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BLACKHEAD SIGNPOST ROAD:

And Other Signs of Sincere Ignorance and Conscientious Stupidity  

 

               On August 21, 1831, in Southampton Virginia, Reverend Nat Turner led a slave rebellion during which slaves killed more than 50 Whites.  Whites killed more than 200 slaves and/or former slaves.  During this horrific episode, some Whites burned, maimed and tortured slaves in various ways including beheading them and placing the slaves’ heads on posts.  From the latter practice came the name Blackhead Signpost Road.  

The existence of Blackhead Signpost Road as well as more than 700 Confederate monuments demonstrate that we are not “…a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."   As New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu noted, “We must always remember our history and learn from it.  But that doesn’t mean we must valorize the ugliest chapters, as we do when we put the Confederacy on a pedestal — literally — in our most prominent public places.  The record is clear: New Orleans’s Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were erected with the goal of rewriting history to glorify the Confederacy and perpetuate the idea of white supremacy. These monuments stand not as mournful markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in reverence of it. They are an inaccurate recitation of our past, an affront to our present and a poor prescription for our future.” 

 In my opinion, the resistance to changing the name of Blackhead Signpost Road and the removal of Confederate monuments are signs of what Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he stated, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”  What else are we to think when maintaining Confederate monuments has “…been embraced or embellished by the right-wing neo-Confederate movement which calls the Civil War ‘the War of Southern Independence;’ advocates Confederate doctrines such as secession and legislative nullification; and longs for the day of white Christian cultural and political dominance…”  (Rick Hampson, May 17, 2017 USA Today).  

Clinging to Blackhead Signpost Road emerges from the same mentality that contributed to some Harvard University first-year admits using the social media to post memes that mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust, as well as racial and ethnic groups.  One student was so insensitive that he named a hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child ‘piñata time.’  Fortunately, Harvard officials got it right and rescinded the offending students’ admissions.

               The 2017 War for Independence Day would be an excellent time for leaders throughout the country to act affirmatively as did President Ronald Reagan during his 1987 Berlin speech when he stated, “…General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  Let us with all deliberate speed tear down the American walls that were built on the sandy foundations of homophobia, misogyny, religious intolerance, racism, sexism, and xenophobia. 

Let 2017 be the year that [1] Southampton takes down Blackhead Signpost Road; [2] Pittsburgh earnestly addresses changing the names of streets, buildings and rooms named for former slave holders such as Presley Neville, John McKee, and Isaac Craig; [3] Baltimore decides to remove its Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Confederate Women's Monument, and the Roger B. Taney Monument; and [4] we begin the systematic renaming of the more than 100 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and other traitors.   

As Margaret Walker poetically put the matter, it is time to “Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. ...Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth.” 

 

Jack L. Daniel

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media

June 26, 2017

 

 

 

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