Barrett, Hoover & Spitzer, Cuts From The Same Cloth

-A +A

Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. —George Santayana

Deceits are repeated until they fail against those who have learned.—The Corollary  

To the uninformed or forgetful, Barrett, Hoover & Spitzer may read like a law firm ready to defend the rights of its clients. 
However, two names –Hoover and Spitzer– should be a dead giveaway that all these “officials of the State� are of the infamous kind. Their actions span centuries –19th to 21st– of unforgivable destruction of Black leaders and self-help institutions working to empower their communities in the face of official deceit, oppression and terrorism and, with the aid of treacherous Blacks collaborating from within. The woodwork is infested!

Readings My Face Is Black Is True, Dr Mary Frances Berry (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Edited by Amy Jacques-Garvey (Atheneum, 1980), Marcus Garvey Timeline,, and available documents of Black United Fund of New York (1979 – 2005), detail repeated high crimes and misdemeanors committed by officials of the State against Black people. 

Thanks to the inspiring book on the life of Callie House (1861 – 1928) by Dr. Berry, the history of first Reparations Movement has been brought to light.  Berry reveals House as a courageous leader and organizer; and presents the genesis of the National Ex-slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association, with House becoming its only woman officer, Assistant Secretary, in 1898.

It was an organized mass effort by Blacks between 1897 and 1916, led by House, an “undereducated,â€? but, certainly, astute ex-slave, that frightened those in power during the waning days of Reconstruction. 

That effort was the first Reparations Movement to secure compensation in the form of government pension payments for centuries of exploited slave labor.   Deceitful, power-hungry whites and “accommodatingâ€? Blacks, fearful of losing their newly gained or “grantedâ€? power and positions, and control of the masses of ex-slaves and freedmen, colluded to destroy the Movement.

This mass challenge by Blacks for justice and power prompted the Federal government to conspire to crush the Movement by destroying Callie House and the Ex-slave Pension Association. Through the use of intimidation by “investigation�, false accusations and engineered charges of “mail fraud� –a strategy that would prove useful in the future– a conspiracy was hatched involving the Office of the Attorney General, in the point person of Acting Assistant Attorney General Harrison Barrett of the Postal Office Department, the US Department of “Justice�, and the Pension Bureau.

The conspirators executed their plan to charge House and the organization for engaging in a “fraud� because they used the mail service to collect funds to carry out their organizing and petitioning of Congress for the payment of a pension, as reparations. These official criminals reasoned that House knew that the government would never pass any proposed legislation to make such payments under the force of Federal law. House was “fraudulently� charged, convicted of mail fraud, and imprisoned.

During the attack on House, Black “leadersâ€? and the press were silent as sheep.  The elimination of the leader effectively destroyed the organization and the first Reparations Movement, but only for it to be raised again, decades later, as the mission of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, NCOBRA. 

The formidable National Ex-slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association, as Berry wrote, “…placed great emphasis on self-helpâ€?, and supported itself through multiple State chapters with membership fees of twenty-five cents and ten cents a month for dues.  House advocated and exercised her Constitutional rights to assemble (organize) and petition Congress for just cause and compensation (due process), i.e., the First and Fifth Amendments. 

The organizing and petitioning process grew the organization to about 300,000, at the height of its power, circa 1915. House, as described by Berry, was “a forerunner of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.â€? The movement spearheaded by House for reparations, coupled with the (broken) promise of “forty acres and a muleâ€? was to establish an economic foundation for Black economic development and selef-reliant independence. It can be also be said that House left an organizational strategy and framework for the coming of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the UNIA.  

In March 1916, the fabricated “mail fraudâ€? case against House was presented to a grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, just as Marcus Garvey arrived in the United States, settling in Harlem, New York City to begin his organizing activities and expansion of the UNIA membership. If the Federal government, representing the “power interestsâ€? of the white ruling class and “assimilatingâ€? Black elites, was frightened by the organized masses of the Reparations movement, then the growth of the UNIA to 2,000,000 members by 1920 struck absolute terror in the minds of the oppressors. 

The Bureau of Investigation, precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had already started to “investigateâ€? the activities of Garvey and the UNIA in 1919.  By 1921, the wheels of treachery and deceit were set in motion. Once again, an Assistant Attorney General in the person of the infamous J. Edgar Hoover, the US Department of Justice, the US Postal Service, and the enemies within the Black community and the UNIA itself were set loose to destroy another Black leader —using (attempted) assassination, infiltration of informants and provocateurs who would “deliver the goodsâ€?. This would also crush an organization with a mission to empower the oppressed and exploited Black masses acting in their own self-interests. COINTELPRO is born of deceit and malevolent intentions, and lives on today.

The UNIA was an “economic development engine,â€? (i.e., “a mechanism to organize the human and financial resources of Black people for their own growth, development and empowerment.â€?) Sound familiar?  UNIA derived its funding and resources from membership dues, contributions, active volunteerism, and investments in community business enterprises from within the Black community, just as BUFNY did seventy years later. Such actions, as seen by the powers-that-be, then and today, would have far-reaching implications for the tainted-from-birth power structure, and would have crippled the supremacy designs at home and abroad. It had to be stopped.

Like House, Garvey was charged, tried, and convicted of “mail fraudâ€?, and ultimately deported.  Also like House and the Ex-slave Pension Association, the destruction of Garvey led to the demise of the UNIA which drove the first Black Power Movement based on economics.  But also like House and the Association, the seeds sown by Garvey and the UNIA were deep and have survived and still impact the thoughts and development efforts of “consciousâ€? Blacks today.  The mission of empowerment through self-help principles and practices has been ingrained in a growing mass of those committed to carry the torches of self-reliance and independence for Black people. 

In keeping with the target and destroy modus operandi used against Black leaders and institutions, in 2002 New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, using Nassau County Assistant Attorney General Juan Merchan, initiated an “investigationâ€? of Black United Fund of New York.  A Freedom of Information Law request revealed that an anonymous and inaccurate Department of Consumer Affairs “consumer complaintâ€? that misrepresented the facts had been made, “that BUFNY had made material misrepresentations to County employees…â€? Inquiries by this writer determined that the complaint was by “no one that looks like us!â€?  No fundraising campaign anywhere over BUFNY’s 25-year history had ever generated such a complaint. 

Armed with this complaint and New York State Charities Bureau reports that BUFNY was “delinquentâ€? in making required financial filings, just like nearly ten thousand other non-profits, Spitzer moved to takeover BUFNY, using a group of Black Nassau County Republicans and another from Harlem, to carry out the planned takeover and destruction of the organization.  Spitzer knowingly lied, agsain, when he stated: "Our goal here is to help BUFNY flourish. The interim board --comprising talented individuals with proven records of service-- will breathe new life into BUFNY, and help shepherd its finances and programs." What are these “records of serviceâ€??  What was the real plan? Who stood to gain?  There are questions to be answered. 

Spitzer, under cover of other “investigationsâ€?, has destroyed Black leaders or played a decisive role negatively impacting lives and institutions that have worked to build and empower the community through self-help economic development.  In an atmosphere of deafening silence of the sheep and palpable fear by docile and compliant “leadersâ€?, Spitzer has not only continued a long-standing pattern of destruction of Black leaders and institutions, but has bought, bullied and deceived his way to the top of the corrupt political heap, with eyes set on the governorship where, to be sure, there is more of same to come. It is time for all of us to do our parts and make a difference. You are part of the war, whether you like it or not. You turn is coming. So, as Bernard White at WBAI says: “Stay strong and pay close attention!â€?

Larry A Barton is an IBM retiree and former vice president and general manager at the Black United Fund of New York. He is a contributing writer to the Black Star News column, The New Freedom’s Journal. You can contact him via email at:
To subscribe to the world’s favorite Pan African weekly newspaper or to advertise please call (212) 481-7745. Send response to articles via 

Also Check Out...

Africa’s Digital Divide worsened
Black Businesses struggling from
What Burundi can do to improve
Trump’s Mail voting sabotage could
Olympian Cullen Jones Learned
Rep. Scott: Trump’s Executive