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‘The First Man’
Notes on Negro Freedom During Plantation America

Reading from pages 21, 36 and 56 of The Adventures of the Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones

I was taught, and school children are still taught, and the vast majority of U.S. meet puppets devoutly believe, that before the American Civil War all people of African ancestry in the American South were slaves, and that they were enslaved because they were hated and that they were hated for their race, for the condition of their birth. Usually, the best place to disprove such lies is by using the text of the very books in which the authors set about to sure up those very same lies.

Page 21:

A beloved “Negro cook” Gordon Davis, headed into the “roaring” Cowtown of Abilene, Kansas, singing a song, “Buffalo Girls [black girls], Can’t You Come Out Tonight,” got drunk and shot up the town, causing the marshal to make him the first inmate of the new jail. In response, the all-white crew of cowboys Gordon cooked for, drove the marshal into hiding and broke him out of jail, making him the first inmate and the first escapee. This was just after the Civil War, but does put the lie to the accepted fact that all white men in the U.S. hated and kept down black men.

Let’s dig deeper.

Page 36:

“Typical of the most efficient of the Negro cowboys was Jim Kelly. Jim was the son of Arnos and Phoebe Kelly [this is an Irish name], FREE [my emphasis] Negroes who worked for the Olive family in Texas [in the DEEP South]. Young Jim grew up with the Olive brothers and was a lifelong friend of Print Olive. When Print became the leader of the Olive family, Jim became one of Print’s right-hand men.”

Doesn’t sound a lot like institutional hatred to me.

Photos between pages 56-57:

One photo shows a free Negro miner in the Auburn Ravine in 1852.

Another photo shows white and Negro miners working together in the late 1840s or early 1850s, with the caption, “White and Negro miners worked many claims together during the early days of California gold mining.”

Another example of the rampant racism that was supposed to be, but is in fact a gross oversimplification is a statement by a detective who spent time in the Denver jail, “it contained about twenty of the worst specimens of humanity, both black and white, that it was ever my misfortune to be housed with in one small room.”

Comprehensive race-based slavery in Plantation America was not the true condition, but a lie fabricated after the fact.

Comprehensive hatred of and discrimination against black men after the Civil War was not a true universal condition, but a lie fabricated after the fact.

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