Debunking a Myth: The Irish Were Not Slaves, Too


This 1908 photograph of fishermen in the parish of St. John, Barbados, is often used to illustrate memes that falsely claim Irish people were slaves in colonial America. Courtesy nytimes

It has shown up on Irish trivia Facebook pages, in Scientific American magazine, and on white nationalist message boards: the little-known story of the Irish slaves who built America, who are sometimes said to have outnumbered and been treated worse than slaves from Africa.

But it’s not true.

Historians say the idea of Irish slaves is based on a misreading of history and that the distortion is often politically motivated. Far-right memes have taken off online and are used as racist barbs against African-Americans. “The Irish were slaves, too,” the memes often say. “We got over it, so why can’t you?”

A small group of Irish and American scholars has spent years pushing back on the false history. Last year, 82 Irish scholars and writers signed an open letter denouncing the Irish slave myth and asking publications to stop mentioning it. Some complied, removing or revising articles that referenced the false claims, but the letter’s impact was limited.

Read the entire article here

Read more Breaking News here

Google partners with Howard University to develop future black engineers

From: The Grio

Recently, Google announced the beginning of a new program partnered with Howard University. The new program is part of an effort to recruit more young black minds and promote greater diversity in the engineering industry.

As The Grio writes in their article,Howard has opened a campus at the Googleplex, called Howard West, ‘a physical space on campus where Howard students and Googlers can grow together,’ and hopefully will encourage diversity in a field that sorely needs it.”from Google/Justin Sullivan via Good Black News

from Google/Justin Sullivan via Good Black News

This program stands as a step in the right direction, advancing the diversification of Silicon Valley while investing in the futures of young black men and women. Google has hopes to expand the program to other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

To read more about the program, or for more information on Howard University and Google’s new partnership, head here.

Read more about the importance of community diversification and understanding past-to-present racial segregation here.

A More Abundant Share — The Future Of Food Is Black

From: The Huffington Post: Black Voices 

Authored By: Shakirah Simley

“When Life Gives You Lemons” by Kohshin Finley

In the article “A More Abundant Share – The Future Of Food Is Black,” Shakirah Simley explains how food symbolizes deep cultural connections, generational ties to family, and acts as a symbol of power. The good food movement is the idea that, “In a very real sense, the future of food is people. And that future looks a lot like me: a young, black woman, hungry for change.”

According to Simley, the food industry can be found at the root of many issues in society: “When Black and Native American farmers faced decades of systemic bias in access to capital and credit and land loss from the USDA – it’s a food problem.” Simley describes how the “good food movement” has been ignored and pushed away for years because, “our national good food obsession can curate Instagrams of oozing sandwich stacks higher than black folks’ restaurant wages.” However, this movement goes hand in hand with the, “understanding that food injustice parallels racial injustice.”

Efforts have begun to counter this issue, Simley says, “We’re unapologetically disrupting white-dominated artisan food industries and leading our own kitchens.” This article works to repair the food system that for too long has been focused on white based communities.

Read more Breaking News from ABHM here!

To read the full article, check out Huffington Post: Black Voices!

“Black Nativity” by Langston Hughes – December 10-13, 2015

The Black Arts Think Tank in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, presents Black Nativity, a musical by renown poet Langston Hughes, at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, December 10-12, 2015. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 8.15.29 AMTickets are available in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 North Water St, Milwaukee or by phone at 414-273-7206.

Groups 10+ SAVE! Call 414-273-7121 ext. 210.

Black Nativity is a retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast. Traditional Christmas carols are sung in gospel style, with a few songs created specifically for the show. Originally written by Langston Hughes, the show was first performed Off-Broadway on December 11, 1961, and was one of the first plays written by an African American to be staged there. The show had a successful tour of Europe in 1962, one of its appearances being at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in ItalyBlack Nativity is a holiday favorite around the country. It has been performed annually in BostonMassachusetts, since 1969 and since 1998 in Seattle, Washington.

Milwaukee’s production is co-presented by the Marcus Center and the Black Arts Think Tank (a coalition of the Ko-Thi Dance Company, African American Children’s Theater, and Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company).

For a taste of the upcoming production, watch rehearsals and meet the actors below:

Yes, It Is Rocket Science, and African Americans Are Doing It

These 11 African Americans are leaders in their STEM fields, from video game technology to space exploration, setting an example for the kind of professional achievement that is possible.

By Nigel Roberts, The Root


Stem jobs1. African Americans are missing out on the tech boom. Job creation in science, technology, engineering and math—known as STEM—career fields is expected to significantly outpace (pdf) that of non-STEM jobs well into the future. But black students are earning just a handful of STEM-related degrees. The reasons they lag behind include a mix of “self-doubt, stereotypes, discouragement and economics.” With another school year under way, we need to emphasize math and science as an academic foundation to guarantee good jobs for these students. While some of the job titles may sound daunting, the faces behind those titles prove that our young people have plenty of role models.

Edward Tunstel

2. Edward Tunstel, Robotics Engineer

Have you heard the (joking) prediction that robots will be doing all our jobs some day? Well, Edward Tunstel may have something to do with that. Tunstel is a senior roboticist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. His expertise includes robot navigation and the use of behavior-based controllers to enable robots to react to their environment. He recently served on the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers project as a flight-systems engineer. Robotic engineering attracts innovative thinkers with backgrounds in mechanical, electrical and computer-software engineering.




3. Kamilah Taylor, Software Developer

Software developers write, edit and test computer programs that have an impact on nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Employment in this field is projected to grow 22 percent by 2022. Kamilah Taylor is a senior software engineer at LinkedIn who works on the flagship LinkedIn iOS mobile app. She’s helping to build the “next big thing” for the company…





Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Traces of the Trade: The North’s Complicity in Slavery

Griot: Reggie Jackson

Photo Editor: Fran Kaplan



Most Americans learn that slavery was a southern institution, but in fact, many enslaved Africans were held and worked in the North. Many northern industries and businesses–shipbuilding, ports, banks, insurance companies, textile mills–were dependent on slave labor in both the North and South. Northern consumers were dependent on the products of this slave labor for food, clothing, and amenities like ivory piano keys.

In this exhibit, you will learn about the significant complicity of the northern states in the slave trade, slave labor, and slave-made products in the history of the United States.

For a brief introduction, you can watch the trailer for Traces of the Trade: A Story of the Deep North. The movie traces the journey by members of DeWolf family to explore the origins of their family’s wealth. The DeWolf family owned the largest slave trading business in the country, headquartered in Rhode Island. The full documentary can be obtained here.

Here you can hear a full public lecture by the authors of the book Complicity: How The North Promoted, Prolonged, And Profited From Slavery.

By Us, For Us: The Crucial Role of the Black Press

Griot: Fran Kaplan, EdD

The black press has played a vital role, both in advancing the ideals of American democracy and in supporting African American identity and culture.

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm, editors of the first African American newspaper, Freedom's Journal.

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm, editors of the first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal.

The first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans, Freedom’s Journal, was founded in New York City in 1827 by Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men. They appointed community activists Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm as editors. The goal of Freedom’s Journal was to oppose New York newspapers that demeaned blacks and supported slavery. (New York state’s economy depended on slavery, because its textile mills processed southern cotton, which accounted for half its exports.)

In the first issue of Freedom’s Journal, Cornish and Russwurm declared, “Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations.” Their second objective was to build a common African American identity through “the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race.”

Ida B. Wells

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the USA, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.

Freedom’s Journal had subscribers in eleven states and Washington D.C., and in Canada, Europe, and Haiti. The paper covered local, national, and international events. The paper also celebrated the achievements of African Americans. Its editorials spoke out against injustice and debated controversial issues such as the resettlement of free blacks from the U.S. in Liberia in West Africa.

This tradition of crusading journalism was continued by black abolitionists like David Walker (An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World) and Frederick Douglass (North Star). Ida B. Wells, who was born a slave, became one of the first American women to own a newspaper (The Free Speech and Headlight, in Memphis, TN). She also wrote for other newspapers, both black and white-owned. Her investigative pamphlets that analyzed and fought against lynchings and Jim Crow are still used today (Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record).

One of the longest running black newspapers, the California Eagle was founded in 1879 by a former slave, John J. Neimore, for African American migrants arriving from the South. The paper would serve Los Angeles, California, for eighty-five years. Upon Neimore’s death, his employee, Charlotta Bass, bought and ran the paper. Bass was an activist for social justice inside and outside of her newspaper. The pages of the Eagle campaigned for the abolition of enforced segregation though racial covenants, increased participation of African Americans in politics at all levels, and the patronizing of black businesses by blacks as a matter of principle under the slogan “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work.”

Charlotta Bass published the California Eagle in Los Angeles. An ardent worker for human rights, she was the first African American woman as a candidate for US Vice-President.

Charlotta Bass published the California Eagle in Los Angeles. An ardent worker for human rights, she was the first African American woman as a candidate for US Vice-President.

Charlotta Bass also helped found and run such community institutions as Industrial Business Council to fight employment discrimination in such important companies as LA Rapid Transit, Southern Telephone, and the Boulder Dam. She served as co-president of the LA chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, as director of the NAACP’s Youth Movement, and national chair of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice (a black women’s organization that protested racial violence). She was a pioneer of multiracial struggle, fighting for the release of Chicanos (Mexican Americans) convicted of murder by an all-white jury. In 1952, Bass became the first African-American woman to run for Vice President, as a candidate of the Progressive Party.

Racial discrimination in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois prevented law school graduate Robert S. Abbott from practicing his profession, so in 1905 he founded The Chicago Defender. He built it into the most widely circulated, powerful, and successful black-owned newspaper of all time. Abbott employed talented writers, among them Gwendolyn Brooks, Walter White, and Langston Hughes. When white newspaper distributers refused to circulate The Defender in the South, he created his own clever “underground” network: African-American railroad porters who secretly carried his paper around the county  on trains.

Robert S. AbbottThe paper’s slogan was “American race prejudice must be destroyed.”  Abbott’s other goals included the opening up of trade unions, government jobs, and police forces to African American workers. The Chicago Defender provided firsthand coverage of the series of white race riots known as the Red Summer Riots of 1919. The paper is credited with stimulating the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities by publishing migrants’ stories, describing the North as a place of prosperity and justice, showing pictures of Chicago, and running classified ads for housing. The Chicago Defender continues to be published today at

Many African American newspapers declined during the late 1950s and 1960s, during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, because white-owned papers had finally began to hire black journalists and compete for black readers. Today you can get a variety of African American news and views on such issues as anti-black violence or reparations from such outspoken journalists as Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic), Charles Blow (New York Times), and Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC) working in “mainstream” media.


A newspaper boy selling the Chicago Defender.

The good news is that the black press is alive and well. It continues to play a crucial role in our racially divided society. Its vital discourse with the public–locally, nationally, and internationally–is conducted through print, broadcast, and online media. Whether they work in black-owned and operated media or in the black perspectives sections of white-owned media, African American journalists offer a corrective balance to how issues and images are commonly represented in white outlets.

Each week America’s Black Holocaust Museum selects articles and broadcasts about current events from the outlets listed below and posts them to our Breaking News blog.


A Very Short List of National Black Press Outlets

Ebony Magazine's print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Ebony Magazine’s print cover for August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.


Jet Magazine

Ebony (also in print)

Essence (also in print)

In Print

Black News Directory (A listing of dozens of some of the 200+ black publications published in the USA – from the American Legacy Magazine to Hip Hop Weekly.)

National Newspaper Publishers Association (and links to member papers of the NNPA black press in each state)


Black Perspectives Sections within White-Owned/Operated Media

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and '60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and ’60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Shadow and Act (on Cinema of the African Diaspora)

Huffington Post Black Voices 

NY Times Black Culture and History section

National Radio:





IreneMorganBlack Press in Milwaukee, Wisconsin





ABHM featured on Milwaukee Public Television

It’s not every museum you can visit from the comfort of your own home!

In this week’s Black Nouveau program, MPTV producers highlighted ABHM’s 21st century form of armchair travel and education.

This week’s program Trippin’ included a virtual visit to ABHM and describes the rich historical and contemporary resources to be found on the site. Trippin’ also feature three other Wisconsin-based museums that offer important exhibitions about local and national African American history:

Here is Trippin’ in its entirety. The segment on ABHM begins at minute 19:45.

“Black Nouveau” is an award-winning program that is regarded as one of the most accurate and positive perspectives of African American life in Milwaukee. It offers messages that promote positive images, interviews and profiles of African-American movers and shakers.

War on Drugs – or War on Blacks?

Griot: Reggie Jackson

President Ronald Reagan talks about his drug policies in a March 1987 press conference.

President Ronald Reagan talks about his drug policies in a March 1987 press conference.

“The mood toward drugs is changing in this country, and the momentum is with us. We’re making no excuses for drugs — hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we’re going after them. As I’ve said before, we’ve taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we’re going to win the war on drugs.”  – President Ronald Reagan, October 2, 1982

With these words America’s modern War on Drugs was launched. This war would have many casualties. The war would lead the United States down the path to incarcerate over two million people. State budgets would expand to pay the costs of hundreds of new prisons. The black and Latino communities would lose countless young men to incarceration. By 2015, the Federal government will spend over $25 billion annually to combat drugs.

Tulia, Texas: Watch this film about one small town’s experience with the War on Drugs.

The "War on Drugs" begun by President Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a sudden steep rise in the number of Americans being jailed. The US now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

The “War on Drugs” begun by President Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a sudden steep rise in the number of Americans being jailed. The US now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.


The irony of the War on Drugs being launched in the 1980s is that illicit drug use had been dropping for about a decade. We were essentially beginning to fight a war with an enemy that no one believed existed. In fact, less than 2 percent of the public viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the nation. Prior to this time the federal government played only a small role in crime control. Reagan’s Attorney General, William French Smith recommended a policy shift to deploy a “strong federal law enforcement capacity” in what he called a “highly popular” manner.

This shift led Reagan to fulfill one of his campaign promises, to get tough on crime. He used coded racial language to convince whites to believe that a “human predator” existed. This predator would primarily be young black males. In 1970 Sidney Wilhelm wrote a book titled, Who Needs the Negro? He argued that black labor was no longer necessary to the American economy due to automation and de-industrialization. Blacks would become the enemy in the War on Drugs.

LA prisoners NewOrleansTimesPicayune

Prisoners in a Louisiana jail

The Reagan Administration and Congress authorized $125 million to establish regional drug task forces employing over 1,000 FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents along with new federal prosecutors. The FBI drug enforcement budget skyrocketed from $8 million in 1980 to over $95 million four years later. From 1981 until 1991 the DEA antidrug budget increased from $86 million to over a billion dollars. Alongside these increases federal allocations for education and treatment of drug abuse was decimated. The National Institute on Drug Abuse saw its funding slashed from $274 million in 1981 to only $57 million by 1984.

Time cocaine coverThis new emphasis on criminal prosecution of the Drug War led to a huge increase in state and local law enforcement and prosecution. The enforcement of new, more harsh drug laws would be concentrated in poor black communities. These communities were already suffering tremendously due to the major recession of the early 1980’s. Family supporting wages from manufacturing jobs, which drove many blacks into northern communities beginning in the 1950’s, were being shifted overseas. Jobs were difficult to find and in some cases impossible to find. The jobs that were created during this time were mostly in the suburbs, and inaccessible to inner city residents.

An illicit drug market became the replacement labor force. Crack cocaine, became the tool by which this market expanded. In 1984 the Los Angeles Times first reported on the use of cocaine “rocks” in black and Latino neighborhoods. Crack was simply a mixture of powdered cocaine, water and baking soda that was “cooked” to produce smokable “rocks.” By 1986 this new form of cocaine was only found in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and a handful of other big cities.

Len Bias funeralTwo professional athletes, Len Bias of the Boston Celtics and Don Rogers of the Cleveland Browns died in June 1986 of what was referred to by the media as “crack related” incidents that were in reality powdered cocaine overdoses. News coverage increased overnight of police raiding “crack houses” and escorting black and Latino males away in handcuffs. In July 1986 the three major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) showed seventy-four evening news segments on drugs, including over thirty stories on crack. Newspapers around the country produced about one thousand stories about crack leading up to the mid-term congressional elections in November 1986.

By mid 1986 Newsweek called crack the biggest story since Vietnam and Watergate. Time magazine called it the issue of the year. The “crack epidemic” or “crack plague” became the most common terms to describe the drug. The intense media coverage of crack led the DEA to issue a press release to correct the misperception of crack. They stated, “crack is currently the subject of considerable media attention…The result has been a distortion of the public perception of the extent of crack use as compared to the use of other drugs…it appears to be a secondary rather than primary problem in most areas.”

Time cover crack kidsOne of the most incendiary stories related to crack was the so-called “crack babies.” These were babies born to drug using mothers. The hysteria surrounding this phenomenon led to laws being passed to prosecute mothers who tested positive for cocaine. Crack and powdered cocaine are indistinguishable. Therefore there is no way to tell if the mother had used crack or powdered cocaine. Despite the fact that no data was available on supposedly “crack-addicted babies”, the media ran hundreds of stories warning that these children would become menaces to society. Only later did studies prove this to be untrue. The media barely covered this new information.

The intense media scrutiny led Congress to pass the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The bill introduced mandatory minimum sentences including a 5-year term for possession of five grams of crack cocaine, while mandating the same sentence for 500 grams of powdered cocaine, a 100:1 ratio. The crack scare died down after the election.

By 1988, crack became an issue again during the election cycle. ABC News reported that crack was a “plague…eating away at the fabric of America.” The rhetoric about crack continued, and led Congress to pass the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which enhanced drug penalties and led to the Comprehensive Community Substance Abuse Prevention Act of 1989. These Congressional acts led to huge increases in law enforcement budgets. As a result the prison population began to soar. In 1980 there were only 14,100 people in prison or jail for drug offenses. Today there are over a half-million, in increase of 1,100 percent.

Incarceration_rates_worldwideThe impact of the drug scare would continue during the Clinton administration with the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the largest crime bill in U.S. history. It placed an additional 100,000 new police officers on the street and provided nearly $10 billion funding for prisons. It also eliminated Pell grants for incarcerated prisoners to receive post secondary education, which had been available since 1965.

The increased funding, extra police officers and prosecutors led to the largest growth in prisoners in world history. The incarcerated population in the United States grew from a little over 500,000 in 1980 (319,598 in prison, 182,288 in jail) to over 2.3 million by 2013. The War on Drugs led to the imposition of crime policies which would put America in the position of having only 5% of the world’s population and over 25% of the people incarcerated.


The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Reggie Jackson is Head Griot of America’s Black Holocaust Museum and President of the Board of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, ABHM’s parent organization. Reggie is a frequent public speaker on topics relating to African American history and the black holocaust. He works as a teacher with the Milwaukee Public Schools.

This exhibit was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. Any views, finding, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the national Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.

Why Racial Injustice Persists Today: A Very Brief Video History

The myth of racial difference that was created to sustain American slavery persists today. Slavery did not end in 1865, it evolved.

Slavery to Mass Incarceration is part of the Race and Poverty project of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The EJI Race and Poverty Project explores racial history and uses innovative teaching tools to deepen our understanding of the legacy of racial injustice. By telling the truth about our past, EJI believes we can create a different, healthier discourse about race in America.