I have learned while living this life on Earth that so much of it is based upon things that happen on an annual basis, events that you can set your clock by. For example, the season change on an annual basis and there is absolutely nothing that we can do to prevent it, nor should we attempt to. Just as importantly, this nation has cultural celebrations and holiday’s that every American should participate in on an annual basis; this month it is Black History Month.
As I am sure that you can imagine, as an African-American, born and raised in the historic Acres Home, Black History Month holds a special significance for me. It serves as an opportunity for the entire nation to take a moment and learn about our ancestors’ historic contributions and achievements that have undoubtedly gone a great measure toward aiding America in its quest to be the leading nation in the world. It is only ignorance that would lead anyone to question persons of African descent contribution to this nation.
The greatest mind that the American academy has ever produced, William Edward Burghardt DuBois once presented the following question; “What would America be without her Negro citizens?”
DuBois’ question is a particularly scary thought when one considers the contributions of persons of African descent to this nation. Without the labor of stolen Africans there is little doubt that whites would have survived on the North American continent, let alone prospered in the way that they have prospered.
Although it is one of the most misunderstood aspects of American History, most Americans believe that Jamestown was the first colony started on the North American continent. It was not! The historical record indicates that the first attempt, made by the British, to settle the North America continent began with the establishment of the Roanoke Colony. Historians often by-pass talking about Roanoke for one simple reason, it failed; and is today remembered by historians as ‘the lost colony’ as they remain uncertain to this very moment about what occurred to either the colony or its inhabitants. What we do know for certain about ‘the lost colony’ is that the unfortunate souls who were involved with its creation lived a horrible existence that unfortunately included cannibalism during the lean winter months when food was unavailable.
The failure of Roanoke as a colony leaves one with a reasonable and logical question of what was the primary difference between ‘the lost colony’ and the Jamestown colony that eventually paved the way for unfathomable British success in the ‘New World’. The answer to this question will make some Americans proud and throw others into fits of shame.
The primary difference between a failed colony and a prosperous one was the introduction to African labor which initially worked alongside European indentured servants, but in time found itself as a permanent source of labor. Put simply, they were enslaved, not slaves, but enslaved; and there is a major difference between the two.
It did not take the European long to realize that the stolen African was integral to both his sheer survival and material success. Without the labor of enslaved Africans, the ‘cash crops’ (cotton, sugar, tobacco) that wealthy Europeans were so eager to invest in because the enormous profit potential was obvious, would have never been a viable option. And without a constant flood of monetary resources and goods, the Jamestown colony would have found itself in the same predicament as the Roanoke colony; in fact, there were times that they were not very far from that situation at times, only to be saved by generous indigenous populations.
So as this nation embarks upon yet another Black History Month, it is imperative that we all learn about the historic heroic contributions of persons of African descent on the North American continent.
Trust me when I say to you that if you investigate this matter in a serious matter you will be able to answer the aforementioned question of ‘What would America be without her Negro citizens?’ presented to the nation by W.E.B. DuBois, with a resounding answer of “Nothing!!!!!!” because she would not even exist were it not for the contributions of enslaved Africans.