BLACK HISTORY
Viola Liuzzo Josh White, Sr. Tuskegee Aiman
The Railroad Porters Paradise Valley (Detroit, MI) Marcus Garvey
Dogan Tribe of Africa   Black Inventions  

Viola Liuzzo

A Detroit, MI Civil Rights Martyr

On March 24 Liuzzo stayed overnight at St. Jude's, a complex of buildings including a Catholic Church, hospital and school, just inside the Montgomery city limits. From the church tower she watched the approach of 25,000 marchers. When she came down from the tower, unsettled and anxious, she told Timothy Deasy, one of the parish priests, "Father, I have a feeling of apprehension. Something is going to happen today. Someone is going to be killed."

Calmer after prayer, she joined the marchers, barefoot, for the last four miles to the capitol building in Montgomery. With everyone else she sang freedom songs and listened to the speeches.

After the march ended, thousands had to get out of the city before nightfall. Viola Liuzzo got her car and headed back to Selma with a load of passengers. She had not been following the civil rights workers' rules of the road very carefully over the past several days. She drove fast along the highway, stopping for gas at white-owned stations in Lowndes County Her Michigan plates made her green Oldsmobile conspicuous and the army troops who served as protection were gone. A carload of whites pulled up behind her, bumping the rear of her car several times before passing and racing off. She commented to Leroy Moton, a black teenager who had been helping her drive, that she thought these local white folks were crazy. As soon as their passengers were dropped off at Brown Chapel in Selma, they headed back toward Montgomery for a second load. On the way out of town they stopped at a traffic light, and another car pulled alongside.

In it were four Ku Klux Klansmen from Bessemer, a steel town near Birmingham, including FBI informer Gary Rowe, who was sitting in the back seat. Collie Leroy Wilkins looked out the window and saw Mrs. Liuzzo and her black companion stopped beside them. "Look there, baby brother," Wilkins said to Rowe, "I'll be damned. Look there." Eugene Thomas, who was driving the Klan car, said, "Let's get them." When the light changed they began chasing the Oldsmobile, careening through the darkened swamps of Lowndes County at almost 100 mph.

Rowe later said he tried repeatedly to persuade the others to give up the pursuit, but Thomas insisted, "We're not going to give up, we're going to take that car." As the Klansmen closed in on their prey Thomas pulled out a pistol and handed it to Wilkins and told the others to draw their own weapons. Rowe tried once more to get them to abandon the game; but Thomas said "I done told you, baby brother, you're in the big time now." A moment later they pulled alongside the Oldsmobile. Wilkins put his arm out the window, Mrs. Liuzzo turned and looked straight at him and he fired twice through the glass.

The fourth Klansman, William Eaton, emptied his pistol at the car. Rowe said he only pretended to fire his weapon. Then their car sped on away. AP Photo Mrs. Liuzzo was killed at this wheel of this car when Klansmen fired at her from a passing vehicle. Mrs. Liuzzo fell against the wheel, dead instantly from two bullets in the head, spattering blood over Moton, who grabbed the steering wheel and hit the brakes.

The car swerved to the right, crashing through a ditch and coming to rest against an embankment. Moton turned off the lights and ignition and tried to rouse Mrs. Liuzzo. As he realized she was dead, he saw the other car come back and pull up beside the Oldsmobile. He played dead as the Klansmen shined a light into the car, then drove away. Moton left the car and began running down the highway toward Montgomery until he spotted a truck he recognized as belonging to fellow marchers. He climbed in, told what happened, and passed out cold.
 

The four men in the car, Collie Wilkins (21), Gary Rowe (34), William Eaton (41) and Eugene Thomas (42) were quickly arrested. Rowe, an  FBI undercover agent, testified against the other three men. In an attempt to prejudice the case, rumors began to circulate that Viola was a member of the Communist Party and had abandoned her five children in order to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the civil rights movement. It was later discovered that these highly damaging stories that appeared in the press had come from the FBI.

Despite Rowe's testimony, the three members of the Ku Klux Klan were acquitted of murder by an Alabama jury. President Lyndon Johnson, instructed his officials to arrange for the men to be charged under an 1870 federal law of conspiring to deprive Viola Liuzzo of her civil rights. Wilkins, Eaton and Thomas were found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

 



Collie Wilkins, Eugene Thomas and
William Eaton at their trial in Alabama.

 

Sisters Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe, left, of Grants Pass, and Penny Liuzzo Herrington of Fresno, Calif., show a picture of their mother, Viola Liuzzo, holding their little brother Tom. Viola Liuzzo was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965.
 

(Back To Top)

Josh White, Sr.

Who was he?   ....And why there are so many people who have never heard of him?

By Herbert R. Metoyer

These questions have plagued me for many years. Here was a man who risked his life fighting oppression through song and deed when protesting was not a fashionable thing to do ---- a man who spent his energies educating the world, both here and abroad, about our culture and the plight of the American Negro. Yet, I see very little written about him and I have never seen any Black History paraphernalia recounting his tribulations or his accomplishments. So, let’s start from the beginning….

Joshua Daniel White, Sr. was born in the ghetto of Greenville, South Carolina to Reverend Dennis White and his wife, Daisy Elizabeth in 1914. Unable to support his family on preacher’s pay, Rev. White worked odd jobs during the week. One day, a white bill-collector came to his house. Rev. White asked him to not disrespect his home and to remove his hat. Instead of complying the collector spat on his wife’s freshly scrubbed floor. Rev. White, in response, threw the man out. A little while later, the collector returned with the "Law" and together they pistol-whipped Rev. White and took him to jail where he was beaten again. As result of the beatings, Josh’s father was committed to an insane asylum. He escaped once and came home, but he was caught and taken back. He stayed there until he died.

In order to supplement her income, Mrs. White (after praying over it) allowed eight-year-old Josh to take a job as a "Lead Boy" for a blind traveling guitarist & singer named Blind Man Arnold. He promised to send Mrs. White $4 a week in exchange for her son’s services. With her approval, he and Josh left, walking, working their way from town to town until they reached Florida. Josh’s job was to play a tambourine and beg for money while his Minstrel Master performed. For the next several years, Josh worked for more than a dozen Blind Troubadours traveling by foot across the Southeast and as far West as Tennessee. This period was critical to Josh’s own growth. He learned to play a guitar from the masters. He also accumulated a large bank of grass roots songs, spirituals, blues, work songs, prison songs, and folksongs that had been sung in the cotton fields and in the cabins of slaves. As his abilities grew, he got his own guitar and started playing second guitar.

The recording industry was new and even newer for black artists. Paramount Records suspected there was a market for black music called "Race Records" at that time. They signed up a blind musician named Joel Taggert who Josh was working for in Chicago. So at the age of twelve, Josh made his first recording.

From this beginning Josh went on to record many more records, sometimes using pseudonyms like Pinewood Tom & The Singing Christian. He also played the role of Blind Lemon in John Henry, a theater show starring Paul Robeson. In his lifetime Josh recorded over 100 albums of Folksong, Ballads, Spirituals, Union and Social Protest songs. Once after visiting his brother, Bill, a soldier stationed at Fort Dix, he became alarmed to learn that black soldiers were billeted in dirt floor tents while their white comrades lived in wood barracks. When he returned home, he wrote a song called "Uncle Sam Says."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt heard the song and asked Josh to visit the White House and sing it to him in person because he suspected the song was referring to him. At the command performance, the President asked Josh point blank, who was he talking about in the song. Josh replied, "You. You’re the President you’re Uncle Sam." FDR replied, "You know, the President can’t do everything."

That was the start of a lasting relationship. His forthrightness with the President earned him a special place in their entourage. Josh became known as the "Presidential Minstrel." Eleanor Roosevelt became Godmother to his son Josh, Jr. Josh, Sr. became a sort of ambassador, often traveling abroad with Mrs. Roosevelt, singing for the crown heads of Europe---- telling the story of the Negro in America through words and song. And although he held the United States in high esteem while abroad, refusing to sing such songs as Strange Fruit, he was later to be accused of being a communist and had to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. These charges arose because of his stance on segregation issues and his friendship with Paul Robeson (his daughter Beverly’s Godfather).

I do not have enough space to tell you about the many accomplishments and battles Josh White, Sr. won and lost during his lifetime and before his death on September 6, 1969.

I (Herb Metoyer) was fortunate enough to meet and talk to him only one time. I was myself a Folksinger at the time. I was out in Los Angeles visiting Judy Collins (The Folksinger) and she took me to the theater where he was performing. I sat with him in his dressing room while he rested between sets. That was in 1967. After his death, I met his son Josh White, Jr. and we have been close friends every since. Josh White, Jr. is a world renown Folksinger in his own right. His website is: http://www.joshwhitejr.com.

In conclusion, I can state with conviction that Josh White, Sr. was a man of great integrity; that he did what I think God put him on this earth to do. Some of his most memorable songs were "Can’t Help For Crying, Sometime," Hard Times Blues," "Strange Fruit," "John Henry," "Black Gal," "Defense Factory Blues," "Free & Equal Blues," & "One Meatball."

 

To learn more, read "The Glory Road," The Story of Josh White by Dorothy Siegel, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers.

(Back To Top)

 

The Encounter of A Tuskegee Airman

(A True Story)

By

Alexander Jefferson

 

      It was a warm sunny day on the twelfth of August, 1943, when I, Lieutenant Jefferson, a member of the 332nd Fighter Group, climbed aboard my Red-tailed P-51 Mustang and soared into the wild blue yonder to attack German Radar Stations along the coast of France. On one of my strafing passes, at fifty feet above the ground, I flew right into a hail of 20mm shells. There was a loud explosion and immediately the cockpit filled with hot oil and smoke. Realizing that I was on fire and too low to bail out, I horsed back on the stick and used my remaining airspeed to gain as much altitude as possible. When I reached approximately eight-hundred feet, my aircraft shuddered violently, stalled, then rolled onto its back. At that point, I took a deep breath and ejected, snatching my rip cord the moment I was clear. Helplessly, I watched as my aircraft, my steed, my ride back home, crashed in flames into an open field. With a silent prayer, I tightened my grip on my risers and waited with abated breath as I drifted into the waiting arms of a very angry German patrol. As I tumbled to the ground, they rushed toward me with bayonets drawn and I feared the worse until they suddenly realized that I was black—probably the first they had ever seen from the look on their faces. I suppose it was this fact that made them back down and spare my life.

Instead, I quickly became a prized oddity, something to look at and jabber about.

They took me, then, at gun point to a villa about twenty miles east of Toulon where I was told to sit on the verandah beside a wrought iron table no more than a hundred feet from the water’s edge. So I sat, looking out across the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean, wondering about my uncertain future and what would be said once my family and friends found out that I was missing.

Some moments later, a German officer strolled out onto the porch, looked at me coldly, then lit a cigarette.

"What is your name?" he asked in perfect English.

"Alexander Jefferson, First Lieutenant, US Army Air Corps, Serial Num..."

"Let’s forget the formalities for the moment, Lieutenant. Where in the States are you from? Have you ever been to Washington?"

"No excuse, sir," I replied immediately in boot camp fashion as a way of avoiding having to answer his questions.

"I only ask," the officer continued, "because I went to school in your country. I went to the University of Michigan. Do you know of it?"

"I know of it," I replied hesitantly. But deep down inside, I wanted to tell this representative of the Master Race that I was a graduate of Clark University in Atlanta with a Master’s from Howard University in Washington, D.C..

"Good. Have you ever been to Michigan? It is a wonderful state."

"I’m from Michigan, Detroit."

At the mention of Detroit, the German Officer’s demeanor changed completely. For the next thirty minutes, I sat listening as the officer excitedly told me about his adventures into "Paradise Valley," about the fun he had while there drinking, carousing, and fraternizing with the local girls, mentioning several by name — none of which I knew. He also rattled off the names of most of the night spots and hotels in the Valley, especially the "Three Sixes" which he stated was his favorite.

"... Yes some of the best times in my life were spent in Detroit’s Valley. Let’s hope this war ends soon so we can get back to the things that really matter," he said when he was done.

With that, he offered me one of his cigarettes (which I accepted), shook my hand, then stood on the porch in a typical Nazi stance, watching silently and forlornly as they loaded me aboard a truck to be transported to a POW Camp in the interior.

It really is a small world, I thought to myself as the beach and the quaint villa faded off into the distance. At first, my feelings had been a little raw, hearing him speak about the "Good" loving he received from our black girls back home. In the end, however, I was truly thankful for their efforts in behalf of the war. Truly thankful, indeed....

Lt. Jefferson sat out the remainder of the war until he was liberated. An excellent artist, he recorded his whole adventure in pen and crayon drawings that he hopes to publish soon. Herbert Metoyer — Executive editor.

(Back To Top)

 

The Pullman Porter

by

Herbert Metoyer

When the slaves were freed, many of them starved. And many of those who did not starve, were only able to survive by returning in servitude as sharecroppers to the very masters they had longed to be rid of.

While Booker T. Washington argued with W. E. B. Du Bois about the merits of manual skills training for freed slaves as opposed to education designed to improve their intellect, the Railroad came into being and with it an industry that offered back breaking work to unskilled laborers. The Negro easily qualified for these types of jobs. So, for the most part, except for the Chinese on the west coast and modest number of luckless Irishmen, the railway and backbone of this country was built on the sweat of the Negro.

Not long after the railroad was established, George Pullman built and put into service his Sleeping cars. And with that, another type of a Negro only Job was created. These jobs consisted of Porters and Maids for the "Pullman Sleeping Cars". Booker T. Washington praised Mr. Pullman for his foresight.

The Maids were hired to service the women and children

The Porters¾ to Receive & Discharge passengers, handle bags, shine shoes, prepare beds, care for linen & equipment, clean cars, & wait upon the passengers.

The salary was $27.50/month in 1915 while the Conductors earned $150/month. Yet, because it was one of the best paying jobs available, people rushed to apply, not realizing that they were signing on for one of the most demeaning and thankless jobs in the history of the United States. By 1920, the rate of pay approached $60.00/month which was a great improvement. But listen to what was required of a good porter in service to the Pullman company:

  • a. On the first night out, a good Porter was entitled to 3 hrs of sleep. No sleep after that.
  • b. Had to be able to answer the bell before a passenger desirous of his services could ring it.
  • c. Had to know how to massage the ego and flatter the vanity of his charges.
  • d. Had to work 400 hrs each month. Paid overtime at 0.60 cents for each 100 miles after reaching 400 hrs. Now let’s do a little arithmetic...... 

                 400 hrs a month = 13.4 hrs a day. 

                We work 160 hrs a month today & still complain.

  • e. Had to buy his meals, equipment, uniforms, and polish. Penalized if he ran out.
  • f. Had to report for work 5 hrs early before train departed.
  • g. Had to reimburse the company for any linen lost or stolen by the passengers.
  • h. At the end of a run, a porter had to clean up his cars, turn in the dirty linen and pay for any missing linen.
  • i. If necessary, he had to do what he could to entertain his charges.

The last item, I found to be most disturbing. A job, a condition, and a system, that reduced the proudest of our black men to minstrels, grinning and groveling for the entertainment of special folks. Dancing & cutting jigs on the station platform for tips to supplement his salary so that he could feed his family.

A. Phillip RandolphWell, these deplorable conditions lasted until A. Phillip Randolph came on the scene. I believe that God put certain people on this earth to only accomplish one thing. And about the only thing Mr. Randolph accomplished was the organization of the "Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters." And that one formidable task took him almost all of his life. But that is another story that I will tell you about in another segment.

 

Still, even after the great strides made by the union, working conditions for porters remained questionable. Many of the practices carried over into the modern day.

¾ After a while¾ Ain’t so bad....

A co-worker of mine at General Motors, after hearing some of the conditions I mentioned above while we were on break, was shocked to know the life porters led. She had always assumed that they (the porters) had it made. As soon as she could contact her uncle, who was a retired porter, she asked him if what I had said was true. He told her how they were subject to being fired if a passenger flushed the toilet while they were in the station. That one day after they pulled in, someone slipped back aboard the train, used the toilet, then flushed it. Not wanting to run the risk of being fired, he did the only thing he could. He used his handkerchief, crawled under the train, picked it up the droppings and put it in his pocket.

He even told her about how he came up with his own little dance and song when he was a young man....

Step a little step

Dance a little jig

My daddy was a possum

My mamma was a pig....

When he finished, she said, " Uncle, how did you endure all those indignities?

He replied, "After a while... it ain’t so bad."

This person was a rather modern day porter who worked the railroad during the big war when rail travel was at its peak.

You and I were never aware of this, nor were the other people in the community where Porters were held in such high esteem, and yes, looked up to. Many people considered the porters to be rich by their standards and envied them and their occupation. The Porters, of course, did nothing to discourage this attention. They enjoyed their status in the community, and kept their secret torment to themselves.

I salute these proud old men who endured their trials with such dignity and pride. Proud old men who had the ability to step into and out of our space without causing even one ripple….

(Back To Top)

 

The Great Black Strip

Before the freeways were built, even before the riot of 43, there was a strip in Detroit called Paradise Valley, and it was swinging all night long...

By TONI JONES

Free Press Staff Writer

 

Count Basie’s band wailed "After Hours" thinly from the juke box, but the small gathering in the Garfield Lounge of the Randora Hotel hardly heard. The faces and clothes were 1972, different. Drinks were more expensive. And the music didn’t croon live and bittersweet as it did 30 years ago. Gone were the handsome, smooth talking sporting men dressed in Al Capone suits with money in their pockets and beautiful women on their sleeves. Gone too were the big bands, the long shiny chauffeur-driven limousines, the high-ceilinged dance halls with their crystal chandeliers and the chorus girls in puffed sleeved satin dresses with low cut backs, floppy brimmed hats and cigarette holders.

The Randora Lounge at 98 Garfield now comprises almost all that’s left to suggest the frenzied night life and the people who made this part of Black Bottom distinctly and uniquely Paradise Valley. The valley burgeoned in the early 30’s along and around Adams and St. Antione shortly before, after — and some because of — the legalization of whiskey in 1933. It included nearly all the black businesses in the densely populated black section of Detroit. It was centered in Black Bottom the name given the area which housed most of the city’s blacks whose boundaries extended from Hastings to Brush and from Gratiot to Vernor Highway.

The business district containing black owned shops, music stores, grocery stores, bowling alleys, hotels, bars and lucrative policy offices, was all called Paradise Valley. The Valley was open 24 hours a day as were its restaurants, gambling houses and the after hour clubs where the best whiskey in town, legal and illegal flowed steadily for 25 cents an ounce.

 

The Valley attracted all of the best black entertainers in the country. And many aspiring young singers, dancers and musicians got their first big break before the audience at the Club Plantation and the 666. Earl Hines, The Inkspots, the Will Mastin Trio, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Dinah Washington were Valley regulars. They were booked into the Greystone Ballroom or the Michigan Theater or any of a dozen other big white-only nightclubs or gathering places, but they were only welcome there during show time.

Racial discrimination, especially in the downtown hotels, forced black performers to stay in black hotels when they were in the Valley. Hotels included the Dewey, the Biltmore and the Norwood, which was best known for its shows staged on a revolving floor in the Hotel’s Club Plantation. Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Sugar Brown, and the McKinney’s Cotton Pickers were frequent performers.

Dance groups featuring long-legged beauties like Mitzi, Mary and Mike (the 3M’s) or Ziggy Johnson’s dance productions were familiar shows at the Chocolate Bar, the Plantation and Club 666. Tap dancers Baby Lawrence, Durb Wilson and some of the best performers in town unabashedly practiced their show routines on the sidewalk in front of the Carlton hotel. Crime was practically nonexistent.

Valley regulars included Uncle Dan, who lent whiskey money to his friends and always had a spare $1,000. Uncle Dan would sit outside the Turf bar or Lee Lucky’s to shoot the breeze with passersby and he was never robbed. Black policemen assigned to patrol the Valley partied with the night crowd, but they set absolute rules forbidding criminal disorder.

Characters like Buffalo James, owner of a prosperous restaurant was often seen socializing with the cooks and entertainers when the restaurant was empty. As the ballroom closed and the hungry night-clubers began looking for a place to eat, Buffalo would stand outside the restaurant with a big white handkerchief in his hand. When he spotted groups of people coming toward the restaurant, he would signal the cooks to start stirring and the band to start playing by wiping his face with a large white cloth. Another favorite figure was Sonny Bronson, a temperamental bartender who owned a sandwich shop but refused to serve anyone who yelled at him or made him angry.

"It used to look like a carnival on the weekends," recalled Jimmy (The Greek) Johnson, who owned a couple of pool halls in the Valley. "You could go from club to club and after three in the morning, you’d have the thrill of listening to a jam session.

"Say for instance, Earl Hines’ band was playing somewhere in Flint, Basie’s band in Pontiac and Duke’s band would be over here at the Greystone and maybe Cab’s band would be playing somewhere else in the state. They would all stay here (in the Valley) and go to the places by bus and come back here at night. When they came back, all these musicians would get together and stay up and jam all night, playing all of their songs. Sometimes, they would jam until 10 or 11 a.m. the next morning," he said.

 

The heart of the Valley’s economy was the Policy operation, later replaced by the Numbers. It was generally believed and accepted that the only way a black man could make a lot of money was to run a policy house. Unlike the numbers, policy houses — which were exclusively black-owned and operated — had a reputation for honesty. The policy was played by buying three numbers for five cents. The numbers ranged from one to 78. Twelve winning numbers were drawn daily and paid odds of 500-1 or $25 for a nickel.

Gradually policy houses gave way to the numbers operation. It was a common sight for those allowed near the money to see $150,000 in cash in a safe with the door wide open. The next day, however the same safe might be wiped clean from one day’s winning pay offs.

"It (the numbers) was a game of the percentages and they managed to make money out of it," said one of the Valley’s ex-patrons. "But it was based on the daily races and you could pick up a newspaper — because they published the race results — and anybody who knew how could figure the number. When the numbers came out that’s what it was. Even kids knew how to pick the numbers out of the paper.

"But there was still gambling all over the place. One man had a club upstairs over the Turf Bar and it was open 24 hours a day. "They played poker and black jack. One of the things they always had a hard time selling the police on in this city was crap shooting. Police didn’t allow any crap shooting in the Valley.

"At that time you had all of the politicians, council members, the mayor and big people in the police department who use to come down there," he said.

Many skilled black comptometer operators, adding machine operators, secretaries, stenographers, accountants and lawyers served their apprenticeships in policy and number houses in the Valley. Before the policy operations, few black owned businesses required highly trained help. But policy money came in so fast that adding machine workers soon became proficient and well paid.

In August, 1939, the policy opera-tion received a severe blow. A policy house bookkeeper, Mrs. Janet McDonald, murdered her child, and committed suicide when her boyfriend, who allegedly was connected with protection payoffs to police officials, ended their affair. Letters she had written and addressed to local newspapers, the governor, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation charged that her former boyfriend was the collection agent of illegal money for the police department. The papers were near her body.

Circuit Court Judge Homer Ferguson was appointed to conduct an inquiry. A special prosecutor, Chester O’Hara, was appointed to handle the investigation when the prosecutor, Duncan McCrea, was disqualified by charges of his involvement in the conspiracy to protect gamblers. A mayoral aide, who testified that he collected money from racketeers for the mayor, said he delivered more than $3,000 from policy operators to Mayor Richard Reading in his City Hall office.

The prosecutor’s key witness also testified that one of the convicted racketeers had told him of a plan to set up a special racket squad in 1938 to help the numbers operators. Other witnesses charged that Reading had accepted $55,000 in payments to "protect" the $10-million-a-year Detroit operation.

By June, 1942, Reading, his son Richard Reading Jr., the mayor’s administrative assistant, McCrea, several policy operators, including Joe Louis’ manager, the former sheriff, the police superintendent, and 20 police officers were convicted of graft conspiracy. But the scandal only enhanced the glamour of the Valley.

Joe Louis, the Valley’s beloved "Brown Bomber," was still in his prime and Sugar Ray Robinson was a promising young boxer. Each time the Bomber fought, mobs of Louis fans huddled into stores, shops or restaurants with radios to hear him slug out another victory. Whites in Chauffeur-driven cars would ride through the Valley after victories carrying black riders on top of the cars. Everyone shared the booze and good feelings. When Louis wasn’t training or managing his Chicken Shack on the outskirts of the Valley, or running from Broadway Joe (one of Louis’ friends who would catch a taxi to chase the boxer about ten blocks to ask for a few dollars), Louis was partying in the Valley.

T-Bone steaks at The Hole cost 35 cents. A bologna sandwich on toast at Biddy’s Restaurant was a nickel. "Duke Ellington’s band would always stop by Biddy’s for a nickel sandwich when they were in town," said Jesse Faithful, owner of Valley Foods Restaurant, 1719 St. Antione, one of the last remaining shops of Paradise Valley. "I don’t know how I ever made a sandwich for a nickel. This place is empty now, but at one time I had eight waitresses and four cooks. The expressway (Chrysler) took that away.

"This whole street used to be some kind of night club or bar. If you came to Detroit from another town and the cab driver asked where you wanted to go, every black person would say Paradise Valley," Faithful said, looking through the front window of his restaurant which now seats only 15 customers and sells bologna sandwiches for 40 cents.

"There was gambling in about every other joint, usually upstairs. My building was adjoining one of the biggest number houses in the area. It was originally suppose to be a bank, but it didn’t work out too well, so it was turned into a numbers house and eventually became a real estate office.

"The Norwood was torn down about seven years ago. The Biltmore was just up the street where the Stroh’s parking lot is now. They bought the Norwood and sold it to Hudson’s for the warehouse. "They’ve (Stroh’s) been here nine times trying to buy this property but I’m not going to sell for anything less than $75,000. This is valuable property and a lot of rich Negroes who owned property down here sold for almost nothing."

 

Every two years by popular vote the Valley elected a mayor who promised fried chicken in every skillet and pork chops in every ice box and claimed to have direct contact with City Hall. The title Mayor was also given to leaders of Bronzeville in Chicago and Cleveland, Sepia City in Toledo, and Harlem in New York. Roy Lightfoot, one the Valley’s first mayors and owner of B&C Club and Long’s Drug Store, used his drug store as a central information center. If someone died, disappeared or was in the hospital, relatives and friends could call Long’s for the latest information.

While much of the sporting life continued to flourish in the Valley during the early 40’s, new businesses began to open on John R near Canfield. Black servicemen who ate their last breakfast at the Norwood Hotel before being shipped overseas during World War II returned to find that the Valley had been replaced by a Las Vegas-like strip along John R.

Instead of meeting at El Sino’s, Peking or Cookie’s Restaurant, the social hour and the chi-chi place to be seen shifted to the Ebony room of the Gotham Hotel or the Wal Ha Lounge of the Garfield Hotel. "Cookie’s Place was quite prominent at one time," said James Cookie, the former owner who works part-time now as a bellman at the St. Regis Hotel. "My clientele was mixed. During that time, whites weren’t afraid to go to black clubs. Integration had just started and Negro entertainers began to move out to other hotels. Soon anybody who was anyone would stay in the white hotels. People left the Gotham, which was a fine hotel, to go downtown to the Sheraton and Hilton.

"We had been in business for 26 years. Our place was open 24-hours and we would gross $1,000 every night. We were never held up once in all those years," Cookie said. "When we left in 1963, we were just about the last ones to go. Now I hate to go over there because it brings back memories."

 

Mounting racial tensions were largely ignored until June 20, 1943, when two black youths were arrested for starting a fight with white youths on the Belle Isle Bridge. The black youths later claimed that they were seeking revenge after being ejected from Eastwood Park by white youths a few days earlier. Before police could quell the argument, a 17-year-old black spread the rumor that a black woman and her baby had been thrown off the Belle Isle Bridge by whites and both had drowned. More than 200 enraged blacks and whites began a wild fighting spree.

Police used tear gas to clear the bridge but small fights broke out along E. Jefferson. Later that night, rumors spread to the Forest Club recreation center on East Forest. A checkroom operator at the club announced the report over a microphone in the dance hall. Rioting spread along Hastings, St. Antione, Brush and John R from east grand Boulevard to the river. White mobs attacked a group of blacks in the Roxy Theater on Woodward then went after black pedestrians.

The riot was ended the next day when 4,000 army troops were sent under martial law into the city. Although troops never fired a shot, 35 people were killed, 530 injured and 1,300 arrested. Many of the blacks who lived in Black Bottom began to flee for fear that another riot would eventually repeat itself in their neighborhood. The new homeowners began buying houses in white neighborhoods surrounding 12th street.

After the riots, the Gotham Hotel, a previously white-owned 300 room-luxury hotel at 111 Orchestra Place, was sold for $200,000 to a black group reputedly connected with the numbers operation. Like the Valley in its prime, "The Strip" was mobbed with night-clubers waiting outside the Garfield Lounge, Sonnie Wilson’s, the Chesterfield Lounge, The Flame, and the Forest Club to catch the late floor shows. But some of the friendliness was gone.

Entertainers such as Josephine Baker, Lionel Hampton, Sarah Vaughn and Nat (King) Cole were as familiar to the strips as they were to other tourist spots in the country. By the late 1950’s, the strip began to fade as more black people started buying homes near the 12th Street area. And by 1962, the Gotham had closed after a series of raids destroyed the hotel which allegedly served as the clearing house for Detroit’s $12-million numbers racket. In March 1963, the Garfield Hotel burned. Guest and residents leaped from second floor windows after the flames that started in the kitchen blocked their escape down the front and rear stairs. Two residents were killed, and the Garfield, once a focal point of Paradise Valley, was destroyed.

The Randora Hotel which was being built as an annex to the Garfield by Randolph Wallace, owner of the Garfield Hotel, was completed but the guest list changed. When Wallace died a few months later, plans to convert the once lively strip into a medical center were finalized. Some of the people who frequent the Garfield Lounge in the Randora still remember the old days. Paradise Valley, The Strip. The sophisticated set and the night crowds have been replaced by thugs, junkies and winos.

Integration and prosperity have forced the city to expand its boundaries to the edges of newly developed suburbs. Slowly, night life and entertainment — with the perfection of modern stereophonic equipment — have become home affairs. Night-clubers are more sedate now and reluctant to travel outside their own neighborhoods. What was once a swinging town — a place where free spirits and sporting folks from New York, Chicago, Cleveland and nearby states could come together on the weekends — is only a memory.

Article reprinted in "Paradise Valley Days" with permission of the Detroit Free Press. Article dated January 7, 1973

(Back To Top)

 

 

Marcus Garvey

When Will We Ever Learn—

by Herb Metoyer (1996)


Jamaica-born Marcus Garvey is considered the founder of modern day revolutionary Black Nationalism. A man who spoke no African languages and never set foot on the African continent did more to champion the cause of Pan-Africanism than anyone before or since. He built the largest all-Black civil rights organization in the world on the twin concepts of unity and racial pride.

Garvey came to the United States in 1916, bringing with him the United Negro Improvement Association which he had founded in Jamaica. He settled in Harlem and traveled the country trying to convince Black people that they would never enjoy equality until they founded their own nations, industries, and businesses. By 1920, the UNIA claimed almost two million Black members throughout the USA, Europe, and the Caribbean—all rallying to the cry of "Back to Africa." The largest civil rights organization in the world, in 1920, Garvey held a thirty-one day international conclave at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Garvey’s success, however, won him many enemies especially among other black leaders who distrusted his rhetoric and motives. As a result, his businesses which included the Black Star Steamship Line, floundered amidst financial difficulties. Fearing a Garvey takeover, Liberia, too, pulled its support of Garvey’s repatriation efforts. His criticism of federal and state governments had not helped his plight either. For once the government was aware of his weakened political clout, they convicted him of mail fraud in 1925. He was released two years later, and deported back to Jamaica. He died in England in 1940, still trying to resurrect his organization, still trying to convince Blacks to champion their own causes, fly their own flags, and to abandon their dependencies.

 


What is really sad, is the fact that Garvey’s warnings have still gone unheeded to this day. We are still largely dependent upon white-America’s economic system. Even an idiot can see—that as long as we remain dependent and in competition with them for their jobs, we are watering the seeds for racial hatred which can, if not checked, lead to racial strife. Worsening economies have always led to racial strife. It is an inevitable reality. Unless we start to do something to help fix the economy by starting our own businesses and creating jobs to relieve some of the stress on the economy, our future will forever remain bleak. And if the Neo-Nazi’s, KKK, and other hate organizations have their way, we may not even have a future. For despite all our bravado, we comprise less that 12 percent of the population.

Wake up, there is unrest in this country. We can see it in the growing number of citizen militia groups. The KKK is alive and well and it is enjoying a new resurgence in this fertile climate. Wake up, smell the smoke, and feel the heat from the burning Black churches in the Carolinas and Georgia. You won’t find these incidents reported in the headlines because the establishment doesn’t want you to know that in this enlightened age, Black churches are again being fire-bombed in the south at the rate of 1 to 2 a month.

And if we lose the ground that we have gained, none of us can truly say that we are without fault. If you have not started a business of your own—you are at fault. If you have not learned to trust your brother or sister enough to form your own corporations—you are at fault, and if you have not patronized those Blacks already in business, especially those in your community—you are gravely at fault.... Will We Ever Learn?....

(Back To Top)

 

DOGON TRIBE OF AFRICA

By Herbert Metoyer

 The Egyptians were not the only people of African credited with enlightening the world. Other tribes of people were also responsible for astounding contributions. One of these, the Dogons, a tribe that most of us have never heard about,  live in the Niger River's loop, in the cliffs of Bandiagara.

Thousands of years before Christ, the Dogans knew what planets were in our solar system and the planets and stars of the Sirius system all of which can not be seen with the eye or a telescope.

 They call the Star "Sirius", the "Star of Sigui".  The star Sirius, however, is not the basis for their system, they use it only because it is a bright star that can be seen with the naked eye. Their reverence is for its companion star, a small Black or Dead Star that revolves around Sirius that they call "Potolo". (Potolo was renamed "Digitaria" by westerners). Their priest says that "Digitaria is the smallest of all stars. That - It is the heaviest of all stars and that a thimble full of the dead star's matter weighs more than forty tons.

Every fifty-years (the actual figure is 50.04 +/- 0.09 years), the time it takes for the Black Star to complete its orbit around the star Sirius, they celebrate with a ceremony called SIGUI. This ceremony corresponds to the renewal of the world during which time their God Amma (equivalent to the Egyptian's God Amon-Ra) and his son Nommo appear. They celebrate this event with a feast that marks the rebirth of the world and the time when a new "Sigui Priest" is chosen to reign for another fifty-years. They celebrate with dances that depict the Black Star orbit and paint their faces and bodies with elaborate pictures of Sirius and its companion, the Black Star.

 For many years, the people of the world  ridiculed their humble celebration. Yet, they knew the trajectory of the Black Star and that of its companion star Sirius thousands and thousands of years before it was existence was acknowledged by Europeans in the late nineteenth century with the invention of the radio telescope.. Significantly, The Dogon also described a third star in the Sirius system, which they called “Emme Ya” (“Sorghum Female”), and they state it has a single satellite in orbit around it.

The Dogon's idea of their being a Sirius C, aka Emme Ya, was not accorded any real respect until 1995, when two French Astronomers published their results, after years of study, of what was apparently a small, red-dwarf star within the Sirius star system. The conclusion was based on perturbations in the orbits that could not be explained by any other means. "Emma Ya” is four times lighter than Digitaria and travels a wider trajectory.

But for the Dogons, according to their philosophy, Digitaria is the oldest of all stars; one that has burned out and collapsed upon itself; the center of the universe and from which the rest of the universe radiates out in a spiral like unto a wheel. It is from this information that modern astronomers developed their theories about Black Stars and Black Holes. They also acknowledge that the universe appears to be spiraling outward.

Since the synchronization of the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter also occur at Sigui, once each fifty-years, they also have pictures of Saturn with its rings and pictures of Jupiter with its four largest moons. They recorded these pictures long before the European invented his telescope.

The Dogons also say that Digitaria revolves about its own axis, but modern science, at the time I first wrote this article in 1982, had not been able to prove or disprove this theory. As of recently, however, they have determined that the Black Star revolves on its own axis once every 23 minutes.

 The Dogans have studied the stars for many years and each Dogon tribe specializes in the study of a particular portion of the sky. The Ono tribe  - study Venus. The Dommo - Orion's shield. The Aru - the Moon, The Dyon - study the Sun. They, therefore, also have lunar, solar, and sidereal calendars like the Egyptians.

 Now that the Black Star's existence has been confirmed, the Europeans are back in Africa trying to determine what else the Dogans know and how they discovered these things without the benefit of modern science.

 We, too, now ask ourselves, “How did they, the Dogons, know?” They had no telescopes and none of these things can be seen with the naked eye.

According to The Dogon, their astrological knowledge was supposedly given to them by the Nommos, amphibious beings sent to earth from Sirius for the benefit of mankind. Now, I personally  give a lot credibility to this statement, especially since I saw a UFO program on the Discovery Channel in which several witness claim they saw UFO's disappearing into the waters of the Bermuda Triangle.

 As near as can be calculated and according to the Dogan Priest records, they started their fifty-year celebration about 1300 years BC. Prior to that, they celebrated Sigui every seven years or after the seventh harvest. They used seven years because, according to their philosophy, the world was created in seven years. At this time they put their old king-priest to death and selected a new one to reign for another seven years. This was symbolic of death and the resurrection. One king resolved to escape the fate of his predecessors by changing the Sigui celebration to once each fifty years to coincide with the completion Digitaria's orbit. He also replaced the sacrificial death of the priest with a symbolic one. Can you blame him?

 As you can see from the example of Dogans and other unrelated tribes like the Woyo, Yoruba, and Kongo who also had calendars and used numbers to explain creation, that the Africans were the truly the fathers of the sciences. We, therefore, should take great pride in the history of the black man and his past accomplishments. Our intelligence equals  that of the rest of the world races. We are not second class.  Instead, we hold a position of distinction as the prototype of all mankind. Scientist have proved beyond a doubt, by analyzing the genes of the races, that one Caucasian is more closely related to the black African than he is to his own brother, for the genes found in the blackest African are found in all other races on this earth.

Also Visit This Link:    http://www.crystalinks.com/dogon.html

 

(Back To Top)

 

 
 

BLACK INVENTIONS

1. The Elevator

Alexander Mills

2. The Automatic Gearshift:

Richard Spikes

3. The Super Charger System for Internal

     Combustion Engines:

Joseph Gambol

4. Traffic Signals:

Garrett A. Morgan

5. The Electric Trolley

Albert R. Robinson

6. The Street Sweeper:

Charles Brooks

7. The Pencil Sharpener

John Love

8. The Fountain Pen

William Purveys

9. The Type Writing Machine

Lee Barrage

10. The Advanced Printing Press

W. A. Love

11. The Postmarking & Canceling Machine

William Barry

12. The Hand Stamp

William Purveys

13. The Letter Drop

Philip Downing

14. The Lawn Mower

John Burr

15. The Lawn Sprinkler

Joseph Smith

16. The Air Conditioner

Frederick Jones

17.The Heating Furnace

Alice Parker

18. The Electric Lamp

Lewis Lattimer

19. The Lantern

Michael Harvey

20. The Automatic Cut-off Switch

Grandville T. Woods

21. The Mop

Thomas W. Steward

22. The Dust Pan

Lloyd P. Ray

23. The Comb

Walter Sammons

24. The Ironing Board

Sarah Boone

25. The Clothes Dryer

George T. Samon

26. The Refrigerator

John Standard

27. The Shoe Lasting Machine

Jan E. MatzelingeR

(Back To Top)