Good points are out there about Hamas using “human shields,” but is some of this mere propaganda and ignorance? Perhaps the correct term is “hostage,” but that involves dispassionate empirical and anecdotal digging no one is willing to make. Certainly not Israel, or Fox News. And nothing beyond kneejerk battle cries from the Palestinians. Then again, Palestinians don’t have the burden of proof to show someone isn’t a hostage. Israel does—unless (and here’s the irony referenced below—they want to punt the righteousness and narrative behind the casus belli they cite, and just say this land is ours, the Palestinians are a lost and conquered people vexing us, thus we can spill their blood and destroy their homes, hospitals, sources or water, sanitation, no matter who they are. Even kids, babies. No matter the poverty and despair in which they live. They can solve that by being quiet serfs. Honesty in the use of deadly power obviates the need for silly terms like human shield…

…and moreover, every insurgency including our own American Revolution and even in our Civil War ( as Northern Armies penetrated the South) has a critical element of “human shielding.” Yes, Gaza is an insurgency, not a contest of equals. Mixing in non-combatants is pivotal to the victory, if not survival, of the insurgency. These aren’t “human shields” but rather one’s own people, own kin, own tribe, or the neighborhoods from which you draw strength against a technologically and/or numerically superior enemy. This enemy could invaders, or occupiers, or neighbors with a blood beef.

Had the IRA not switched from “traditional” military operations to neighborhood-based guerilla warfare against the British Army, would there have been an independent Ireland in the 1920s, for example? Or, yes— a successful revolt by Jewish paramilitary and saboteur groups against the British in 1947? Would India and Pakistan be independent, as with most nations that were once colonial possessions? I suppose “terrorists” are only brown and Muslim. But history tells us that unless you can match up a shifting set of metrics and narratives coupled with nihilism and even criminal motives, from the beginning of human civilization quite a number of “terrorists” were deemed liberators, founding fathers (or mothers), military geniuses. I suppose the nihilism tag would stick to Hamas, as many folk  here in the US, Jewish or not, and in Israel, would agree. But  there are plenty of people in Gaza, bombed and bloodied, and millions worldwide who would disagree with me. So its ironic as well as stupid to use this term human shield so freely. War becomes about principal and right and wrong, civilizing people, Marxism, capitalism, religion, or self defense or preemptive self defense after the fact. In its inception, its always about resources and tribalism.

So let’s say this isn’t an insurgency. Yet even in “standard” battles—where someone’s invading another’s home—you cannot bandy around  this term “human shields.”  Russians fighting Germans, cheek and jowl with civilians, in the streets of Stalingrad in 1942? The flipside in the streets of Berlin in 1945? Americans attacking Saipan, Okinawa—and Japanese civilians…children, old people…among the soldiers in terror yes but willingly, as we were the invaders. The only examples contra in standard warfare might be Americans fighting to liberate Manila from the Japanese, or British forces bursting into Antwerp or Rotterdam to oust the Germans, all in World War two. There you had genuine hostage situations,  where the now ragged occupiers were trying to leverage the lives of the very people they’d been terrorizing, so they could buy time or escape.

Here’s another one, sad but true: George Armstrong Custer  lamented how Cheyenne braves “melted in” among Indian encampments, and you couldn’t tell who was a hostile and who was a mere hanger-on. So he declared that everyone was a hostile and everyone was subject to a bullet or sabre…unless they expressly surrendered. Everyone. And he blamed the Indians for his need to cut down kids, old people—because the warriors, and leaders like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse et al were using their families as human shields. Implying there was no kinship, ignoring or the reality that all were refugees, bound together and being hounded off their own ancestral lands. Indeed when the 7th Cavalry attacked what turned out to be a gigantic camp of such refugee Sioux and Cheyenne on the Little Bighorn River, Custer had planned to either anybody, “combatant” or otherwise, if they didn’t surrender immediately…or take women and children as hostages to force any bands of braves to lay down their arms.  

Accordingly,  “human shield” is a term you can’t just throw around or bark over, even against a group like Hamas, unless you have all of the context, past and present, there in Gaza or right around the corner from my house, in Washington, DC. MPD officers, DEA agents and US Marshals raided a rowhouse looking for two young men, both drug dealers and one a fugitive wanted for shooting another thug. The men’s mother, aunt and uncle, and three young children lived in the house; the men laid low in the basement for months. I was there when the mother screamed and sobbed as her bloodied kids were lead to a police car from the wrecked house. Wrecked by law enforcement battering rams and crow bars. One of the cops snapped: “Those boys used you as human shields.” To which she replied, tears and convulsions replaced by a defiant and icy, scary glare: “That’s how you see it but you wrong. I ain’t nobody’s ‘shield.’ I’m their mother….”




From The Desk Of

Diddy arrives in curtained limo for Howard University Commencement speech... »

At the end of a bloody Civil War, and the dawn of an uncertain Reconstruction, as America tries to begin again…that’s when Howard University was founded. The only other college besides Georgetown U to receive a federal charter from Congress, due to its special mission. I hope the founders, and the free persons who first came there (including women who got degrees 100 years before Princeton did this) to get their degrees and become doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, botanists, chemists, musicians, artists, architects, poets, pharmacists, dentists to serve, finally, as citizens and human beings and contributors to a commonweal, are all looking down from Heaven in pride at this Diddy moment, Diddy hype. I guess Suge Knight is watching on WHUT.

From The Desk Of

After Deadly Draft Riots, a Shared Experience Reshaped Families in Manhattan »

(Source: heytoyourmamanem)

The Clusterfuck that is Crimea and #Ukraine is a long-clustering one. So much so that it even spawned this old cheese

The Clusterfuck that is Crimea and #Ukraine is a long-clustering one. So much so that it even spawned this old cheese

Meeting Solomon Northrups descendants #12yearsaslave #washingtondc #history (at President Lincoln’s Cottage)

From The Desk Of

Reality of Slavery: a new analysis of the system »

So when whites say Hey my ancestors weren’t a part of this, they might as well hey they didn’t use oxygen


Yale Law School students, ca. 1921: Jasper Alston Atkins, Charles A. Chandler, Mifflin Gibbs, and Leroy Pierce.

Image courtesy of the Jasper Alston Atkins Papers, Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

Retouched by MarmadukePercy.

From The Desk Of

In Defense of a Loaded Word »

OK. Context is everything? Often thats true. But its also a dodge, cipher, smoke or cloak at times. I do not agree with Coates’ thesis (and usually I’m on board with him without a lifejacket or raft…here I have to sail my own boat).

Check it out: With what is this word NIGGER loaded?It is the perpetually  pregnant word…I guess we all have notions of what it might birth but I simply cannot agree that the progeny is positive. Positive in terms of a special secret place or pain and triumph at best,  or club handshake at worst. I think if you have been raised with class, dignity, taste, you just don’t use it. Maybe that’s how it will disappear. I don’t think it’s something dear and secret and ours, however, any more than women should hold “bitch” or the c-word. Maybe we should do with nigger what the Jews have done with “ghetto”— consign it to group consciousness in a lockbox. I guess that’s kinda sorta what TC is saying but he puts far too much veneration on the n-word. Then again we are the same people who’ve taken that word ghetto and attached some positive, even playful, cultural meaning to it perhaps to soften the reality. Softening reality is the key, I suppose…

Now, some say they are cultured, raised with dignity, educated and still use the word freely. Do they use it in public? All the time, like some folks? So at reunions I can can say hey nigger as long as its “just us around?” Yes I do agree context is key but lets not confuse context or strategic flexibility in communication with a word who’s default setting should be “not use if earthly possible.”

Maybe we should just have a “nigger ration,” and if you go over that, you don’t get a refill? Possibly there’s a class divide among blacks going on here, like Jonathan Martin versus the rest of the Miami Dolphins?  I know just as many people  who DO NOT countenance that word’s usage by us among us, whether for philosophical reasons, or its just plain coarse and impolite, rather than some bizarre metaphor for defiance or a secret place others dare not go.

Ban the word? No that won’t happen. Just be mature, intelligent, and keep the ration card filled, unused. 

CAC for DN

From The Desk Of

New Orleans 1811 Slave Revolt tour raises funds to rebuild libraries in Haiti »



New Orleans 1811 Slave Revolt tour raises funds to rebuild libraries in Haiti

by Leon A. Waters

A New Orleans based non-profit is working to rebuild libraries in Haiti. The organization is called Bibliotheque Parrainage (BP). It means Library Patronage. Bibliotheque Parrainage assists libraries in Haiti through the country’s National Library, Bibliotheque Nationale. Founded in 2011, the goal of Bibliotheque Parrainage is to provide resources to the National Library that will be of assistance to public libraries across the country.

Libraries in Haiti have operational challenges. Some of them do not have stable electricity to operate; some have unstable solar power; and others function in the evening when bursts of electricity become available. Besides the challenges of structural repair, which includes roof renovations, many of Haiti’s libraries are seeking fraternal assistance inside and outside the country.

Charles Deslonde
Charles Deslonde, leader of the 1811 slave revolt, the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history
This includes opportunities to partner with the National Library in areas such as the sharing of periodical databases for use by all Bibliotheque Nationale patrons. This also includes partnership opportunities to enhance and upgrade staff and students in advanced librarian science, utilizing advance technological training and study. Creating the opportunity to bring staff and students to the United States to receive such training and study is critical to revolutionize the role that libraries can play in Haiti’s future.

During the July 4th weekend in New Orleans, Bibliotheque Parrainage is hosting a fundraising bus tour of the Louisiana 1811 Slave Revolt, the largest slave revolt in the United States.

Inspired by the Haitian Revolution, the revolt occurred in the parishes of St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and Orleans. The revolt was led by a former enslaved man named Charles Deslonde. The aim of the revolt was to abolish slavery and establish a free republic to be governed by the former enslaved people.

This educational adventure will retrace the route of the former enslaved rebels. The tour will enlighten the visitors on how Deslonde’s rebels carried out the revolt. The visitors will visit some of the locations where the slave rebels fought U.S. troops and militia and other locations related to the revolt.

The visitors will learn what happened, discover the gains made and the foundation laid for further revolts. A descendant of the rebels will escort the visitors to numerous stops where significant actions occurred.

Funds raised from this July 4th weekend adventure will be used for assistance to the Nationale Bibliotheque in Haiti. In this way, we who reside in the United States will extend a supporting hand to the Haitian people.

Schedule for the 1811 Slave Revolt Bus Tour

Join the 1811 Slave Revolt Bus Tour on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, July 5-7. Departure is at 9 a.m. with boarding time at 8:45 a.m. at 500 Canal St., in front of the New Orleans Sheraton Hotel. Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and no sandals. The tour is approximately three and a half hours; tickets are $50 per person. Participants may go online to purchase tickets: For more tour information, call (504) 432-9901.

'Deslonde Revolt 1811'
“Deslonde Revolt 1811” – artist unknown
The president of Bibliotheque Parrainage is Ms. Valencia Hawkins, who is a recent retired librarian of 26 years of service from the New Orleans Public Library. Ms. Hawkins served the citizens of New Orleans in the official post as associate director of Central Public Services, Outreach and Programming.

Those in New Orleans know very well the role libraries can play after a natural disaster. Their natural disaster was Hurricane Katrina. The main library located in downtown New Orleans was mostly spared from the horrific damage that impacted most of New Orleans. Hence, the main library played a real critical role in the restoration of New Orleans. The library was a center for information, disaster relief assistance that included medical-health resources, housing-shelter resources and food-financial resources.

Funds raised from this July 4th weekend adventure will be used for assistance to the Nationale Bibliotheque in Haiti. In this way, we who reside in the United States will extend a supporting hand to the Haitian people.

Despite the living conditions of most of Haiti’s people, the Haiti people sent $40,000 to assist New Orleanians to rebuild and recover. Such a very poor country made such a humble sacrifice. Bibliotheque Parrainage feels that libraries assist in the building of communities; certainly, as Bibliotheque Parrainage expounds, those of us who reside in the United States can do more.

Louisiana’s heroic 1811 Slave Revolt

One of the most suppressed and hidden stories of African and African American history is the story of the 1811 Slave Revolt. The aim of the revolt was the establishment of an independent republic, a Black republic. Over 500 Africans, from 50 different nations with 50 different languages, would wage a fight against U.S. troops and the territorial militias.

1811 slave revolt
1811 Slave Revolt – artist unknown
This revolt would get started in St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes, about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans. At that time, New Orleans was the capital of what was called the Orleans Territory. The revolt sought to capture the city of New Orleans and make New Orleans the capital of the new republic.

The principal organizer and leader of this revolt was a man named Charles, a laborer on the Deslonde plantation. The Deslonde family had been one of the many San Domingo slave holding families that fled the Haitian Revolution (1790-1802). The Deslonde family fled to Louisiana for refuge. In their escape, the Deslonde family brought their chattel property, Charles and others, with them.

The Deslonde family acquired land and restarted their slave holding sugarcane operations in St. John the Baptist parish. The ideas of slave rebellion had been inspired by the Haitians’ defeat of Napoleon and his allies, who included President George Washington. The victory of Africans in gaining their freedom in Haiti had a powerful and stimulating effect on Africans held in bondage all over the world, especially in the Western Hemisphere. It gave enormous encouragement to the Africans on plantations in Louisiana. To capture the city of New Orleans, Charles Deslonde’s strategy consisted of a two-pronged military assault.

One prong of the attack would be to march down the River Road to New Orleans. The rebels would gain in number as they moved from plantation to plantation on the East Bank of the Mississippi River from St. John the Baptist parish to New Orleans. They were intent on creating a slave army, capturing the city of New Orleans and liberating the tens of thousands of slaves held in bondage in the territory of Louisiana.

The other prong of attack was to involve the enslaved Africans inside the city of New Orleans in a simultaneous uprising. Here the rebels would seize the arsenal at Fort St. Charles and distribute the weapons to the arriving slave army. The two-pronged attack would then merge as one and proceed to capture the strategic targets in the city.

On the evening of Jan. 8, 1811, Charles and his lieutenants would start the revolt. The rebels would elect their leaders to lead them into battle. They elected women and men. The leaders were on horseback. Several young warriors marched ahead of them with drums and flags. Men and women assembled in columns of four behind those on horseback.

Leon Waters speaks on 1811 slave revolt, largest in US 2011
Author and historian Leon Waters speaks on the 1811 Slave Revolt, the largest in the U.S. He is descended from the rebels.
The rebels rose up on the plantation of Col. Manuel Andry (today the city of LaPlace) in St. John the Baptist Parish. They overwhelmed their oppressors. Armed with cane knives, hoes, clubs and a few guns, the rebels marched down the River Road toward New Orleans. Their slogan was “On to New Orleans” and “Freedom or Death,” which they shouted as they marched to New Orleans.

However, despite their best efforts, they were not able to succeed. The revolt was put down by Jan. 11 and many of the leaders and participants were killed by the slave owners’ militia and U.S. federal troops. Some of the leaders were captured, placed on trial and later executed. Their heads were cut off and placed on poles along the river in order to frighten and intimidate the other slaves. This display of heads placed on spikes stretched over 60 miles.

The sacrifices of these brave women and men were not in vain. The revolt reasserted the humanity and redeemed the honor of the people. The uprising weakened the system of chattel slavery, stimulated more revolts in the following years and set the stage for the final battle, the Civil War (1861-1865) that put an end to this horrible system. The children and the grandchildren of the rebels of 1811 finished the job in the Civil War. Louisiana contributed more soldiers – over 28,000 – to the Union Army than any other state.

These women and men of 1811 represented the best qualities of people of African descent. They were people of exceptional courage, valor and dedication. These were women and men who put the interest and welfare of the masses above their own personal desires. These were people who understood that the emancipation of the masses is a precondition for the emancipation of the individual.

The sacrifices of these brave women and men were not in vain. The revolt reasserted the humanity and redeemed the honor of the people.

Remember the Ancestors! Remember the women and men who carried out the largest African uprising on American soil.

Author and historian Leon A. Waters, publisher and manager of Hidden History Tours, chairman of the Louisiana Museum of African American History and descendant of the 1811 rebels, can be reached at Bibliotheque Parrainage can be reached at

I hope this Hidden History Tour was really successful!  My novel Birth of a Dark Nation has an entire chapter devoted to the German Coast Uprising.  Of course, my version of events involves vampires.  But it’s great to see that the real story is being told and shared.  


Be it Remembered!

Slate digs up this front page from Philadelphia’s Freeman’s Journal announcing the British “furrender” in Yorktown, Virginia.

While the Treaty of Paris wasn’t signed for another two years, the October 1781 battle was the end of major hostilities in the Revolutionary War.

Design Notes, via Slate:

As Mariam Touba, a reference librarian at the New-York Historical Society, writes, in Colonial papers big news was often relegated to inside pages. A browse through the volume Reporting the Revolutionary War, which collects pages from Colonial and British newspapers’ coverage of the war’s major events, reveals that it was quite uncommon for newspapers to use type that would yield print bigger than a cramped 8-point font. Somebody at the Freeman’s Journal must have correctly judged this news to be worthy of uncommon typographical enthusiasm.

Image: Freeman’s Journal, October 24, 1781, via Slate. Select to embiggen.

Freedom meant different things.

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