Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
September 11th - Other Memories
the minds of us all.
One need only mention "September 11th", and no more is
The mind races
to images of fire, dread, death and devastation.
As we have noted
elsewhere, that date has other meanings for other people, in other
parts of the world: in Panama, for example, it's mere mention evokes,
not planes slamming into gleaming towers of power and wealth, nor
even the Middle East, but rather the dwellings of the poor, laid
waste by the airplanes, and land forces of the
Americans, who staged an invasion of Panama, to secure perpetual
dominance over the Panama Canal, for which the barrios of El Chorrillo
were pounded into powder.
is not done with September 11th, for it stands as a date and time
when Africans in a hostile America fought back against the dreadful
human devastation of slavery, and fought for the bright light of
freedom. It was dawn, Sept. 11th ,1851, when a group of slave-catchers
converged on a farmhouse in a little town called Christiana, in
Pennsylvania's southeast corner. Present were the slaveholder, Edward
Gorsuch, his son, Dickinson, a U.S. Marshal named Henry Kline, and
several other armed white men. They thought they were out on just
another days work -- the work of slavery, but
they met 5 Black men, and their wives, who had no intention of giving
up their freedom. Gorsuch made his demand, telling the Black ex-slaves,
"You had better give up," adding, [F]or I have come
a long way this morning, and want my breakfast; for my property
I will have, or I'll breakfast in hell.
who ran away from a plantation some 12 years before, had no intention
of turning over anybody, and called down to Gorsuch, See here,
old man. You can come up but you cant go down again."
As Black historian, Ella Forbes recounts in her stirring But
We Have No Country: The 1851 Christiana Pennsylvania Resistance
(Africana Homestead Legacy Publ., 1998):
As the posse
attempted to enter his house, Parker "met them at the landing;
and asked, 'Who are you?.' The leader, Kline, replied, 'I am the
United States Marshal.' I told him to take another step, and I would
break his neck. He again said, 'I am the United States Marshal.'
I told him I did not care for him nor the United States. At that
he turned and went down stairs." [Forbes, 134].
position, in light of the passage and extension of the Fugitive
Slave Act, which threatened all Black people, whether fugitive or
free, with seizure and a passage into bondage, was simple. He said,
...[T]he laws for personal protection are not made for us,
and we are not bound to obey them... [whites] have a country and
may obey the laws. But we have no country." [Forbes, 110]
One of the Black
men in the farmhouse began to weaken, a man named Pinckney, who
said, "We'd better give up." His wife, Hannah, picked
up a machete (called a "corncutter") and grimly announced
she would cut the head off of the first one who tried to surrender.
For a time,
Parker and Gorsuch argued over the rightness of slavery, and each
quoted the Bible to the other to defend their views, but each knew
that words would not decide the argument. Parkers wife, Eliza,
seeing the necessity of reinforcements, blew her horn to summon
members of the Black neighborhood militia. As she sounded herhorn
the Marshal fired a pistol shot at her, but missed. As scores of
militiamen appeared, the marshal withdrew, but the stubborn Gorsuch
men remained. The elder said, I'll have my property or die
in the attempt. He tried. He died. When Dickinson tried, he
was shot and wounded.
As night fell,
Parker and two other Black men took to the Underground Railroad,
enroute North. U.S. President Millard Fillmore, who signed the 1850
Fugitive Slave Act into law, dispatched 45 Marines to Christiana,
and they arrested scores of people. Thirty-six local Black men and
five white Quakers were later tried for treason. The men, defended
by the abolitionist congressman, Thaddeus Stevens, were acquitted
by a jury in 15 minutes!
like thousands of other Blacks, made way for Canada, after stopping
off at the Rochester, N.Y. home of the great Black abolitionist,
Frederick Douglass. Historians have considered the Christiana Resistance
the first shots fired in the looming Civil War. Philip Foner has
called it a "major harbinger" of that war.
that the fight for freedom in America would be a fight, not merely
with words, not merely on paper, but with blood.
of Americans of that day, September the 11th meant a day that could
not, and would not, be forgotten.
Check out Mumia's
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life
of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com
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is Final -- Free Mumia!
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