From the Cotton Field to the Football Field ©

            As I was watching the BSC title game, last night, between the “Crimson Tide” (red states) and the “Fighting Irish” (blue states), my mind went back to 1969.  I was a law student at the University of Georgia, a proud member of the SEC.  The University of Alabama is also a member of the SEC.  They were and still are fierce rivals in football.

            In 1969, “Bob” Benham and I traveled to Tuscaloosa, AL, the home of the “Crimson Tide” to attend a poverty conference.  Today, President Barack Obama says that he only represents the middle class.  In law schools, our sights had been set on representing the poor. Both Cong. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. were advocates for the poor.  Only, the Freedom Party seeks to represent the poor today.

            Bob was the second Black law student to be admitted to the University of Georgia. He would become chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.  Chester Davenport was the first Black law student admitted to the University of Georgia.  He would become a millionaire. I would break the mold.

            After Bob and I had traveled to Tuscaloosa, we registered at a Holiday Inn.  This was five years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  We were having breakfast when the county sheriff walked into the hotel’s restaurant and saw us having breakfast.  He asked the hostess, “What’s those two niggers doing sitting in this restaurant”?  I would connect the dots later.

            On June 11, 1963, the federalized National Guard had to escort two Black students for enrollment at the University of Alabama while Gov. George Wallace was standing in its door.  The next day, Medgar Evers was assassinated on the front lawn of his home in Jackson, MS in retaliation for the enrollment of two Black students at Alabama and for his exercise of First Amendment rights over a Jackson, MS television station.

            Also, on June 12, 1963, Dr. William A. Jones and others used civil disobedience to oppose discrimination in building trade unions in New York City in addition to discrimination in employment, housing and education.  Malcolm X would personally witness a rally at the historic Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

            After the end of the first day of the poverty conference, some white girls invited the Black, male, law students to a party at one of their homes in Tuscaloosa.  I refused to attend the party but I did drive some of these northern law students to it.  Apparently, these law students had never heard of Emmett Till and the “Scottsboro Boys”.

            When I arrived back at the hotel, I received a frantic phone call from Alvin Chambliss, who was a law student at Howard University and who grew up in Mississippi.  A lynch mob was outside his hotel door.  This was an old-style hotel. There were no hallways.  There was a picture window in each room.

            Bob was in the shower.  When I hollered and told him of Chambliss’ predicament, he apparently got stuck in the bathroom.  My involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was half and half.  I agreed with eradicating unjust laws but I did sit-ins in Newnan, GA alone in 1963.  I was “armed to the teeth”.

            When I enrolled at the University of Georgia, I was always strapped with a handgun under my dashiki.  The Cobb brothers had founded the law school.  They were the leading authorities on the slave codes and the legal architects of the Confederate States of America. Whites adhere to the teachings of their ancestors.

            Because Bob had gotten stuck in the bathroom, I knew that I had to confront this lynch mob alone.  As I was approaching Chambliss’ room, I heard a member of the white mob say, “break the window and let’s go in there and get this nigger”.  I immediately started shooting.  While the mob was re-assembling, we were hauling our “assets” out of Alabama.

            In  1970, Paul “Bear” Bryant, the patron saint of football in the South, was feeling good about himself.  He had enjoyed four years of football at the “Crimson Tide” with Joe “Willie” Namath at the helm.  Recruiting white football players from the North, he believed, would be his recipe for continued success.

            This notion was short-lived, however.  In September 1970, the “Crimson Tide” had scheduled a heralded football game with the “USC Trojans”.  On this day, they should have also called Sam “The Bam” Cunningham, “Crazy Legs” Cunningham.  He went crazy on the all-white team from Alabama.

            Bryant had seen enough.  He went back in history and dug out the Emancipation Proclamation.  This was a war measure and, in  1970, the South was and still is at war. Unlike his ancestors, he would remove the “Cotton Curtain” from the football stage.  “Niggers” would have to start carrying the “pig skin”” on the gridiron.  They had already carried bales of cotton on the plantation.

            White colleges in the South refused to admit Black athletes until the 1970’s.  After receiving benefits from lowering the “Cotton Curtain”, the South has not looked back.  The NCAA was the ultimate beneficiary.  It still bans athletes from engaging in collective bargaining and exercising leverage.  This mirrors the plight of Blacks in politics.

            The Crimson Tide, financially, is structured like any plantation in the antebellum South.  Lou Saban, the football coach, receives at least 5 million dollars annually.  The rest of the “loot” is divided up between the university and the NCAA.  The football players are barred from receiving any financial compensation.

            Since this is a “War Between Political Parties” the Republican Party should take some lessons from Paul  “Bear” Bryant.  “Plantation politics” will not only work for the Democratic Party but also for the Republican Party until Blacks alter their mindset.  Blacks are not only caught in the middle but they also hold the “balance of power”.

            Blacks must not allow history to repeat itself.  When we vacated the plantation in 1863,  we had no destination in mind.  We left as individuals and not as a group.  Zebras, for example, know the danger of going through the jungle as individuals.  The exercise of natural rights also requires group action.

            In addition to group action, there must also be the right to bargain as a group and to exercise leverage.  There must be our intent to change the political system.  “Plantation politics”, as a system, started in New York in 1799.  Blacks would be fully emancipated in 1827 but the “badge of slavery” s till continues until today.

            By 1827, the system had been completed.  Black voters, leading Blacks and Black selected officials in New York, are still clueless today.  The operative word is “gradual”.  We have gone from chattel slavery to “plantation politics”.  This means that Blacks are shooting blanks while whites are given the necessary political tools to shoot “bullets”.  It is a constructive “timocracy”  for Blacks versus a democracy for whites.

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