Sheldon:

Welcome, advocates, to another episode of the Leading Equity Podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their schools. Today's special guest is Mr. Pete Hill, I'm really excited to have on the show because we're going to talk about some history, and I'm biased. I'm biased. I'm a former history teacher, and so I love having these conversations regarding history. That's what we'll be discussing today, but before we get started, Pete, thank you so much for joining us.

Pete Hill:

Sheldon, it's indeed a pleasure to join you.

Sheldon:

Pleasure is always mine. Before we really dig into different topics and areas of history, I would love for you to share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do.

Pete Hill:

Great question. I hail from the great state of Mississippi, where I spent the formative years of my life, up to age 19. I joined the military for the next 22 years. Got a chance to serve in two combat tours, earned two Bronze Stars. I currently serve as an equity, diversity, and inclusion director in the county in the great state of Maryland. Sheldon, in my spare time, what I've always loved since I was a child is learning not just Black history, but American history, but my focus has always been my people.

Sheldon:

All right. I like that. Let's get into it. Normally, when I do my episodes and go back and edit the shows, I come up with a topic, a theme or title after I have listened to the show, and I put it all together, but we actually have a theme today. Today's conversation is, "I never learned that in school." Where do you want to start?

Pete Hill:

I want to start in the year 1836. Sheldon, we often hear the term gag rule. You ever heard that term, gag rule?

Sheldon:

Yep.

Pete Hill:

Now, I often heard it myself, but I never knew it had an origin in slavery. Did you know that?

Sheldon:

No.

Pete Hill:

1836, the South came up with Rule Number 21 in the House of Representatives, colloquially known as the gag rule. What it said, in short is there would be zero conversations about the condition of slaves or the idea of slavery. It would take a former President, John Quincy Adams, by the year 1840, to finally get rid of the so-called gag rule. From 1836 to 1840, we were not even permitted to discuss the status of slavery in these United States. Again, that's something I never learned in school.

Pete Hill:

I think you would agree with me that if we can't even talk about it, number one, that sounds like it's a violation of all of those representatives' First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, number one. Number two, it prolonged the condition of slavery all the way up until 1840 because despite all of the advocacy to get rid of slavery, it was not talked about in the place that mattered, the place where our laws are made, Congress. The gag rule. Again, former President came in, saved the day.

Sheldon:

Let me ask you something about that, because when you say, "We." "We," meaning who? Who was not allowed to bring up the idea of slavery? Then on top of that, are you saying that as far as, from the legal system, so suing, civil cases, those kind of things, so there was at least four years or so that the conversation about slavery was not allowed?

Pete Hill:

I want to restrict that, my response to Congress. To answer your question, we got two parties at this time, the Whig Party and the Democratic Party. The Democrats, unlike the Democrats of 2021, were different. They would be what we now call Republicans, and so they were representing the South. Because they had a lot of power in Congress at the time, they were able to get the gag rule in 1836. To answer your question, who was limited by the gag rule? It would be members of the House of Representatives.

Sheldon:

Got it, okay. People like you and myself, if we were out in the field somewhere ... Either way it goes, I don't think we needed the gag rule on top of that anyway, but even those who might be free in the North, so abolitionists and those type of things weren't able to have these conversations or bring it in front of Congress.

Pete Hill:

That part would be true, to bring it in front of Congress. They would be free to talk about it in their hamlets, and their villages, and their respective states, but in order to get any legislation done at the national level, dead on arrival because of the gag rule, so that was the power of it.

Sheldon:

I've heard that term utilized as well, recently. Are you saying that just the origins of the gag rules came from the conversation centered around slavery? How is it utilized today?

Pete Hill:

Today, we normally look at it, if we're looking at it from a legislative viewpoint, Sheldon, think of the filibuster. The difference is, now the gagging has shifted from the House of Representatives, from Rule 21, to the unconstitutional, in my opinion, filibuster. That was never the intent of the Founding Fathers, but it has the same impact as gag rule in the House because there's going to be no debate unless you can get 60 senators for cloture.

Sheldon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. That's some good stuff. All right. Now, tell me something else. What else is something that I have not learned?

Pete Hill:

Oh, another thing dealing with our people, and it's really disappointing to me. Recently, we celebrated Juneteenth. Most people who are African American were proud of the fact that, nationally, we're finally recognizing that slaves got their freedom on so-called Juneteenth, when they were told in the great state of Texas, Galveston, to be exact, that, "You've been free for two years, without your knowledge." That's partly true. One of the things we didn't learn in school is there were not one, not two, but three Emancipation Proclamations. Did you know that?

Sheldon:

No.

Pete Hill:

Never learned that in school either, and I love history. The very first Emancipation Proclamation was known as the Compensated Emancipation of 1862. On April 16th, Abraham Lincoln freed all of the slaves in the District of Columbia, so the very first Emancipation Proclamation was known as the Compensated Emancipation Proclamation, issued April 16th, 1862. It allowed Abraham Lincoln, who was president of Washington D.C., as well as the rest of the states, to free the slaves under his authority. He did so with two conditions.

Pete Hill:

Number one, he had to compensate the slave owners. They had to come up with a dollar value of a human being. We now know how much we're worth in terms of 1862 dollars. 300. Every man, woman, and child who was freed was worth $300. A million dollars was set aside to compensate these slave owners. Another $100,000 was set aside for Abraham Lincoln to encourage the newly freed Washingtonians to get out of Dodge. They wanted you to go to Costa Rica or to Liberia. Not many took them up on that item, but that was their intent, "We're going to free you, but we don't want you to stay here." That was under the leadership of the great emancipator, one Abraham Lincoln.

Pete Hill:

Now, that second Emancipation Proclamation is kind of hidden from our view, but in plain sight. See, in September of 1862, Abraham Lincoln threatened the South, "If you don't return to the Union by January the 1st, 1863, I'm not only going to free your slaves, but I'm going to allow every able-bodied male slave to take up arms against you by enlisting them in the Union military."

Pete Hill:

As you might imagine, Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the South, was furious. He issued that famous doctrine of his. I forget the general order he called it, but here's what it said in part. "Any white many caught leading slaves in rebellion, and they were caught on the battlefield, would be summarily executed because they would be deemed as leading a servile insurrection. Any Negro called in arms against the South will be returned to the state from which they came from and subjected to the laws of that state."

Pete Hill:

You can imagine, my friend, what were the laws against armed insurrection against slave masters. Death. Either way, if you were a white man fighting against the South, or a Black man, your penalty would be death. A scene of this can be seen in the movie with Denzel Washington, Glory, where you see the guy reading that to the white officers and he gives them a chance to say, "I resign," because they know they're not going to be seen as soldiers. Basically, like John Brown was in 1857, I believe, at Harpers Ferry.

Pete Hill:

The third Emancipation Proclamation, Sheldon, is one we did learn about, but we didn't learn about it properly. All we ever hear as Black folks, "Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Emancipation Proclamation." That's kind of true. Abraham Lincoln was very careful because, see, he understood something the average American doesn't, even to this day.

Pete Hill:

You can't just run around freeing people in 1863 because there was this thing called the Constitution of the United States that it's clear, "Black people are not human. They are property, and you cannot take property without due process. You must compensate people for taking their property." Fifth Amendment rights, in other words, so Abraham Lincoln had to narrowly craft the Emancipation Proclamation.

Pete Hill:

First, he deemed it as a war instrument, because he knew that if it went to the Supreme Court, it would be deemed unconstitutional because of the Fifth Amendment. He then understood something else, Sheldon. "I have for border states, particularly Maryland. I can let these four border states know, 'You have nothing to worry about. I'm going to explicitly say to you, in the Emancipation Proclamation, your slaves will remain slaves.'"

Pete Hill:

If you were a slave in places like Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, or Delaware, you were good to go. Yet, slaves in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, they were told they were being freed, Sheldon, but ask yourself this question. If the South is no longer a part of the United States, what power, legally, did Lincoln have to free any slave?

Pete Hill:

I would argue, the only time any slaves were free was on December 6th, 1865, when we finally got around to ratifying the 13th Amendment, and so that says, no slaves were freed on Juneteenth. Let me try that again. June, being the operative word. June 1865, Granger shows up on his horse, the savior, to tell these Black folks, "Do you know you've been free since 1863?" Not true. We said you were free, but Abraham Lincoln knew until he conquered a state, the slaves would never be free. They did not conquer Texas until 1865. That would be why those slaves were not free until 1865.

Pete Hill:

Had they conquered Mississippi, for instance, in 1865, that's when those slaves would have been free. Unless there was a pointed gun, all you got is the Emancipation Proclamation with zero power. No slaves, I'll say again, were free until December 6th, 1865. Everything else was an empty promise, to include Juneteenth.

Sheldon:

Okay. I got a lot of questions. The first question that I have is, you said there was these four states. I can't remember. Indiana, Kentucky, Delaware-

Pete Hill:

Yeah. If I remember correctly, it was Indiana, Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky. They were called border states.

Sheldon:

Why were they reserved to keep their slaves but everyone else was not?

Pete Hill:

Had they came into the war on the side of the South, we would have been numerically outnumbered, number one. Look at the Civil War, there were 22 states in the Union, equally divided, 11 on each side. That's because the other four didn't join. They remained basically neutral, if you will.

Sheldon:

You can't really be neutral if you got slaves, right? To me, that doesn't go together.

Pete Hill:

Fair enough. You get no argument out of me, but I'm telling you Abraham Lincoln's logic, he didn't want, in other words, you know how you don't want a two-front war?

Sheldon:

Yeah.

Pete Hill:

Imagine having a five-front war.

Sheldon:

Yeah.

Pete Hill:

Then imagine where his is capital is located. Washington, D.C. What is on the border of Washington? You already got Virginia, which is already a Confederate state, to your south, and to your north, you have Maryland. That's now going to be a two-front war. "We don't want that headache." You have Kentucky, coal mines and things that the Union Army are going to need in terms of resources, and so again, there were strategic reasons as to why he could not upset those four states.

Sheldon:

Now, I got a question, and maybe ... Like I said, I got a lot of questions. This made me think about it. Lincoln was assassinated and his predecessor, Andrew Johnson, didn't he own slaves himself? Were they not in agreement with the Emancipation Proclamation, in general?

Pete Hill:

When you are the vice president, you serve at the pleasure of the president, so yes, and very, he was indeed fully onboard, but the moment Abraham Lincoln died, it's almost the opposite of what happened with Johnson when Kennedy died. When Kennedy was alive, he was the more liberal of the two. Johnson was a conservative Democrat from Texas, but when Kennedy was assassinated, it would be Johnson that gave us the '64 Civil Rights Act, '65 Voting Rights Act.

Pete Hill:

The opposite happened with Andrew Johnson. He was a pro-slavery guy from Tennessee, and he wanted white people to be in charge of the South, and so the moment Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, while he was in agreement while he was alive, the moment he died, his true self came out. That's why he was impeached by the radical Republicans, because he was trying to undo Reconstruction. Yes, it is true he was Abraham Lincoln's vice president, and it is also true, he knew that he served at the pleasure of the president.

Sheldon:

Got it, okay. Now, I just want to make sure I fully understand, again, as a history buff myself, the December 6th, 1865. Because what I'm hearing, so my understanding then basically is, was that when the 13th Amendment was ratified? Or what exactly happened on December 6th, 1865?

Pete Hill:

Good question. That is when the final state, if memory serves me correctly, Georgia gave it the two-thirds necessary for it to become an amendment to the Constitution.

Sheldon:

Got it.

Pete Hill:

Sidebar, you know when the great state of Mississippi finally got around to ratifying the 13th Amendment? 2013.

Sheldon:

Did you say 2013, or 1813, 1913?

Pete Hill:

  1. It was merely a ceremonial thing because it was already ratified. The point is, they didn't bother to even ratify it. Once Georgia did it, there was nothing they could do anyway, so it was not that important to them.

Sheldon:

Wow.

Pete Hill:

Someone pointed it out to them in 2013, "Do you realize you never ratified the 13th Amendment?" so the state legislature got around to taking care of that.

Sheldon:

Okay. Now, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments are often considered like the Civil Rights Amendments. Are there anything that we may not know about with maybe the 14th and the 15th Amendments?

Pete Hill:

Let's go back a little bit, Sheldon, when you said, "Some things we may not know about."

Sheldon:

Okay.

Pete Hill:

See, we have this tendency, when learning history disjointedly, I like to call it, that we tend to overlook or not emphasize certain things. For instance, when you hear, "The 13th Amendment freed the salves," we get this certain mental image that slaves are now free. We were free in word only. It is 1865 in Mississippi. Yesterday, you were a slave. Today, the Constitution of the United States says, "You are free," but there are no soldiers in Mississippi at this point. What do you think is happening to you on that plantation when you cannot read or write, you don't know North from South. You have no idea what an amendment is? What does that do for you?

Pete Hill:

If you are a white man who can read and write, and you know that these people can't, and you're the same person that had them in bondage all their lives, are you going to, overnight, become benevolent, or will you try to squeeze every bit of slavery out of them until the Union Army shows up? What I'm trying to convey to you, Sheldon, is we skip over, in our history class, the trauma. It's almost like being in a worse state.

Pete Hill:

See, when you're a slave, you expect to be mistreated. When you are free, you are no longer expecting to be mistreated. There's a problem. That's 1865, my friend. I said December 6th. What we talk about with December 26th, that's the date the Klu Klux Klan came into existence. Some 18 days after you were free, they came into existence to terrorize you until 1965. That's how long that reign of terror would last, but they don't make that connection in history class. What I'm trying to convey here is, imagine this time period from 1865 to 1867. Two years, you're not even a citizen.

Pete Hill:

You're like what we now call Dreamers, if you are Hispanic. Every day you wake up, you could be deported. Every day as a Negro in America, you're waking up free, but you're not a citizen. They can do anything they want to you, if they feel like it. Because remember what the 13th Amendment said about the penal system. Slavery had been eradicated, except within involuntary servitude, such as the penal system.

Pete Hill:

If you were white and Southern, how long is it going to take you to connect the dots that, "All I got to do is come up with some arbitrary arrest, and now you're back in slavery"? Hence, the Black Codes. Understand, that dead period between 1865, free, but not a citizen, until 1867, "Now you are a citizen," 14th Amendment, due process rights.

Sheldon:

Tell me more about the Black Codes.

Pete Hill:

The Black Codes became the defacto new slavery. To this day, my friend, when police see us congregating in, large numbers of Black youth, for example, instinctively, they want to break it up. That's not by happenstance. That comes from the Black Codes. Remember, the original police were slave catchers. The last time, I talked with you about how traditions happen, right?

Sheldon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Hill:

Let's just trace this back to 1865, when the Black Codes are coming into existence. They're basically coming up with vagrancy laws. If you don't have a job, they can arrest you. Then in order for you to get out of jail, you got to go back to the plantation, where they're going to conveniently give you a job. You ever heard of the term slave wages? There's a reason for that, slave wages. First of all-

Sheldon:

I didn't know a slave had wages.

Pete Hill:

That's exactly the point, my friend. It's an oxymoron. Slaves wages means, basically, you are working for free. That's what a slave wage is. Because of the Black Code, you're now working for slave wages. We ain't got to sharecropping yet. Your choice is, go to work on that plantation or stay in jail. Remember, it's not 1890 yet, so we don't have the chain gangs.

Pete Hill:

This is a horrific period to be in, between 1865 and 1867, because you're not a citizen. If somebody killed you, Sheldon, in 1865, it's like killing a dog, you're just dead. If you're not a citizen, what are they going to charge you with?

Sheldon:

I'm curious. What was the jail conditions like in 1865? Is it possible that it would have been almost better to just go to jail than to go back to the fields? Do you know anything about that?

Pete Hill:

Indeed, we do. I want you to imagine they've just arrested you, Sheldon, because you're one of them uppity Negros. You ain't picking no cotton. You've heard the 13th Amendment done freed you.

Sheldon:

Yeah.

Pete Hill:

They come pick you up in the middle of the night, out of your sleep, blindfold you and take you to the local jail. What is the option for you, my friend? You can choose to be radical, or the Klu Klux Klan can show up in the middle of the night. The Sheriff is, more likely than not, a member of the Klan, who's going to conveniently leave the jail open for these lynchers, so I'll let you decide. Do you really think it's safer to be jail? That's like putting a bullseye on you because they know exactly where you are located now, so I'm going to go with, no. Your best bet would be to conform or die.

Pete Hill:

Listen to me, my friend, lots of slaves chose death. This is the other thing they don't teach us in history, about the large number of resistance. Why do you think they had to kill so many Blacks, in terms of lynching? Because so many Blacks were being defiant. You don't have to kill compliant people. You kill defiant people, but they don't talk about that. They make it seem as if we were all, "Okay, I got it." No. There were a number of Blacks who said, "I'd rather be dead." Of course, they would give you your wish, but the point is, you took a stand.

Pete Hill:

What I'm trying to paint for you, Sheldon, is this new image in your head, when you say, "The 13th Amendment," and from this day forward, you understand that meant nothing for the Black guy. You saw no difference between Monday and Tuesday. Maybe for a history buff, it meant something. For us, you know when it really meant something? This is the crazy part. 1965. Because if you were still living in the South, up until that period, '64, '65 ...

Pete Hill:

I drove to Sunflower County, Mississippi, in 1985, Sheldon, to see a girlfriend of mine. I had no idea where Sunflower County was. I had to use the encyclopedia. They had a map of Mississippi, so I was able to drive from my county to her county using an encyclopedia, crazy as it may sound. The further I drove south, this is no joke, 1985, it was like erasing time from a clock.

Pete Hill:

By the time I reached Sunflower County, I was in 1865. No running water. They got electrical cords running from each house, it literally looked like old slave quarters, so they all could have a single light in their living room. Plastic for the windows. You could see the ground from inside the house. 1985. Can you imagine what it looked like in 1865? It was 1985. I cannot even imagine. By the way, Sunflower County was like one of the heaviest areas for slavery in Mississippi. That's known as the Delta.

Pete Hill:

I just want really want people to understand, because we just gloss over these terms. What did it really mean to be free? Imagine being a Black woman in 1865 who's free. Yesterday, the slave master could rape you at will because you was a slave woman. What do you think he can do today with the 13th Amendment? Do you think anything changed for him? The answer is, no. You were still vulnerable to his whims, even though you're now free. Remember, you don't have any rights. If he raped you, what are you going to tell the sheriff, and why would the sheriff listen to you? If you were the witness to a murder, you couldn't even serve as a witness at a trial. You're not a citizen. The 13th Amendment.

Pete Hill:

What happens, Sheldon, the radical Republicans, mainly Northerners, they understood this by 1867, "We have made these free people vulnerable to all of this mayhem." By now, they're hearing all these horror stories about the Klu Klux Klan, keeping in mind they just came into existence two years earlier. Because they now had gotten up ahead of speed, they're blatantly killing Black people just because they're asking for money for the work they're doing. Keep in mind their mindset, my friend. "I own you. You've been working for me for free since you was a little boy. Now you're going to tell me you want money?" Can you imagine that mindset?

Sheldon:

Yeah.

Pete Hill:

The Black Codes came into existence, lynching when on the rise, whippings, all kinds of horrors that we don't even know about. Here's something else we don't talk about, Sheldon. The mental health issues that Black people had to have been suffering. I told you I went to Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I say many of my fellow soldiers come back with PTSD because of the things we saw and did there.

Pete Hill:

Imagine being a slave all your life, and now you're free. The untold horrors of being a Black man with children, watching them come in the middle of the night and take your youngest son because they need him in Louisiana, but you live in Mississippi. They're not asking you, simply doing it. You know, as a Black father, you better not say a word because it could end up in your death or mutilation, where you're neutering the Black male, head of household.

Pete Hill:

Imagine the psychological damage it is for the woman, who in this timeframe, leaned on the man for everything. If you were the white woman, that was great, but imagine being a Black woman who has to lean on a Black man who has zero authority. Imagine that dynamic, mentally, but now you're free. Now, you're the breadwinner, but you have no bread to win. You're the head of the household, hungry children looking at you, "Daddy, when are we going to eat?" If you're trying to be defiant, Sheldon, and say, "I'm not working for white folks no more," these are choices you got.

Pete Hill:

Meanwhile, they're developing Black Codes. We don't talk about that in history. They gloss over it, but where's the humanity in history? For two years, you're in this condition. Now it's 1867, they passed and ratified the 14th Amendment. They've now said, "You have due process rights, and you have the right to serve on trials and juries." What do you think that did for the psychology of the local white man or woman who used to own you? They were already upset when you got free with the 13th Amendment. Now the people in Washington are telling you in Mississippi, "Not only is Sheldon free, he's a citizen now."

Pete Hill:

A friend of mine put it to me this way, Sheldon. He said, "Pete, I want you to imagine that all your life, you've been told that you were superior to a monkey. The monkey, while it may be a primate, is inferior to you in every way. Then one day you wake up and they tell you, 'Monkeys are free.' Then two years later, they tell you, 'Monkeys are citizens.'" What would that do to you, psychologically, if all your life, you've been told that monkeys are animals, and on Wednesday they tell you, "Oh, by the way, Sheldon, monkeys are humans now, and they're equal to you," what would that do to you, psychologically?

Sheldon:

Well, number one, I don't want to compare us to monkeys, however, I do understand the metaphor. If I grew up in that environment, yeah, I'd be upset. I'd be very upset.

Pete Hill:

By the way, I was not comparing us to monkeys. I said my friend gave me this example. He was just, like you said, using an analogy, if you will, if we look at the animal kingdom. Because you got to remember, Sheldon, as distasteful as it is to you and I, as so-called modern African Americans, this is distasteful to be compared to, say, a monkey and a human, right?

Sheldon:

Right.

Pete Hill:

My friend, we were considered livestock, no different than a cow, a horse, or a mule. They had auctions for us. They are now visitor destinations. I live right outside of Annapolis in Maryland, where they have a sign up for Kunta Kinte, where he landed as a young slave. As distasteful as it may be for us, we have to embrace that history so that we can ensure it doesn't go backwards.

Pete Hill:

Because we need to be aware that, as distasteful as it sounds, we don't compare ourselves to monkeys, but do not fool yourself that there weren't others who were comparing you to monkeys, because they had to justify psychologically and religiously how they could own another human, so they'd use a Bible and science. The Bible to say that it was heavenly ordained, and then science to say, "Scientifically, we've proved them to be inferior." It's not Pete Hill saying that. This is history.

Pete Hill:

We made our way to 1867. It would be another three years before the radical Republicans realized, "We freed them. We made them citizens, but if a citizen can't vote and elect people for representation, they may as well be slaves," and so they came up with the 15th Amendment, which said that based on your race, you could not be denied the right to vote.

Pete Hill:

Again, going back to the people who used to own you, "First they freed you, pissed me off. Then they made you a citizen, really pissed me off, and now they're telling me you get to vote too?" The Klu Klux Klan went into a frenzy. So much so that by 1873, in a place called Colfax, Louisiana, in a small parish there, we had what we call the Colfax Massacre of 1873.

Pete Hill:

For those who are not familiar with that, Republicans, keep in mind when I say Republican, that's like Democrats today, through a biracial electorate, they elected a governor of Louisiana who was a Republican, and the local Klan got highly upset about that, and they came and they stormed the courthouse. They massacred the people inside of that courthouse, hence the term the Colfax Massacre.

Pete Hill:

What happened here that's significant, the case made it all the way to the United State Supreme Court. At that time, I think, General Grant was now president, and he was prosecuting people under the Anti-KKK Act of 1871 and 1872, so he's using federal authority to hold the Klan accountable for their activity. Well, the United States Supreme Court, in a five-four decision, in a case called Cruikshank, 1876 is when it was decided, effectively ended Reconstruction for this region. "When things like this happen," the Court says in part, "The federal government has no authority to intervene. The state government must intervene. More so, when people are acting in this capacity, they are acting as individuals, and so unless it is the state sponsored terrorism, then there's nothing to see here, boys and girls."

Pete Hill:

That is how the KKK, they looked at them as a bunch of individuals, not as a group. They were just individuals, and as individuals, they were not representing the state, just a state government, so the Supreme Court said the federal government had no authority under the 14th Amendment, due process, to intervene, and so they overturned the conviction of the only three people who were convicted of the massacre. What that said to the South, "We have a red light to run amuck." My friends, run amuck they would until 1965.

Pete Hill:

Now, we are in 1870. By the time we get to the disputed election of 1876, we hear the word "compromise," once again. If you were driving your car and one of your tires was compromised, you're subject to a blowout. I think you would agree with me that the word "compromise" doesn't have a positive connotation. When you hear the term Compromise of 1877 as it relates to Black folks, think of your tire and being compromised. You're about to have a blowout.

Pete Hill:

Here's what happens. The North and the South get together in a smoke-filled room. It's not even a law or anything that was passed. According to history, the people in power in the North, and the people in power in the South got together, and they were trying to decide the election of 1876 because the way it was disputed, there was no constitutional remedy. They came together and decided, the South had four demands. Said, "We'll give you the presidency if you give us these four things."

Pete Hill:

"Number one, we want you to give us a budget to rebuild all of those cities you all destroyed during the Civil War, like Richmond, Virginia, number one, and Birmingham, Alabama. Number two, we want a railroad from Texas, so that we can get cotton to the market. Number three, we want a political appointment to the new cabinet. Number four," this was the most important, "We want you to get all of those Union troops out of the South so we can have home rule."

Pete Hill:

The North looked at those four demands and gave them two. "We're not going to build a doggone railroad, and we're not going to rebuild your cities. You got what you deserved. We will remove the troops, and we will appoint a postmaster from the South." That's all they got, but one thing that they got was the most deadly for Black folks, the removal of Southern troops. Now, the year before, you got the Cruikshank decision that said, basically, the Klan can run amuck because the state government has to do something about the Klan. The problem? Many members of the state government are in the Klu Klux Klan.

Pete Hill:

Kind of like if you're watching Donald Trump today, and if you are Republican, you have to pledge allegiance to Trump or you won't make it. Likewise, if you're in 1877, in state government and you're not in the Klan, you're not going to be in power. Even if you don't believe in the Klan, you got to pretend like you do or they'll bury you. Now you can see, we're already on a devastating road, Sheldon, and we're just in the year 1877.

Sheldon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Hill:

Now, the year 1876-'79, we get something known as the Exodus. You ever heard of that? You heard of the Great Migration, right?

Sheldon:

Right.

Pete Hill:

This preceded the Great Migration. It was called the Exodus of 1879. A guy by the name of Benjamin Pap Singleton, he hailed from the great state of Tennessee. He was born a slave. I want you to look at him as Don King, the boxing promoter with the big afro. He was the Don King of his day. He was promoting, Sheldon, because this guy was smart. He could read and write. You know what he read?

Pete Hill:

In 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln did something that was awesome, the Homestead Act of 1862. All you had to do, you could be a woman, a free person of any color, of any color being the operative words, if you could make it out to Kansas and the other territories, you would not get 40 acres and a mule, Sheldon, that was always a pipe dream. This was real, 162 acres. Last I did the math that is way more than 40.

Pete Hill:

Pap Singleton was telling folks in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, "For $5, I'll get you a steamboat to Kansas." You know why there's so many Black people in St. Louis to this very day? Because old Pap, shall we say, was not as scrupulous as he should have been. Pap Singleton was a salesman. He would get you to St. Louis. When they first got to St. Louis, they were welcomed with open arms, but then there was a smallpox outbreak and they blamed it on the influx of Negros coming from the South. The local population turned against them, but now they're stuck in St. Louis because they can't afford to go to Kansas. This is why, to this day, St. Louis has a large Black population.

Pete Hill:

If you ask them to trace their roots, Arkansas, Tennessee, they can trace it back to somewhere between 1876 and the peak of 1879. This was so powerful, Sheldon, that the United States Congress had an oversight committee about the Exodus of 1879. You can Google it. The South wanted to know, why was the North enticing their Black people to leave the South, because they felt, "You were trying to lower our population to decrease our number of seats in the House of Representatives," and they thought the North was doing it intentionally.

Pete Hill:

The North said to the South, "No, you created such horrible conditions in the South that the Negro is trying to escape and find a better place." The truth is in the middle. Benjamin Pap Singleton truly wanted Black folks to move from the South to what he considered the Promised Land. You got to remember, it was John Brown and the Bleeding Kansas incident, they called it our Free-Soilers. This is why Black people in 1876 through '79, they say Kansas as the Holy Land.

Pete Hill:

Here's the significance that we don't talk about. When it comes to the Great Migrations, we always talk about people leaving from the rural South to the urban North, to the New Yorks, the Baltimores, but the first migration known as the Exodus, it was moving from the rural South to rural Kansas. In other words, Pap Singleton understands what we forget today. I don't care how much money you got, Sheldon. If you don't own some property, something you can call home, you're really a poor person.

Pete Hill:

Pap Singleton wanted you to get that 162 acres so that you could own something. To this day, there's still one all Black town left in Kansas. You can go to it right now and visit. It's called Damascus. That is one of the settlements that happened because of Pap Singleton. Did you learn that in school?

Sheldon:

No, but I'm curious. All those people that came over to Kansas, who's giving them land? Where were they getting land from? How was that working out?

Pete Hill:

Yeah, they didn't get any land because of racism, but they ended up in places like Damascus, where they had to form their own little colonies, but the Homestead Act was like redlining, Even though in the writing it said one thing, the way people actually issued out the land was totally different. Had it worked the way Pap thought it would, can you imagine all of the property we would be owning in Kansas to this very day? Because of racism, it didn't work that way, so many of those Blacks moved back to St. Louis because even though it was segregated, they felt safer there.

Sheldon:

I do want to ... Especially in Kansas, there's a lot of indigenous tribes out there whose land had already been taken, so I always worry, when we start talking about 167-something acres per family or whatnot, where is that coming from? Are we taking it from our indigenous communities?

Pete Hill:

That was the point. Manifest Destiny. Remember that term?

Sheldon:

Yeah.

Pete Hill:

Abraham Lincoln was enticing, basically, it was immigrants coming in from places like Northern Europe. That's why they have all those Northern Europe names to this very day like Denmark. They named their towns after European cities. What he was asking them to do was to come and usurp the Native Americans. "If you can occupy the land, then we can bring in the military and say we're defending Americans," so you're exactly right in your assumptions.

Pete Hill:

Remember, Pap Singleton had a different idea than Abraham Lincoln, but it was going to be the same result. If he was getting 162 acres, who was he getting it from? Because somebody was already living on that land. Kansas itself is the name of a tribe. Topeka is the name of a tribe. You are 100% correct in your observations.

Sheldon:

Okay. I want to go back to the 15th Amendment, because what came out. Because when I think about 15th Amendment, then I think about the 19th Amendment, which is, I believe, that's the Suffrage Amendment. With the 15th Amendment, was it just the men, Negro men that were allowed to vote? Clarify that a little bit for us.

Pete Hill:

That was so devastating for white women, the 15th Amendment, because as you pointed out, it only gave the right to vote to Black men in 18 ... The 15th Amendment, rather. If you were a white, suffrage woman, Susan B. Anthony and people of that ilk, you were out with Frederick Douglass begging for Black people, men and women, to get the right to vote. Well, when they passed the 15th Amendment, the racism in the white women Suffrage Movement came to the fore. They were highly upset. In fact, there was some language to the effect of, "How dare you give the Negro man the right to vote before the white, educated woman." In fact, I want to say they used the term, "Illiterate Negro."

Pete Hill:

Now, let's just be honest. If I was in her position, the white woman, I cannot imagine not feeling similar that, "You gave yourself the right to vote. I produced you as a white mother. I'm here for you as a white wife, or a white sister, and you're going to give the Black man the right to vote before me?" Now, I'm not saying we can justify that frame of thought. I'm just telling you that's how they felt.

Pete Hill:

You would be correct when you mentioned the difference between the 15th and the 19th Amendments. I would also argue that the white woman got the right to vote by 1920 with the 19th Amendment, but the Black woman would suffer, again, for about another what, 90 something years, until 1965, before she would finally be able to vote freely.

Sheldon:

Then my question is, with the Suffrage Movement and the 19th Amendment, was that for women or for certain women for the right?

Pete Hill:

That's a good question. That was for white women. In fact, I want to say Ida B. Wells came from the great state of Illinois, at the time when they were marching on Washington, one of the largest, non-violent mass protests was when women, long before there was a march on Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, white women had the largest march on record at the time. Ida B. Wells inserted herself, you can see her in pictures.

Pete Hill:

She demanded to walk with the white delegation from Illinois. They didn't want her there. Because, see, you got to understand that the white women argument, and I'm not justifying it, I'm just repeating it, "We're not trying to challenge segregation." You got to remember segregation's still here. There's no Brown v. Board of Education, so all of these dynamics are in play from the white woman's perspective.

Pete Hill:

When it came to women suffrage, they're telling Black women, "You got to wait your turn because right now, you're asking us to do two different things, give women the right to vote and end segregation. We don't have that much power. Let's do one thing at a time." That sounds great if you're the white woman, not so great if you're the Black woman. That's the dynamics that were in play that we don't get taught in our history books.

Pete Hill:

It comes across, as a young student, "Oh, women, all inclusive, got the right to vote." Then, as a young Black woman, as you continue to advance your own knowledge about history, you realize, "Wait a minute. Well, if that's the case, why is Fannie Lou Hamer so upset in 1964, and advocating for a '65 Voting Rights Act?" That's a good point.

Sheldon:

Black women just got the right to vote about 60 years ago.

Pete Hill:

That's exactly right. Just to show you how crazy it is, Sheldon, I was born in 1964. That means my mother could not vote the year I was born. She's now 84 years old. People act as if this is ancient history. My mother is a living relic of the fact that for the first ... The voting age, it wasn't 18 back then, you got to remember that also. When she turned voting age, which I think was 25 or 26 at the time, she was just now being able to vote.

Pete Hill:

My father would have been a better example. Even though he had the 15th Amendment, and he was in Mississippi in 1964, you think he could vote? Not live and tell about it, but this is not ancient history. We agreed on the title, Things I Didn't Learn in High School, I believe it was, or in history class. Sheldon, I can't remember the exact title. The point here is, as you can see, and I know we only have 30 minutes or so to talk today, but in this short 30 minutes, we haven't even got deep into the things that we haven't learned, Sheldon. For instance, Maceo Snipes should be a household name. You ever heard of Maceo Snipes?

Sheldon:

No. I want to learn. We got time. Go for it.

Pete Hill:

Maceo Snipes, I'm jumping way ahead because you asked me about voting rights, so it's all connected. He served in the Philippines during World War II, honorably. He was discharged in 1946, the same year that the Supreme Court ruled all white primaries are illegal. Maceo Snipes had the unmitigated gall to go register to vote in Georgia. They came to his house on a Sunday evening after church, shot him in front of his mother.

Pete Hill:

The doctor said he would have survived but because there was no Colored hospital near, and the white doctor didn't Negro patients with blood, he literally bled to death from something that was completely preventable. This man survived Japanese bullets and bayonets in World War II. He died exercising his right to vote. Maceo Snipes.

Pete Hill:

A young 17-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was attending Morehouse University at the time, in 1946. He was so upset by what he saw, he wrote an article called Kicking Up Dust that was published in the local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Was his first article written at age 17, where he mentions the death of Maceo Snipes. These are little things that they don't emphasize in history class because it makes certain people look bad.

Pete Hill:

This is why I say for those who argue, "Should we our shouldn't we teach critical race theory?" Why do you want to give a right-wing a shiny object to chase after? How about we just teach history in its proper context? When you do that, you then get the understanding, "You never gave Black women the psychological treatment they needed when you passed the 13th Amendment."

Pete Hill:

When you teach history, you teach that when Black soldiers were told by Woodrow Wilson in 1917, "We're going to go make the world safe for democracy," yet he deployed soldiers in 1918, and he didn't even have the common decency to allow these Black soldiers to serve in the uniform of their country. If you see the 369th Hellfighters from Harlem, highly decorated soldiers by the French Army, receiving the equivalent of the Medal of Honor, they're wearing little pointy hats. Those are not American uniforms, they are French.

Pete Hill:

These are little things that we should know about. I'm going to tell you how devastating this can be to a little Black child. All my life, Sheldon, I'd wanted to be a solider but I had never seen a Black officer on TV, in a book I read. Everything was always an enlisted man. Now, as a young me, I'm now forced to believe Black men cannot be officers, and so when I enlisted in the military, I never once thought about becoming an officer. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking down the street, and I look up and I see a Black captain. I almost lose my mind because I did not think Black men could be officers, because that's how I'd been conditioned just watching television and reading books.

Pete Hill:

Another little known fact of history. I want to say it was Spielberg who did Saving Private Ryan, one of the best military movies about D-Day ever. They ask him, "Why didn't you cast any Black soldiers on D-Day?" He defiantly responded, "Because there were no Black people there." Yet, hidden in plain sight, every picture you ever see of D-Day, you see these huge balloons floating over the beaches with these cables hanging down. The purpose of those cables were to clip the wings of the German planes so they would spiral out of control and crash.

Pete Hill:

The men holding those cables at the bottom were Black men, on D-Day. You got pictures of them, but you act as if they weren't there. All Black unit led by white men. They stormed the beaches at the same time with white people. Sergeant Waverly Woodson operated for 36 hours after being shot in his buttocks, refusing medical care. He was put in for the Medal of Honor for his service on D-Day, and to this day, he's never received it. He finally died in 2004 or '06, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yet, the young Black me thought that there were no heroes that looked like me on D-Day.

Pete Hill:

I tell people in my day job, which is equity, diversity, and inclusion, that these images, as a young child, matter. Imagine all of the young girls who never saw hidden figures, so they didn't aspire to be scientists because they didn't think Black women could be scientists. Imagine all the little Black boys, like me, who wanted to be military officers but never saw any examples. I learned about Sergeant York, a Medal of Honor winner. Never heard about Sergeant Waverly Woodson.

Pete Hill:

Now, if two little kids are talking, Sheldon, one Black and one white. The white kid is talking about the exploits of his granddaddy in World War II, and how he stormed the beaches. Then he looks at the Black kid and say, "What were Black men doing during that day?" What would that little child be able to say, based on history? This is how devastating this is when we don't know history.

Pete Hill:

Who's not being inspired to do something great because they saw nobody who did it before them, that reminds them of themselves? The power of imagery. Famous people always say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." This is the point I'm making. "If I can see it, I can be it."

Sheldon:

Pete, for folks like me who want to learn even more, because like you said, we're just scratching the surface when it comes to history that we didn't know about, where would I go? What books do you recommend, maybe some scholarly work? What are some places that we could find more information?

Pete Hill:

The number one book I would ask every American, irrespective of their color, J.A. Rogers, From "Superman" to Man. In this book, Sheldon, there's a conversation going on between a Black porter and a white senator from Oklahoma. It's a fictitious conversation. In this book, all the things we hear about today about, for example, whites being superior, intellectually, to Blacks. The porter, he's defending the Black race.

Pete Hill:

Every time the white senator comes up with something that he's heard in the news, or some scientific knowledge he's aware of, the Black guy shoots him down using facts. Keep in mind, he wrote this book in 1925. It is awesome. From "Superman" to Man. J.A. Rogers, a self-called historian from Jamaica. He was so white-skinned, Sheldon, he could pass for white, and so he was able to travel all over the world and come back with artifacts that demonstrated the proudness of the Black man and woman throughout history.

Pete Hill:

In other words, what me and you are doing today, it's what he was doing at the same time Carter G. Woodson was coming up with Negro History Week, 1926. J.A. Rogers had already been traveling around the world picking up different artifacts, pictures, et cetera. In that book, he's making such a forceful argument about the Black person's true place in not just American history, but world history. J.A. Rogers, From "Superman" to Man.

Pete Hill:

One other book I would highly recommend, it's not even a book, it's a name, Benjamin Franklin Butler. We always talk about white Southerners and their statues, and all of this stuff, but we don't talk about the white men who were the true heroes to the Black community. You never learned about Benjamin Franklin Butler, but you should. Google that guy. Every Black person should know Benjamin Franklin Butler.

Pete Hill:

The number one thing he did, 15 Black men received a Medal of Honor for their service in the Civil War thanks to Benjamin Franklin Butler. 15, the largest number of awards in one war to this day. Prior to them receiving those awards, Benjamin Franklin Butler went to New York City and personally purchased awards for his men, because of racism.

Pete Hill:

He wanted them to be honored for the valor they showed in the Civil War, so out of his own pocket, you can Google it, the Butler Medal. They have, what do you call it? Not relics, but imitation medals you can buy. In fact, the last known one is at Xavier University in Louisiana. They have an actual Butler Medal that's still in existence, an actual one that somebody died and donated to the University.

Pete Hill:

Benjamin Franklin Butler. He made a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about those Black men he served with. If you are remotely human, it'll bring a tear to your eye. Now, I'm not a crier. Former drill sergeant in the United States Army, a bully by trade, as they say, but I had to shed a tear or two, Sheldon, when I read his reverence that he showed for those Black men that he served with, on the floor of the House of United States Representatives. What he was arguing for that day was the very first Civil Rights Act, long before 1964. Civil Rights Act, I believe, of 1877 or so.

Pete Hill:

In order to talk about it, he's mentioning the valor of these Black men and why they deserve, more so than the white Confederates who tried to destroy the Union, the protections of the federal government. It's powerful. Yet, we hear about the Gettysburg Address. We hear about speeches made by General MacArthur, "I shall return. This day shall live in infamy," yet we cannot quote a single word of Benjamin Franklin Butler. When you get a chance, Google his speech on the floor of the House about the Black soldiers he served with. I'm going to send you a link to it.

Sheldon:

Yeah, please.

Pete Hill:

That's all I have, my friend.

Sheldon:

That's all you got. Okay, okay. We're going to have to do a part two because, like you said, we're just getting started. Pete, if we've got some folks that want to reach out to you, what's the best way to connect with you online?

Pete Hill:

Sadly, I'm in the Dark Ages. All I got is my Gmail. If you want to reach out to me and invite me to do a speaking engagement, which I do, you can reach me at [email protected] I've done speeches at churches, at universities, at federal government, and so same way I'm talking to you now, Sheldon, is how I do my lectures. I just break things down for people.

Pete Hill:

When we do part two, Sheldon, what I hope we get a chance to do is talk about how these things have impacted life in 2021, because nothing is new. The same things that we're talking about in the barbershop today, namely police brutality, living wages. Remember, I talked about slave wages?

Sheldon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Hill:

None of this information is new. If our great, great-granddaddies could talk to you and I right now, you know what they would say? "Boy, y'all haven't solved those problems yet?"

Sheldon:

Well, we'll do a part two, man. We'll talk after we get done recording. We'll schedule something because I want to bring you back on again. I'm very partial to history. I love learning about history, so I appreciate your time. Thank you so much, Pete, for everything.

Pete Hill:

It's been my pleasure, as I said in the beginning, Sheldon.

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