On Black Achievement

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Dear Brother:

In regard to your dismal and negative assessment of our history, you overlook several important historic facts.

Unlike the ethnic minorities you mention (Latinos and Asians); our emancipated ancestors came into "freedom" with nothing and did more with that zero than anyone else in this nation and continue to do so.  As W. E. B. Du bois has stated: "our people were granted ‘freedom’ with neither land, nor capital." 

The pervading myth is that poor immigrants built their communities without capital is a blatant historic lie. While the Caucasian propaganda that poses as "history" indicates that landless and poor Caucasians, Asians and Latinos started with zero finances; the truth is that every boat that came to these shores to disgorge aliens had, in addition to steerage, a first class section where wealthy persons sat sipping champagne with letters of credit in their pockets and upon settling in, established banks and lending institutions that provided funding for the push carts, small shops and other businesses that kick-started their economy. 

There were no first class sections on the slave ships. Nevertheless, our early ancestors grew crops, opened banks, established small businesses that exist to this day and pretending this never happened while concentrating on those among us who engage in ceaseless conspicuous consumption is anti-historical. 

I would strongly advise that you use your undoubted research skills to balance the act: who were the entrepreneurs that preceded us and who and where are they today? To name only a few: C. J. Walker, Ida B. Wells, Robert S. Abbot, Les Bingham and among those that stood independent of the system, Oscar Michaux, who wrote, directed and distributed forty-eight films with Black financing as well as Spencer Williams who did the same in offering twenty-eight independent films. 

In addition, the successful National Negro Baseball League. I could go on for hours; however, it was my knowledge of my predecessors that convinced me that the film adaptation of my first novel, "The Spook Who Sat By The Door", should be done independently. As a result, I turned down several lucrative offers to form a partnership with Director Ivan Dixon, to raise the overwhelming majority of funds from Black investors to produce the film. 

Our triumphs are awesome unless one continues to compare the apple of us with the mythical orange of them. Every ying has a yang and if you continue to concentrate on the most negative aspect of us as a people you are not going to be around long enough to sing the victory songs my elders taught me and that I sing myself.


Greenlee, author of The Spook Who Sat By The Door, wrote the above piece in response to a writer whose piece claims that God had originally bestowed Black people with the most skills relative to Asians and Latinos and that when he returned he found that Black people had squandered their gifts and had been left far behind by the other races in terms of achievement. Greenlee’s reply can answer all naysayers, many of whom we all personally know, in the Africa Diaspora community everywhere.

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