OPEN LETTER TO DR. HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR.
September 2, 2009
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Professor
Dear Dr. Gates:
It is with a great deal of consternation that I write this open letter to you in reference to a set of mis-information that you continue to promulgate to the Black Community: During your receipt of the Louis Sullivan Award at the Kennedy Center, you alleged that there are no Black and Indian family lineages amongst African Americans in the US. That is totally bogus, incorrect and inappropriate.
As a native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and of Black and Indian heritage, I was highly insulted. Where do you get off making such a statement? My great grand parents, grand parents, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, aunts, and a host of friends are all proud of our American Indian (native American for those who want to be “politically“ correct), bloodlines with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chikasaw, Seminole, Creek, Crowe and other nations.
Your allegations are especially offensive and insulting to those of us who have grown up personally knowing our relatives intimately; just as they are also likewise offensive to those who know they have “Indian in their family,” though it may have been generations back.
Of course we are cognizant of the great rape of Africans by whites that gave us the variations in pigmentation that has caused us to be called “children of the rainbow.” There are probably those who have both Caucasian and Native American bloodlines, too. The difference being that the relations between Blacks and Indians started out as symbiotic -- with Indians helping slaves escape from whites. Even when Indians "owned" slaves, they generally ended up marrying them after a year or two.
I expected better from you, because you hold yourself out as being a master scholar in Black history. However, even with your considerable amount of learning, knowledge, and accomplishments, you are not qualified to deny the heritage that has so long been a part of my family and countless thousands of others here in the US. And truly, it’s not like anyone is escaping the oppression of racism by being either Black or Indian. Both of us have suffered greatly through disrespect, deprivation, and genocide.
African American/Indians (descendents of Freedmen) are currently embroiled in a racist dispute in Oklahoma at the hands of a Cherokee mixed-breed (white and Indian) who is trying to deny our heritage. It seems to have stemmed from the fact that considerable sums of monies are pouring in at the casinos, and they don’t want to include the Blacks who helped make it possible. Yet another divide and conquer issue.
Even with this letter that I am forwarding to your attention, I have no intention of getting embroiled in a long term harangue with you, my brother. We saw that between Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois, which served to keep us from saving Africa from an additional 70 years of colonialism. So, while I personally consider your assertion arrogant and ignorant, it really is your opinion, and the facts belie your erroneous statements. I think it would best serve us all if you refrain from making such allegations, because people are relying to their detriment on your expertise.
I recommend that take a visit to Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Olkmulgee, Guthrie, MacAllister, Anadarko (Oklahoma had 27 all Black Towns), and meet some of those people you claim do not exist. My brother and mother, as well as several classmates still reside there, and they would be more than happy to take you around.
In fact, as a family, we’ve been there for quite some time, since the Trail of Tears in the 1830’s; through the Oklahoma Land Grab (also known as the Oklahoma Run); through statehood in 1907 where they installed the jim crow laws; through the riots on so-called Black Wall Street,where we kicked their butts; through the dust bowls, where we hung in and continued to thrive; through the sit-ins and NAACP youth council, where we marched for equality; through the bombing of the Murrah Building, and we are still standing.
We have Black/Indian heroes who have led us through the Civil War and Civil Rights. We have produced wonderful people like John Hope Franklin, Nathan Hare, Rafer Johnson, Ralph Ellison, among others. Additionally, I am recommending some books for you to review: Staking a Claim: Jake Simmons and the Making of an African- American Oil Dynasty Jonathan D. Greenberg; Black Indians by William Loren Katz.
You also might want to watch a PBS documentary: “How the West Was Lost.” These are just a couple of the many resources you can look up to enlighten yourself about our American Indian heritage and ancestry. I truly recommend that you avail yourself of the info, for you own enlightenment as well as the edification of the people you interact with.
I appreciate your programs and the productions you have developed to inform and enlighten the world about the viability of Black people and our heritage. I would hope that you use that same professionalism in this instance as well.
Thank you and Stay Blessed
OPEN LETTER TO DR. HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.