“Freedom” is a poem written by my son Terrence M. Joseph. We read it together for the first time.
My response to Ronda Racha Penrice, the author of the article entitled “North America’s first black president, Vicente Guerrero, predates Obama by 180 years,” which he wrote for the Grio.
You have written an informative article on Vicente Guerrero, but it does not take into full account other black presidents in the Western world. Alexandre Petion was actually the first black president in the Americas and the Western world. He served as President of Haiti from 17 October 1806 to 29 March 1818. Jean Pierre-Boyer served as the second Black President in the Western World and Haiti –from 30 March 1818 to13 February 1843. Both Presidents Petion and Boyer preceded Vicente Guerrero, who became Mexico’s third president in 1829.
In the article, Penrice makes two important assertions:
1. “The fact is that Mexico, not the United States, holds claim to that black history milestone. Vicente Guerrero preceded President Obama by over a century for that distinction. But don’t feel bad that you didn’t know that. Most Mexicans don’t either.”
2. “In 1829, Guerrero, whose military prowess was critical to Mexico attaining independence, became the nation’s third president (second by some accounts). Very liberal, even by today’s standards, Guerrero believed in public schools and supported the arts and sciences. As president, he taxed the rich, protected small business, ended the death penalty and supported villages having their own representatives.”
In fact, Haiti has given the Americas and the Western World, the “first Black Governor” (Toussaint Louverture, 1 January 1791-6 May 1802, of colonial Saint-Domingue); the “first Black Emperor” (Jean-Jacques Dessalines, 1 January 1804-17 October 1806) who gave us Haiti’s Declaration of Independence; the “first Black King” (Henri Christophe, 17 October 1806-8 October 1820); “first Black President” (17 October 1806 -29 March 1818); and the “first Black woman [Acting] President” (Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, 13 March 1990-7 February 1991).
Technically, Henri Christophe is the first Black President in the Western World and the Americas. He became the President of the Republic of Haiti in February 17, 1807 to March 28, 1811. However, in history, he is best remembered as a King not President. He was crowned as the first King of Haiti in March 28, 1811; his kingship ended in October 8, 1820, after he committed suicide.
Filed under: Vincente Guerrero Is Not Norh America first black president who predates Obama by 180 years: A response to Ronda Racha Penrice | Tagged: Black history, Black Politics, First Black President, Haiti and the Black Diaspora, Ronda Racha Penrice, Vincente Guerrero | 2 Comments »
“In this important work, historian Randal Maurice Jelks provides a chronological and intimate account of the person, life, and writings of Benjamin Elijah Mays up until the publication of Mays’s autobiography, Born to Rebel, in 1971. Jelks intelligently investigates the foundations and origins of May’s ideas and worldview. He establishes the connection between Mays’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement and his embrace of Prophetic Christianity and Progressive Protestant Theology, and Ghandi’s nonviolent philosophy and practice and his commitment to peacemaking and racial unity through nonviolent tactics and strategies. These ideas, especially Prophetic Christianity, according to the author, had played a central role in Mays’s activist life to challenge America’s racism, inequality, and racial segregation.
Jelks’s Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography is one of the significant studies on the theologian, activist, and the pioneer of the Civil Rights movement Benjamin Elijah Mays (1894-1984). The author presents Benjamin Elijah Mays as a public servant, an engaging public intellectual-activist and cultural critic, an educator, a theologian, and most importantly the pioneer of the civil rights movement. Yet, Jelks highlights the interconnections between these various roles that Mays played and underscores how each one complemented each other in Mays’s unyielding quest for the idea of a just democratic social order and social justice and equality on behalf of the African American population.
More importantly, Jelks attempts to bridge both the historical and intellectual gaps between Martin Luther King Jr. and Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom King had considered as a father. Current scholarship on the Civil Rights Movement have failed to acknowledge and explore this important dimension. Hence, Jelks’s work filled the gaps by accentuating Mays’ significant role in relationship to this historic event in American history and the black experience. Jelks describes the relationship between Mays and King like father and son (200–211). In many and various ways, he establishes the manifold influence of Mays upon the young King as his spiritual mentor, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and King as an intellectual-activist. Jelks remarks, “Mays, as King testified, had been significant in his life and influential in his calling to be a Baptist minister. Mays was also one of the clergy members who listened to his trial sermon and ordained him” (201). In addition, he asserts, “When King decided to attend seminary in 1948, at the age of nineteen, it was Mays who had written a key recommendation on King’s behalf…During King’s doctoral studies at Boston University, his academic inquiry focused on the question of God. King paid homage to Mays by writing a dissertation along similar lines as Mays’s dissertation, comparing the concepts of God in the respective theologies of Edgar Sheffield Brightman and Henry Wieman” (201).
Furthermore, Jelks has brilliantly analyzed the close relationship between Mays’s religious life—his theological training in Liberal theology and Christian progressivism, political theology, and the influence of the Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch at Bates College and then the University of Chicago—and his secular vocation and vision. For the author, Mays was profoundly influenced by “the faith of his mother” (42), which served as a driven force in his understanding of Christian activism and responsibility to society as a whole, the idea of “the just society,” his work on race relations and correspondingly, his relentless fight against anti-black racism, white violence, and public segregation in American society. As the author remarks, “Mays’s formative religious ethics held that everyone was equal in the eyes of God … Mays always held on to his mother’s belief about the equality of persons before God as counter to the racist image he received in the wider society” (44). It is good to inform the reader that previous studies on Mays and the Civil Rights Movement have not made this clear connection between Mays’s religious worldview, social activism, and his fight for racial inclusion, black freedom and civil rights in a country that refuses to affirm black humanity and dignity. From this angle, Jelks’s contribution to Civil Rights scholarship as well as African American religion underscores the significance of faith…”
Filed under: Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement : A Biography | Tagged: African American Religion, African American Studies, Benjamin Elijah Mays, Book Reviews, Civil Rights Movement | Leave a comment »