Myrtle Beach was the place in which I acted in my very first film, “Swimming”, so there is a special place in my heart for that town. Well, we decided to leave Sunday afternoon between football games and to avoid heavy traffic and to make it to Myrtle before the Steelers(her favorite team) played. We laughed, kissed, held hands, talked and had a pleasant time traveling from NC to SC. We had no idea that our trip would turn into a horrible nightmare.

We entered South Carolina and within 20 minutes or so we were pulled over by 2 police cars. They stated that I was driving 40 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone. I disagreed but there was nothing I could do. He presented me with a citation that I planned on fighting. So, the Officer began to warn us that we should be careful because there are other officers on the prowl. We heeded his advice and continued on our “romantic” getaway. Once we entered the highway to reach Myrtle beach, We began to see cotton fields. I was cognitive of my speed limit. Didn’t want to attract any other police interactions. Well, there was a cotton field that was on the right side of the road and my lady was intrigued by it. The history of our ancestors picking cotton and being enslaved tugged at her heartstrings. Being a man who desires to accommodate his woman, I decided to pull over and let her experience the connection with the angst of our ancestry.

There was a paved driveway that led to a small cotton field. The oil change light came on so it was the perfect reason to pull over. I pulled over and we both exited the rental vehicle (Ford Fusion, great car! I need one of these in my life) and we took in the history and the oppression that those little white balls created decades ago. Tears welled up and the vindication of being free and willing to pursue our dreams unabashed gave us power. We took several pictures just to document the experience. I grew up in North Carolina so this is nothing new to me but to experience this with the woman I love was monumental. As we walked back to the car we noticed a cop car with it’s lights on making a u-turn and parked right behind us. My lady, proceeded to walk towards his car and state, “I just wanted to take a picture!” The Officer, S. Barfield, grabbed his gun and told her to sit in the car.

While in the car, we chuckled and connected on the thought that this is just the icing to our trip. The officer approached my side of the car and asked for license and registration. I complied and he went back to his vehicle to run my identity. Everything came back clean. He began to ask me a plethora of questions. I showed him the flyer from the Acting workshop we just held in Fayetteville the previous day. I informed him of our credentials and what we do for a living. He told me to exit the vehicle. I complied. He brought me to the back of the car and asked me more questions. He asked me my woman’s name and I answered, “Cherie Johnson”. He left me and questioned her. I assumed to validate my answers. He returned to his car and approached me and told me that there was a warrant for her arrest. I told him he had to be mistaken. He presented that info to her and she disputed that. He returned to his vehicle and within 5 minutes he approached her and admitted that she didn’t have a warrant. By this time I am hot, confused and annoyed. He asked me several more questions and then asked if he could search the car. I am not a lawyer but I know some of my rights. I refused. He walked over to Cherie and asked her several more questions. He left her and entered his car and put gloves on.


Officer Barfield approached me and told me to turn around. I asked him if I was being arrested. He said, “No”. He proceeded to put handcuffs on me rather tight and aggressively. I inquired why was I being cuffed. He had no specific reasoning. He then proceeded to approach my lady and tell her to get out of the car and he handcuffed her. At this time I became distraught. I have been racially profiled several times in my lifetime but it touched my core when my woman was included. The officer put us both behind the car and chided us. Another cop car arrived and he was very nice. He asked me my name. He immediately recognized my lady.

The first officer began to ask us about drugs. He continuously made reference to the fact that if we had marijuana he would just write us up for a citation and let us go. We refuted the claim of us possessing anything illegal. He told Cherie that we could be hiding a dead body in the trunk. He threatened to arrest us for trespassing and petty larceny. At that point, I decided that I should let him search the car. The bugs were eating me up and I felt guilty for having my Woman in handcuffs.

He searched the inside of the car ,went through her purse and found several hundred dollars. He questioned the possession of that money. He then searched my bag and found a stack of money, which he questioned as well. As he looked into the front pocket of my bag he told me to come closer. “Look what I found”, he stated. “Is this marijuana? “ I looked and told him, “No, that’s a tea bag”. He had to agree. He then told me he has a tester to see if it was marijuana. I told him to do as he wishes. He finished searching the whole car and found nothing. He un-cuffed us and let us go. No apology, no nothing.

At no point in history is this justified, especially not in this day and age. The equality that our forefathers fought so hard to obtained does not stretched across the board. South Carolina has been known to treat African-American as second-class citizens. It’s not right and it’s not fair. I will not stop until this incident is made public and that racist cop, Barfield, is reprimanded and punished. That was one of the worse days of my life and I plan on making it one of his as well. If you are reading this, please share, please discuss, please inform your family, friends, co-workers and associates that “Officer S. Barfield” in Marion County, SC is a racist cop and his punishment is imminent. We will not stand for this injustice anymore!!!

Marissa Alexander, Woman Sentenced To 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot, Gets New Trial

By GARY FINEOUT 09/26/13

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida woman serving 20 years in prison for firing a shot at her estranged husband during an argument will get a new trial, though she will not be able to invoke a “stand your ground” defense, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville mother of three, has been used by critics of Florida’s “stand your ground” law and mandatory minimum sentences to argue that the state’s justice system is skewed against defendants who are black.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Alexander deserves a new trial because the trial judge handling her case did not properly instruct the jury regarding what is needed to prove self-defense.

The ruling, written by Judge Robert Benton, said the instructions constituted a “fundamental error” and required Alexander to prove self-defense “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But the court also made it clear in its ruling that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state’s “stand your ground” law as a way to defend her actions. That law generally removes people’s duty to retreat in the face of possible danger and allows them to use of deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger.

Faith Gay, one of the attorneys representing the 33-year-old Alexander, said she was grateful for the “thorough consideration” provided by the appeals court.

“We are looking forward to taking the case back to trial,” Gay said.

Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody was hurt, but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Alexander has maintained that the shot fired was a warning shot.

The sentencing sparked criticism from the local NAACP chapter and the district’s African-American congresswoman, who said blacks more often are incarcerated for long periods because of overzealous prosecutors and judges bound by mandatory minimum sentences.

State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has stood by the handling of Alexander’s case. Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.

Jackelyn Barnard, a spokeswoman for Corey, said that the conviction was reversed on a legal technicality and that the office was gratified that the “stand your ground” ruling was upheld.

Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, called the ruling a “welcome development in a case that represents the double standards in our justice system.”

“From the streets to the courthouse, race continues to influence the judicial process, and it certainly seemed to have played a role here,” Jealous said in a statement issued by the civil rights organization.

The state’s “10-20-life” law was implemented in 1999 and credited with helping to lower the violent crime rate. Anyone who shows a gun in the commission of certain felonies gets an automatic 10 years in prison. Fire the gun, and it’s an automatic 20 years. Shoot and wound someone, and it’s 25 years to life.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Alexander was working for a payroll software company. She was estranged from her husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him, even though they’d had a baby together just nine days earlier. Thinking he was gone, she went to their former home to retrieve the rest of her clothes, family members said.

An argument ensued, and Alexander said she feared for her life when she went out to her vehicle to get the gun she legally owned. She came back inside and ended up firing a shot into the wall, which ricocheted into the ceiling.

Gray testified that he saw Alexander point the gun at him and looked away before she fired the shot. He claimed that she was the aggressor, and that he had begged her to put away the weapon.

The judge threw out Alexander’s “stand your ground” self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside. Alexander rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence and chose to go to trial. A jury deliberated 12 minutes before convicting her.

Alexander was also charged with domestic battery four months after the shooting in another assault on Gray. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served.

Supporters of Alexander have asked Gov. Rick Scott to pardon Alexander, but her case has not yet been taken by the state’s clemency board.

Mandatory Minimums Marissa Alexander, seen here purchasing cosmetics in Tampa, Fla. Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody got hurt, but this month a northeast Florida judge was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prion. (AP photo/Lincoln B. Alexander)

on this day in american history

it was the beginning of the end… when will it really end?  i think it’s a great day to re-watch the movie Glory.

150 Years Later, America’s Civil War Still Divides


On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War rang out in South Carolina.

Confederate forces, firing on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, helped launch a four-year war that would kill more than 620,000 soldiers.

It’s been nearly 150 years since the war began. But even now, the city of Charleston is still figuring out how to talk about the war and commemorate the anniversary.

Defending The Confederate Story

Think back 150 years to what led up to those first shots on Fort Sumter: Abraham Lincoln had just been elected president, promising to restrict the growth of slavery. That prompted South Carolina, on Dec. 20, 1860, to become the first state to secede from the Union.

Last December in Charleston, there was a re-enactment of that Secession Convention. It was followed by a Secession Ball — billed as “a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink.”

Costumed revelers waltzed and sang Dixie. Many South Carolinians were appalled; the NAACP protested outside.

“There was some criticism,” says South Carolina state Sen. Glenn McConnell. “But I don’t let that bother me.”

McConnell re-enacted the role of the president of the Secession Convention, D.F. Jamison. “It was a fiery speech,” McConnell says. “And I gave it verbatim because I was not gonna be part of sanitizing it or making it appear to be something other than it was.”

A fervent Civil War re-enactor, McConnell brings some heavy artillery with him to the battleground: his own 3,000-pound cannon, known as “Big Ray.”

“Made out of marine bronze, it’s a beautiful thing. It looks like a stick of gold,” he says. “But it can bark — and it can bark loud.”

McConnell is active with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and wants to defend their story, making sure it doesn’t get overshadowed in this year’s commemorations.

“I’ve taken the position that the best way that we can stand up is to try to tell our story, and tell it in the context of, we’ve got a shared historical experience,” he says. “And you don’t have to like something, just tolerate it. Political correctness is almost now the new narrow-mindededness.

“To me, that’s not what we should be about,” he adds. “We should be about being able to say what we think, show what we respect — and you can accept it, reject it, but it doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of the other.”

But there are fears that this anniversary will rekindle old hatreds. How do you honor the Confederate cause without also honoring the institution of slavery?

Righting The Wrongs Of The Past

At Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum, you’ll hear the sound of heartbeats.

“It’s so soft that it’s usually subliminal,” says museum director Nichole Green. “It’s just representing in this space the enslaved person … and the anxiety that they must have felt.”

The museum is in the old Ryan’s Mart — a narrow, low-ceilinged building where Green estimates that at least 10,000 slaves were put on the auction block and sold.

The museum displays newspaper ads from the time. “Prime gang of 27 orderly country-raised negroes,” reads one. Among them:

Hercules: prime field hand.

16-year-old Richard: field hand — lost one eye.

Young Patty, age 3.

Green says she’s hopeful the sesquicentennial is part of a healing process.

“The fear that I have is that they … will try to use the sesquicentennial to divide people rather than bring them together,” she says. “And I just have to work harder to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”

Many people in Charleston talk about using this anniversary to right the wrongs of the Civil War centennial, 50 years ago. Then, it was celebrated as a joyful tribute to South Carolina’s Confederate heritage. Now, many remember the 1961 anniversary with embarrassment.

Back then, white Charlestonians gathered with cocktails in hand to cheer fireworks and the re-enactment of the assault on Fort Sumter. Longtime Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was then a freshman cadet at The Citadel, the historic military college. He remembers watching that segregated celebration.

“[People were] celebrating something that we now quite solemnly understand was the beginning of a terrible tragedy that was caused because the South was dependent upon the inhumane practice of slavery,” he says. “And 50 years ago, there was close to universal denial among white Southerners that slavery was the cause.”

The Men Of The 54th: A Story Of African-American Bravery

Among the many stories that wouldn’t have been told 50 years ago: a story of African-American valor on Morris Island, in Charleston Harbor.

The movie Glory showed what happened here in 1863. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — one of the first official black units of the Union army — took huge losses. It was a slaughter, really, as they launched an assault.

“It was a battle that the 54th lost,” says Civil War re-enactor Joseph McGill. “The Confederate forces were successful in holding the fort, but the 54th did manage, indeed, to prove themselves as soldiers.”

McGill wears his Civil War history as close as his Union blues. He’s a re-enactor of Company I with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

“The centennial was an opportunity — I think a missed opportunity,” he says. “As African-Americans, we were engaged in a larger fight — a fight for civil rights. And with that, some scholarship — some stories that were told may have gone unchallenged.


U.S. Colored Troops

“There we were, 50 years ago, still fighting the battles that the men of the 54th had already won for us.”

And now?

“Oh we’ve made a lot of progress,” he says. “I was in Washington, D.C., in my Civil War uniform with a bunch of other African-American Civil War re-enactors marching in the inaugural parade for our current president.”

‘It’s My Family; It’s Our People’

The man who encouraged McGill to become a re-enactor — and then trained him how to do it right — is Randy Burbage.

Burbage has 11 Civil War uniforms in all, both Confederate and Union. “In fact,” he says, “we probably portray Union soldiers more than we do Confederates around here, because it’s hard to get real Yankees this far South.

“You know, it’d look bad for 500 Confederate soldiers to lose a battle to 10 Union soldiers, wouldn’t it?”

Burbage is past commander of the South Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He feels a strong connection to his 56 Confederate ancestors.

Talk about the Civil War, and he’ll also mention what happened to his great-great-grandmother when the Union Army occupied Charleston in 1865.

“She was here with the children, and while she was out searching for food for the kids one day, she was raped on the streets of Charleston by a Union soldier while officers watched this happen,” he says. “She never spoke again the rest of her life — it was such a traumatic experience for her.”

On April 12, for the 150th anniversary, Burbage will raise a Confederate flag outside his home. It’s not a racist symbol, in his view. But he’s mindful that Confederate commemorations can be taken that way.

“We gotta be careful how we do this,” he says, “because we don’t want to project that image that we are some sort of racist organization or individuals, because we’re not.”

Burbage knows just how close to the surface these tensions are — and how fraught with emotion the Civil War still is.

After that controversial Secession Ball in December, he met with the NAACP to try to talk through their differences. “I attempted to explain why I feel the way I feel, and listen to the way they feel the way they do,” he says. “It didn’t go too well. It resorted to some name-calling and accusations.”

Burbage says members of the NAACP wanted him to admit that his ancestors were traitors. Months later, his eyes well up with tears as he talks about it.

“Oh yeah it gets to me, it gets to me some,” he says. “It’s my family; it’s our people. And it’s part of our mission as descendants of Confederate veterans to defend their good name and be guardians of their history. And I take that mission pretty seriously.”

There’s a lot riding on it, Burbage says. “I think this next five years is going to be a crucial part of us mending those fences and moving on from what happened 150 years ago.”

Beginning Saturday, if there’s no government shutdown, there will be a single beam of light shining up from Fort Sumter to the sky.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12 — the moment the first shot was fired in 1861 — that beam of light will split to symbolize the division of the nation.









I wasn’t familiar with the Stono Rebellion before yesterday.  Nat Turner, yes.  Stono, no.  So I “looked” it up.  Here’s what BlackPast.org had to offer…

Stono Rebellion (1739)

On Sunday, September 9th, 1739 the British colony of South Carolina was shaken by a slave uprising that culminated with the death of sixty people. Led by an Angolan named Jemmy, a band of twenty slaves organized a rebellion on the banks of the Stono River. After breaking into Hutchinson’s store the band, now armed with guns, called for their liberty.  As they marched, overseers were killed and reluctant slaves were forced to join the company. The band reached the Edisto River where white colonists descended upon them, killing most of the rebels.  The survivors were sold off to the West Indies.

The immediate factors that sparked the uprising remain in doubt. A malaria epidemic in Charlestown, which caused general confusion throughout Carolina, may have influenced the timing of the Rebellion.  The recent (August 1739) passage of the Security Act by the South Carolina Colonial Assembly may also have played a role. The act required all white men to carry firearms to church on Sunday. Thus the enslaved leaders of the rebellion knew their best chance for success would be during the time of the church services when armed white males were away from the plantations.

After the Stono Rebellion South Carolina authorities moved to reduce provocations for rebellion.  Masters, for example, were penalized for imposing excessive work or brutal punishments of slaves and a school was started so that slaves could learn Christian doctrine.  In a colony that already had more blacks than whites, the Assembly also imposed a prohibitive duty on the importation of new slaves from Africa and the West Indies.  Authorities also tightened control over the enslaved.  The Assembly enacted a new law requiring a ratio of one white for every ten blacks on any plantation and passed the Negro Act of 1740 which prohibited enslaved people from growing their own food, assembling in groups, earning money they, rather than their owners, could retain or learning to read.


I read a few more accounts of the Rebellion.  While most of the websites relayed the story in identical fashion, I was slightly disturbed by this one that I found on teachingushistory.org.  I think this 4th grade textbook account is clearly biased in favor of the “white families.”  It’s almost subtle, but not really.  No other recounting mentioned drunk (on stolen goods) slaves, nor started the tale with “while the white families were in church.”   I can imagine my 4th grade self wanting to disappear during this lesson…

The Stono Rebellion occurred during the early morning hours of Sunday, September 9, 1739.  While white families were in church, a slave called Jemmy led a group of about 20 slaves who broke into a store, killed the store owner, and armed themselves with a supply of guns and ammunition.  From there the slaves moved southward from one plantation to another slaughtering whites and burning houses as they went.  Men, women, and children were killed.  Some were beheaded and their heads were left for display.  At one tavern, the insurgents spared the life of the innkeeper because he was known to be good to his slaves. At another, a slave hid his master and distracted the insurgents. (Smith 18)  As the slaves moved southward more slaves from the plantations joined the rebel force, which continued in military fashion displaying a flag and beating a drum.

Lt. Gov. William Bull, who was traveling on horseback with four companions, happened upon the rebels about eleven o’clock in the morning.  Bull and his companions quickly fled for their own safety.  They alerted the militia and local planters, who then organized men to pursue the insurgents. At about four o’clock in the afternoon they came upon the group of slaves about ten miles to the south.  Some slaves were resting.  Others were drunk on whiskey they had stolen in the raid.  The slaves fought hard, but the militia won the fight and ended the Stono Rebellion killing many of the slaves.  Slaves who escaped the scene were tracked down for months, and most were apprehended.   Those responsible for the revolt were executed.  One slave, July, who had saved the lives of his owner and the owner’s family was given his freedom.  Forty-four blacks and twenty-one whites lost their lives as a result of the Stono Rebellion.


a rare testament of harmony

This is a fascinating story of interracial marriage, institutional racism, blended families, and mixed race ideology.  I am inspired by the courage of conviction this woman maintained in the face of so much opposition.  Oh! And… um…. excuse me South Carolina… 1998!?!?  Yes, Michigan!

How one woman overcame the racial barriers that divide us


Laura Markovich came to Beaufort County in 1965 because it had one of the few places in the South where whites and blacks could gather.

She came from Michigan to attend a religious “summer school” of her Bahá’í World Faith at Penn Center on St. Helena Island.

What unfolded here became a rare testament of harmony in the messy struggle of race relations in America.

At the secluded Penn Center, on sandy soil where the first school for freed slaves was erected in 1862, the young white widow met a tall and striking black widower.

On the surface, the only thing they had in common were children underfoot. Laura had four children, all white, and Elting B. Smalls Sr. of St. Helena had six children, all black.

Three years later, they were married. They lived in the Tom Fripp community on St. Helena and together had four more children.

Laura and Elting Smalls, center, on St. Helena Island with two of her daughters, one of their sons, and two family friends.

It was a life so odd for that era in the Deep South that it demanded hard-to-reach courage, resolve and unity.

Those characteristics — and Laura Smalls’ devotion to her faith, early childhood education and family — were cited Tuesday when a standing-room-only crowd gathered back at that same Penn Center for her funeral. She died Feb. 27 at age 79.

Her children composed a eulogy that makes it sound like they were raised in the world of Ozzie and Harriet:

“Her greatest loves were arts and crafts, playing and teaching children, talking to everyone and anyone, and dancing. You can see this evidenced through her children’s passions….Can’t you yet see her sweet smile?”


That smile was a triumph of the spirit over harrowing details.

To set the stage, their marriage took place days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and America’s streets erupted into racial violence. King himself had gathered his troops for retreats at the Penn Center for the same reason the Bahá’ís did. They believed in unity, and this was one place they could find it. Just months before he died, King stood at Penn Center to ring home a point to the antsy civil rights activists: “So I say to you tonight that I have taken a vow. I, Martin Luther King, take thee, nonviolence, to be my wedded wife.”

For Elting Smalls to take Laura Markovich to be his wedded wife was not much easier.

Her faith required written permission from her father, and he didn’t want to give it. It took her three years to get it. Her father never did agree to meet Smalls, a Penn School graduate and career civil service worker at Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

And then there was the matter of the law. In June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state laws, like South Carolina’s, that banned interracial marriage. But it took South Carolina until 1998 to officially amend the state Constitution to remove what had been ruled a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Smalls wedding was a quiet affair in the home of one of the bride’s closest friends — in Michigan.

Thus a family of whites from up North and a family of black Sea Island Gullahs became one. They lived united, years before integration was forced on the local schools, much less accepted in the home.


Sometimes Laura Smalls would take her troupe of white, black and mixed-race children into the historically white waiting room at the doctor’s office, and sometimes into the historically black waiting room, and always let the odd stares fall where they may.

Family members say the white community in town had a stand-offish attitude, but the blacks of St. Helena welcomed them all, as family.

“She didn’t do it to make a statement,” said daughter Lynn Markovich Bryant of Lady’s Island. “She fell in love with Elting and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way.”

Bryant gives the world a look at race it rarely sees in her 2002 autobiography, ” ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ Wished the White Girl.”

As a child she was stunned by the ingrained racism she saw in her little classmates. She struggled with white attitudes toward blacks because in her world, there was no racial divide. She chose to attend the predominately black St. Helena Elementary School, where she felt welcomed as a fifth-grader. Today, she has taught there for almost 30 years after finishing second in her class at Beaufort High School, earning a full scholarship to Clemson University, graduating with honors and earning a master’s degree with a 4.0 grade point average.

She sounds like a black person, and she married a black man, joking that she would have had to marry a white for it to have been considered an interracial marriage. Her husband, Wilbert Bryant, teaches at Battery Creek High School.

One day as an adolescent, Lynn Bryant blurted out, “Mama, I hate white people.”

In her book, Bryant writes: “Being a mother to such a multitude of children, this was hardly her first or last problematic situation to resolve. … She ever so warmly and calmly responded as only she could, ‘Well, Lynn don’t you love the Bahá’ís? There are white Bahá’ís.”


…Smalls was embraced on St. Helena because she was not a white who ignored the natives or said, “My way is better than your way — move over.”

She saw racial progress, her daughter said, but not the level of social interaction that’s necessary for people of different races, cultures and beliefs to quit being so judgmental.

“She taught us that we have more commonality than differences,” Bryant said.

Together, Laura Smalls’ 13 surviving children and stepchildren of all colors wrote: “Our mother did not tell us how to sacrifice and serve others; instead she showed us how to walk the walk.”


nancy weston

with friends like these….

Nancy Weston



She lived in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1850s as a free woman. However, in order to satisfy the laws of the state, she was a ‘nominal slave’ legally owned by a white friend. She was also the grandmother of writer Angelina Weld Grimke.

‘The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present’ edited by Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin 


I would love to write a book or a screenplay based on this one sentence: she was a ‘nominal slave’ legally owned by a white friend.   That has really got my imagination going.  I’ve actually never heard of nominal slaves before.  I read a bit about them today.  Interesting stuff.  Most of what I read was connected to writings pertaining to black slave owners, and the Weston name in S. Carolina came up frequently.  But Nancy was ‘owned’ by a white friend.  I am fascinated.

From http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2821/before-the-civil-war-were-some-slave-owners-black

Between 1800 and 1830 slave states began restricting manumission, seeing free blacks as potential fomenters of slave rebellion. Now you could buy your friends, but you couldn’t free them unless they left the state — which for the freed slave could mean leaving behind family still in bondage. So more free blacks took to owning slaves benevolently. Being a nominal slave was risky — among other things, you could be seized as payment for your nominal owner’s debts. But at least one state, South Carolina, granted nominal slaves certain rights, including the right to buy slaves of their own….

We do, however, need to acknowledge a less common form of black slaveholding. Whites in Louisiana and South Carolina fostered a class of rich people of mixed race — typically they were known as “mulattoes,” although gradations such as “quadroon” and “octoroon” were sometimes used — as a buffer between themselves and slaves. Often the descendants and heirs of well-off whites, these citizens were encouraged to own slaves, tended to side with whites in racial disputes, and generally identified more with their white forebears than black. Nationwide maybe 10 percent of the mixed-race population (about 1 percent of all those identified as African-American) fell into this category.