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A Little Matter of History

African and African-American history is but a part of 'a larger memory', where the voices of more of us may be heard.

[Col. Writ. 6/22/05] Copyright '05 Mumia Abu-Jamal

In Philadelphia recently, school officials have announced that they will require African and African-American history of all its graduates.

Predictably, many in the corporate media reacted with feigned outrage.

"These kids should be taught *real* history!", sniffed some.

"What about the history of other people? Latin@s? Chinese-Americans?", sniffed others. (Interestingly, none of these now-outraged critics advocated Asian or Latin@ studies before announcement of African-American history requirements. Truth be told, they're not really in favor now.)

As a matter of fact, there is no teaching of African and African-American history that does not touch on the histories of almost all the world's peoples.

In truth, African history is the genesis of all human history!

Historian Chris Brazier, in the tiny, but insightful book, *The No-Nonsense Guide to World History* (Oxford, UK: New Internationalist Publ., Ltd., 2001), writes of humanity's dawn:

These beings may seem primitive and remote. But all our family trees have their roots in these *erectus* prehumans or hominids. An element of DNA -- the genetic coding we all carry in our cells -- has been traced back to a common ancestor, *an African woman who lived about 300,000 years ago*. Imagine her straining to give birth under a fierce sun on the savanna, little knowing that she was gifting her baby with a genetic blueprint that was to be carried by conquerors and concubines, atomic physicists and peace campaigners, through hundreds of thousands of years -- to wind up being thought of here and now by me and you. In so far as we'll ever be able to trace things back: Eve, not Adam, came first. [pp. 11-13]

The lesson is clear: All of us ... ALL OF US: Chinese, Swedish, AmaZulu, Mayan, Mandinke, French, Laplander, Khoi -- all of us have an African Mother.

Therefore, African history is human history.

In the American context, this same principle holds true; for, if it were not for Black men, fighting for their freedom from Southern tyranny, there would not today exist a United States of America.

Historian Ronald Takaki, in his *A Larger Memory: A History of Our Diversity, With Voices* (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1998), records the words and thinking of Abraham Lincoln thus:

Without "the physical force which the colored people now give," Lincoln thought, "and promise us... neither the present, nor any coming administration, *can* save the Union." Noting that there were nearly 200,000 blacks in the Union army, Lincoln explained that without them "we would be compelled to abandon the war in 3 weeks." In other words, black men in blue made *the* difference in determining that this "government of the people, by the people, for the people," did "not perish from the earth." [p. 21]

How many kids, Black, White, Chicano, or Chinese, learn these facts of 'American' history?

Why not?

"History," said historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "is a weapon."**

But it need not be so.

It can be a tool; a window; a doorway, into the house of human commonality. That it has been a weapon is a testament to its use in the past, as a way to justify human cruelty, and to whitewash a broken, bloody history.

African and African-American history is but a part of 'a larger memory', where the voices of more of us may be heard.

Master writer, James Baldwin, wrote, "American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it."

What school officials in Philadelphia are doing is marking an important beginning on that journey. It is a journey that American schoolchildren have been driven away from, for centuries.

It has been a lesson of whiteness, uber alles, where slaves were fat and happy; and Indians were (in Jefferson's words) merciless savages.

It was a world where Negro Fort, Sand Creek, Fort Pillow, were but words like any other; names of shadows that were like dew on the morning grass.

It need not be so, if true history be taught to all.

Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia is a framed up political prisoner sitting on death row in the United States. For more on Mumia's case read:

Yet Another Witness Comes Forward and Refutes The Frame-Up Of Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Aso see Liberation News and check out the archives to see many more writings by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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