10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Jefferson* Before You Tour ‘Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello’

Photo | Shutterstock

Photo | Shutterstock

This week, the National Constitution Center opened the doors to Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello, its six month-long exhibition about Thomas Jefferson. And to my surprise, the organizers didn’t engage in the customary American practice of sweeping slavery under the rug. In fact, they went right at it by including the word “Slavery” in their title and by addressing “the stories of six slave families who ‘lived’ and ‘worked’ at Jefferson’s plantation — the Fossett, Granger, Gillete, Hemings, Hern, and Hubbard families — and their descendants who fought for justice and helped bring to light their ancestors’ lives and values.”

Nice, huh? Well, yes. But only kinda. By that, I mean they didn’t really “live.” Instead, they actually “suffered and survived.” And they didn’t really “work.” Instead, they actually “slaved and toiled.” But let’s not quibble over semantics. Instead, let’s go the to heart of the matter by enlightening you about who — and what — Thomas Jefferson truly was.

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about him:

10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Jefferson* Before You Tour ‘Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello’ »

Gil Scott-Heron, Godfather of Hip-Hop, Would Have Been 65


A version of this article ran on phillymag.com in March 2012.

When he first told America in 1970 that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” after writing it in 1968 at age 19, Gil Scott-Heron set the stage for what would become part of the musical and poetic soundtrack for black, white and brown progressives and revolutionaries. And he didn’t stop until 40 years later. Gil was the “musical grandson” of insurrectionist Nat Turner and liberator Harriet Tubman, and the “poetic son” of fiery author David Walker and anti-lynching editor Ida B. Wells.

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End Black History Month Now

african-american-history-monthA version of this article ran in February, 2012.

Despite being the self-described “Angriest Black Man in America,” I agree with many whites who argue that Black History Month (BHM) should be abolished.

But we agree for totally different reasons.

They want it abolished because they’re either, at best, racially insensitive or, at worst, just plain racist. That’s why they take the emotionally based position that BHM is nothing more than some reverse racism entitlement nonsense that gives credit to a whiny race of shiftless people who have always received much more than they have ever given to America and the colonies.

Furthermore, they claim, BHM is unfair to white ethnics whose ancestors came here through Ellis Island and were subjected to harsh discrimination. But, they contend, instead of complaining, their ancestors simply fought through it, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and in just a few generations became educated, successful, and even prosperous members of society, living the American Dream.

Moreover, they say, they never needed no damn English, Italian, German, Polish, or other history month because their superior actions spoke louder than inferior words. Therefore, they opine, BHM should be abolished.

Good conclusion. Bad reasoning.

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What Philadelphia Lost When it Lost Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sits up in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968 while being examined by Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician. On the physician's orders Dr. King canceled his appointments and speaking engagements for the day because of a throat ailment. Dr. King has been in Philadelphia for past two days recruiting followers for proposed march on the nation's capital in April. (AP Photo)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sits up in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968 while being examined by Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician. (AP Photo)

On this past Thursday at 8:30 a.m., 81-year-old Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr. passed away. “So what?” you ask. “What’s the big deal?” you ask. “Don’t old men die every day?” you ask.

The big deal, I answer, is that he wasn’t just an old man. The big deal is that he was and is a great man.

Dr. Lomax was a prominent physician, prosperous entrepreneur, and selfless philanthropist. The youngest of four children and a graduate of La Salle University and Hahnemann University Hospital, he opened his first medical office in a row house near his South Philly family home in 1958.

That small-scale clinic expanded over the years to six top-notch medical centers with 22 physicians who provided quality care regardless of income.

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American Slavery Was Born 394 Years Ago on Tuesday

A version of this article ran last year.

As you take your lunch break tomorrow in Center City, stroll over to Front and Market where the historic London Coffee House once stood, and celebrate the institution that made America one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the institution born exactly 394 years ago on Aug. 20, 1619: the institution of slavery. In fact, it was at that site in downtown Philly, where black men, women and children were bought and sold like cattle and like tools.

On that fateful date nearly four centuries ago, as noted by English settler John Rolfe, a wealthy tobacco planter and the so-called husband of Pocahontas, “ … there came a Dutch man of warre that sold us twenty and odd Negars” in the Virginia Colony at Old Point Comfort (now Fort Comfort in Hampton). They were the first enslaved blacks in a land that would become the United States of America.
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How 3,000 Desecrated Black Graves Were Found, and Saved, in South Philly

What if 3,000 Italian or Irish or Jewish or Polish men, women and children from one of the most pivotal periods of American history were buried in a cemetery in Philadelphia? Do you think there would be a city landmark or a state monument or a national treasure to honor it?


But what if, instead, there were 3,000 African descendants buried in it? There would be no landmark, no monument and no treasure. Quite the contrary, it would be a forgotten trash dump morphed into a city playground. That’s exactly what happened — and is still happening — in South Philly to a former church cemetery.

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America Is Soft on Terrorism

The cowardly murderous attack on innocent and defenseless men, women and children at the Boston Marathon on April 15th was terrorism. Accordingly, if preliminary reports prove correct, then Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his dead brother Tamerlan, who killed three people and wounded about 170, are terrorists, and the survivor should be tried and, if found guilty, punished harshly—like all terrorists.

But punishment of the most egregious terrorists hasn’t happened in America, and it’s still not happening anywhere in this country—including in Philadelphia. Read more »

5 Reasons Not to Vote for Obama (and 10 Reasons to Vote Against Romney)

Let me confess—or brag—that I am a Pan-African socialist, which means I support a unified and culturally conscious Africa that has an economic system that constitutionally guarantees food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, jobs and human rights. And I support the applicability of this type of socialism for black people throughout the Diaspora, including in the U.S., and for white progressives as well as all revolutionaries here too. Read more »

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