I went to Ohio to attend my great-granddaughter’s 10th birthday and to my delight a program was on television that focused on the amazing number of White southern abolitionists. Over the years I had always been aware of the fact that there were Black abolitionists and there were untold numbers of White abolitionists in the northern states.
The program opened by pointing out that the Quakers were always opposed to slavery because they perceived slavery as being immoral and often would raise money to pay former slaves. They were in the forefront of operating the Underground Railroad, which had often been described as the first interracial Civil Rights Movement.
There was an emphasis placed on those Whites who lived in the state of Kentucky and the fact that they understood very dearly the price they had to pay if they were caught. For example there was one White man who was convicted and was sentenced to eight years and upon his release he resumed helping to free slaves. He was arrested again and sentenced to 40 years and that is where he died.
These brave and committed persons knew that they ran the risk of being jailed, hung, lynched, tarred and feathered, but they still persisted.
I have always been knowledgeable about John Brown, because he is the only White hero that I have. Do you recall that he seized control of Harper’s Ferry with 23 men, 18 were White and five were Black? Do you recall he provided all of them with muskets and ammunition and said to the Blacks in particular, “the slave masters are approaching the complex to take you back, you have the opportunity to free yourselves.” History says all five threw their muskets to the ground and stated, “I CAN’T SHOOT OLD MASSA.”
I am compelled to highlight that statement, because it resonates in the Black communities across Allegheny County. There are over 250 Black lawyers in Allegheny County and over 60 percent of those arrested are Black, but they overwhelmingly have the same mindset of those in Harper’s Ferry— “I must hire old Massa.” A very capable Black attorney, Leo Harper published some statistics last week in the New Pittsburgh Courier. Allegheny County’s public defender’s office and the district attorney hire almost 200 attorneys and less than 10 are Black, but on election day we ignore the blatant insults and GIVE OUR VOTES TO MASSA.
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(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)