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Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction

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After the civil war millions of formerly enslaved desired to find the people that they lost in slavery. Parents wanted to find the children that were taken from them and sold. They wanted to find the man or woman that they fell in love with. Children longed to locate their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. How do you find someone that was sold years ago, or someone who escaped? The need to be reunited with or at the very least to know what happened to a loved one was something that some people carried to their graves. People died never knowing what happened to their loved ones. It is a desire that lives within a lot of people today. It lives in me.


The Southwestern Christian Advocate published in New Orleans was a newspaper (1877-1929) that ran a column called, “Lost Friends.” Two dollars brought you a one-year subscription where you could run an ad in an attempt to locate loved ones. The paper was distributed to 500 preachers, 800 post offices and more than 4,000 subscribers in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The paper asked Pastors to read the column from the pulpit. Below is an ad that was placed in the newspaper. I want you to put yourself in that person’s shoes, imagine how it would feel not knowing what happened to the people that you loved. For fifty-two years people placed ads trying to find out what became of the people lost in slavery.

LOST FRIENDS


Mr. Editor: Sister Liba Penny is anxious to find her children. She was owned by Richard Rosell, of Gaston county, N.C. Her children, Thomas, and Patty Rosell, or Roswell, were sold to trader Davis, who took them down South some years before the war. She has never heard from them since. Her husband’s name was Tom Penny. After the surrender she took her husband’s name. God grant that you may be successful in finding her children for her. Sarah A. Daloy, Greensboro, N.C.




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Greenwood Oklahoma also known as Black Wall Street was once the wealthiest Black enclave in the nation. What’s interesting about Black Wall Street is how African Americans came to be there. A lot of people hate reading about slavery, but isn’t that the birth of African American history? Our African history is an ancient and noble history, and I would argue that although our African American history is not ancient it is however just as noble. That fact that we are still standing in America is extraordinary almost unbelievable.


African Americans came to Oklahoma first as enslaved people of five Indian tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and the Seminoles. Native Americans were forced from their land by the government via the Trail of Tears between 1830 and 1850. After the Civil War under the Treaties of 1866 the enslaved were emancipated and some of them integrated into the tribes. The Dawes Act of 1887 authorized the government to divide tribal territories into allotments for individual Native Americans which included the Black members of their tribe. African American that left the plantation were struggling to find a safe place where they could not only exist but thrive. When the Reconstruction Era ended Blacks were truly at the mercy of local Whites. So, when word spread that Indian Territory was a safe place for Blacks, they came and established over 50 Black townships in Oklahoma.


Educated, skilled and unskilled Blacks left other southern states in search of their American Dream. Because America was a segregated country Black Wall Street was born. Black Wall Street was thirty-five square blocks of homes, newspaper offices, movie theaters, restaurants, groceries stores, churches, a hospital, and school. Blacks that worked outside of Black Wall Street did not spend their monies outside of Black Wall Street. Black dollars were spent in Black Wall Street thereby creating a thriving economy and creating wealth.


The race riots of May 30, 1921, ended what was known as the Black Wall Street a shining example of Black tenacity, ingenuity, and wealth. Greenwood Oklahoma was a place where African Americans were living proof that if you dreamed and worked hard you could make it in a country that 56 years earlier held African Americans in captivity.


I encourage you to read further about Black Wall Street, the horrific events that began May 30, 1921, and the cover-up that lasted 50 years. The visionaries that established that township is inspiring to me. The obstacles that we face today are many and deeply rooted in the psyche of both White and Black Americans, but I’m encouraged that we can and will find a Place of Our Own one day.



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This world is changing, are you changing with it? From the 1960’s to present day so much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that while we are advancing technologically, we seem to be struck in our thinking about race.


America’s history is an ugly one soaked in blood and yet right-wing conservative still refuse to acknowledge that. Critical Race Theory is the new buzz phrase that has white parents, Klansmen, and morally corrupt politicians outraged. Some white parents and politicians are opposed to teaching children the truth about America’s history. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State stated on national TV, “that white kids shouldn’t be made to feel bad for being white.” Citing that as one of the reasons why she is opposed to the teaching of Critical Race Theory. To that argument I ask, why have we been teaching children a distorted history of America, which made black children feel bad? Why don’t we teach children the truth which would include every race that helped to create the United States of America. Maybe then we could expose white supremacy for what it is…a racial theory that is a lie. What are the parents that are opposed to teaching the true history of America afraid of?


Black History Month is almost here so I propose this year we tell each other about obscure historical facts, not the history with which we are familiar. For example, Black officeholders during Reconstruction. Denmark Vesey, American Maroons, Free Blacks that owned slaves.


Let’s not be deceived and think that Africans did not participate in the slave trade. But let us not forget that slavery in Africa was not the peculiar institution that it was in America.

I think it would benefit all Americans if we could tell the truth about America. Simply put, the concept of America is a good one, but it was corrupted by xenophobic thinking. What would America look like if fear and hatred had not been allowed to grow and spread across these united states. America could one day be great if we could deal with things like race, equality, justice, opportunity…



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