Beyond the Rhetoric
Harry C. Alford and Kay DeBow
We had it right the first time. After hundreds of years of brutal and inhumane slavery Blacks decided to rise up and fight for their freedom. It didn’t take many; just a few who were pure at heart. By the mid-nineteenth century a leader arose. His name was Frederick Douglass. Born a slave he defied the system and whipped his white master’s ass and walked off the plantation forever. This was not enough for the natural born leader. He helped create an abolitionist movement designed to rid our nation of enslaving African Americans.
It was through these efforts that a great movement was forming. Evolving from the abolitionist movement a new political party was formed after a major conference in Ripon, Wisconsin. Mr. Douglass was a major principal in this movement which would be called the Republican Party. The party grew with the abolishment of slavery being a large part of its platform. The resolve he had when he walked off that plantation never faded. In one of his most remarkable speeches he admonished any “half-steppers” and encouraged his members to stay strong:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will…Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get.
The successful ending of the Civil War was greatly aided by leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and others of the same ilk. America was soon blessed with a worthy disciple of the Frederick Douglass mantra. It would not be long when the wisdom and teachings of Booker T. Washington would be known to all – especially southern Blacks. Education and entrepreneurship are the keys to Black success. He would stress that if we formed our own businesses and simply did business with each other, not only would Blacks survive, they would soon thrive.
Mr. Washington would become one of the greatest leaders and spokesperson for African Americans. Like Frederick Douglass, he too would be summoned by American presidents for advice. In 1900, he founded the National Negro Business League which was a “Chamber of Black Business owners” 10 years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was formed.
Black conservatism and pro-business carried us through many tough times. From Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt, Black conservatives prospered and were considered “the enemy” by Democratic racists such as President Woodrow Wilson. The Ku Klux Klan prospered during this era especially in the Deep South and Midwest.
There would soon be another tactic to check Black conservatism. A liberal movement was formed in upstate New York known as the Niagara Movement. They propped up a Negro spokesman to rival the teachings of Booker T. Washington. W.E.B. Dubois would start the NAACP to teach democratic principles to Blacks and oppose what Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington stood for.
To our detriment the Democratic Party would successfully woo the majority of Blacks during the Franklin Roosevelt administrations. Blacks left the principles such as entrepreneurship and conservatism and began to cling to the liberal, hedonistic ways that would cause us to leave our farms and businesses and move to urban centers up North and out West. They even formed a new group called the National Urban League which would promote the “Great Migration” that led to the formation of urban ghettos and governmental dependence throughout Black America.
We have been lost! Maybe that is about to turn around. Recently, a new movement was introduced called BLEXIT. The organizer, Candace Owens, says Black people don’t have to be democrats. On the organization’s website, blexit.com, the movement is described as “a frequency for those who have released themselves from the political orthodoxy. It is a rebellion led by Americans wishing to disrupt the simulation of fear. BLEXIT is a renaissance. It is our formal declaration of independence.” BLEXIT is fueled by individuals who believe they are free to think for themselves. They do not want to be labeled Uncle Tom or coon because they have a different, conservative opinion.
BLEXIT held a summit in Washington, DC for young Black leaders and held one meeting at the White House where President Trump addressed them. The President spoke of tax cuts, and low Black unemployment, creating a better environment for Black businesses through job training and deregulation and supporting our HBCUs. The young people in the audience chanted “build the wall” and “USA.”
The movement to be able to say I’m Black and conservative and not feel isolated or shamed is upon us. BLEXIT says and are not beholden to what Booker T. Washington says “is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” We are free!
Mr. Alford and Ms. DeBow are the Co-Founders, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.