August 26, 2010
On my radio program recently, I played an episode of the Amos N’ Andy radio series. I wanted my audience to remember, or for some, to be exposed to how the descendents of Ancient Africans were portrayed and demonized by two Caucasian men for fun and profit.
Records show Amos ‘n’ Andy was the story of two black characters created by two white actors, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. They presented the characters as fools, womanizers, crooks and buffoons that were senile, docile, lazy and unintelligent morons. The show became a national phenomenon with nearly 40 million listeners.
For the program's entire run as a nightly serial, Gosden and Correll portrayed all the male roles, performing over 170 distinct voice characterizations in the show's first decade. It was the first radio program to be distributed by syndication in the United States.
Most of their audience was white who had never seen or met a person of color, and the image these performers delivered was devastating to black people. Although Amos ‘n’ Andy’s so called dialect humor caused much controversy among African-Americans, the show’s appeal during its prime was not restricted to any single race. We all should be appalled at the crudeness and discriminatory words used in the Amos N Andy series but it was so popular among whites that the program was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.
After playing only a portion of the racist, bigoted Amos N Andy program, I enlightened my audience with a taped interview I did with writer and historian Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, the author of several volumes including ‘The Need for A Black Bible’, ‘The Myth of Exodus and Genesis and the Exclusion of Their African Origins’, ‘African Origins of Major Western Religions’, ‘St. Augustine: African Influence in Christianity’, ‘Moses: African Influence on Judaism’, ‘Bilal: African Influence on Islam’ and Dr. Ben's best known work ‘Black Man of the Nile and His Family’, that was first published in 1972.
The publication is described as ‘capturing much of the substance of his early research on ancient Africa. In a masterful and unique manner, Dr. Ben uses Black Man of the Nile to challenge and expose "Europeanized" African History. He points up the distortion after distortion made in the long record of African contributions to world civilization.’
I also treated my listeners to part of a lecture by Dr. John Henrick Clarke, educator, lecturer and professor, humanitarian and scholar. Dr. Clarke lectured and held professorships at universities worldwide. His longer and most influential tenures were at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, and in African and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City. He received honorary degrees from numerous institutions and served as consultant and advisor to African and Caribbean heads of state. In 1997 he was the subject of a major documentary directed by the noted filmmaker Saint Claire Bourne and underwritten by the Hollywood star Wesley Snipes.
Dr. Clarke said “I saw no African people in the printed and illustrated Sunday school lessons. I began to suspect at this early age that someone had distorted the image of my people. My long search for the true history of African people the world over began. My main point here is that if you are the child of God and God is a part of you, then in your imagination God is suppose to look like you. And when you accept a picture of the deity assigned to you by another people, you become the spiritual prisoners of that other people’.
He said ‘religion is the organization of spirituality into something that became the hand maiden of conquerors. Nearly all religions were brought to people and imposed on people by conquerors, and used as the framework to control their minds. Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it.’
These two gentlemen are only two of the thousands of our leaders, scholars and elders. They played a crucial role in bringing about the ending of the racist system that held our minds hostage, while preserving our dignity and refusing to submit, psychologically, to the definition that the oppressors attempted to force upon us. Both Ben-Jochannan and Clarke fashioned a link between generations and regenerated our belief in the morality, respectability, strength and the wisdom of our ancestors.
As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, and our scholars have shown that education is the key to overcoming prejudice and discrimination.
It is easy to realize that Gosden and Correll, being members of a different culture received different kinds of information from their environment. If they knew the achievements of the sons and daughters of Africa, or respected the works of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, Sojourner Truth or even Abraham Lincoln, there never would have been a radio series or television program such as Amos N Andy.
In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson said “there is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem”, but President Barack Obama said “the past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” He said “we do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow”.
Goodbye Amos and Andy and hello Mr. President.
Please listen the Bernie Hayes radio program Monday through Friday at 7am on WGNU-920 AM, and watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday Night at 10pm and Friday Morning at 9 am on KNLC-TV Ch. 24.
I can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be Ever Wonderful!