ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The Black Legion by FBI accounts was a white cult organization that operated in the mid-west
during the 1930s supposedly to protect America from such things as Communism. Members
wore black robes with skull and cross bones. Malcolm X who lived in Detroit as a child claimed
that such a group was responsible for the death of this father.
What It Feels Like to Terrorize Negroes
Black Legion: American Terrorists
Killers of Silas Coleman & Malcom X’s Father
By Amin Sharif
Detroit–Dayton Dean, confessed triggerman for the Black Legion*, asserted here that a Negro World War veteran was taken out and shot to thrill six Black Legion members. It was the second killing blamed on the vigilante organization by Dean.
The slain man was Silas Coleman, 42, who was shot on the night of May 1935, according to Dean.
Dean told police that Coleman was shot because Colonel Harvey Davis, now held on murder charges in connection with the slaying of Charles Poole, 32, WPA worker, wanted to see how it felt to shoot a Negro.
Dean named six men, including himself, as being present at the shooting. Three of them besides Dean already are in custody, charged with the murder of Poole.
The Black Legion members huddled in a group by one car while the Negro remained in another. Finally, according to Dean, Davis said:
The colored fellow came around the rear of the car, wondering to see what was doing around there and just as he came around and faced us, Davis took his .38 and he shot first. Then, the others shot.
A bullet must have struck Coleman in the lung, because he made an articulate sound and began running, Dean said. And the statement continued, he run, oh, he must have run like a deer down there and when he started running they says, dont let him get away.
Dean said they chased Coleman into the marsh, firing at him as he ran.
Source: The Washington Tribune, May 1935
They say that the death of any man diminishes all of humanity. I believe this. As a Muslim, I was taught by the Prophets (PBUH) revelation that the act of slaying a human, for the one who commits the crime, shall be as though he killed all of humanity. Killing, when it must be done, most only be committed in self-defense. The article above is short, only a few paragraphs. Yet it makes clear what black life was like in 1935
I found this article concerning the death of Silas Coleman among a group of papers that Rudy Lewis (Chief-editor of ChickenBones: A Journal) gave to me. We at CBJ are always looking to add to our files and post interesting things about Black people on our site. As I mentioned, among these papers, was this article. It is remarkably short. Yet, it contained the story of the death of a human being killed on a whim. The act was committed simply, for the sake of knowing what it felt like to shoot a Negro. It was not my intention to write an immediate commentary on the small article. But, the article nagged at me. And whenever I started working on any other files, the article always seemed to be on the top of the pile begging for my attention. Perhaps, it was more than begging for my attention. The article was demanding my attention.
Last summer, I was given something else by Rudy to review. It was a book about Blues and the tradition of violence that attended the development of the Blues in the Southland. The book, Seems Like Murder Here, is filled with tales of lynching. And, its effect was to deeply traumatize me on the subject of violence and Black people. I found I couldnt write the review. It was literally the first time in my life that I could not find something to say on the subject.
The death of Silas Coleman at the hands of some racists in 1935 is nothing new. Black men and women have been slain on whims ever since they came to America. But, in this small article, I somehow find that all these murders
all of these senseless deaths
are contained (made real to me) in this one incident. The murderer says that Coleman ran for his life before he was shot down. In his heart, mind, and soul, Coleman in Detroit must have felt like an African running from the Arab slavers in Africa or a slave from the hounds of a plantation owner in the South.
One wonders if Coleman had time to think of his loved ones before he died. Or was the primal desire to escape injury and death so overwhelming that he had little time to think of anything but running for his life? When I read this article, I always feel as though I am Coleman
the African or Black slave
running for his life. I feel myself drop to the ground as white death overtakes me as it did Coleman. I look up at the grinning faces of white humanity and ask why, for what reason was I killed. And the only answer that I can find is that I was given Black skin by my Creator.
Colemans death haunts me. And, it will probably haunt me unto death. I only hope that his soul has found peace. As I hope that some day, America will find the strength to put the insanity of racism behind her.
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* The Black Legion by FBI accounts was a white cult organization that operated in the mid-west during the 1930s supposedly to protect America from such things as Communism. Members wore black robes with skull and cross bones. Malcolm X who lived in Detroit as a child claimed that such a group was responsible for the death of this father. There is a currently a file maintained by the FBI on this group containing some 964 pages.
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The Black Legion of hoodlums, thugs, murderers, and some politicians seeking advancement, dress themselves in black robes, decorated with the pirate’s symbol of the skull and crossbones, and feel that they are all powerful, recognizing no law save their own. Their ridiculous costumes, titles and rituals would be of no importance, except that this organization, formed to commit murder and lesser crimes, seeks to extend its rule by terror and mystery, and imposed its bloody will on well-selected tools who actually commit murder under orders. New York Daily Mirror, June 5, 1936
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Irene du Pont organized the Black Legion in the United States. This was a fascist organization that terrorized and murdered union leaders and disrupted union organizing campaigns. The members wore hoods and black robes with skull and crossbones. Another of his organizations was the American Liberty League, which taught hatred of blacks and Jews, love of Hitler and loathing of the Roosevelts. The DuPont and Morgan families even approached Major General Smedley Butler through an intermediary to determine if a military coup could be organized against President Roosevelt because Roosevelt’s programs for the poor and working class were so hated by DuPont and other important American capitalists. Major General Butler was deeply offended and reported the plot to Roosevelt. “Fascism and the Republican Party” by Gary Sudborough Sunday March 02, 2003 IconoclastGS@aol.com
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In Black Legion (the film directed 1936 by Archie Mayo), Humphrey Bogart gives an outstanding performance as factory laborer Frank Taylor, who loses a promotion to a foreign-born coworker. Filled with hatred, Taylor joins the Black Legion, a secret white supremacist organization. The group burns down the barn of Taylor’s coworker, scaring him out of town. Thus, Taylor receives the promotion. But when Taylor is forced to spend his time recruiting new members for the Legion, he is demoted from plant foreman back to factory laborer. The Legion attacks Taylors new boss, making friends suspect Taylor’s involvement, while Taylor himself begins drinking heavily in a fit of self-loathing. When Taylor finally loses his job and the Legion gears up for an attack on a former friend, it appears that Taylor has hit rock bottom–with only himself to blame. This fast-paced, black and white tale of moral decay and redemption is based on the true story of the Black Legion’s condemnable actions in Michigan in the 1930s. Warner Home Video, Running Time: 83 minutes, Not Rated, B&W, item #VVWA65273
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 27 December 2011
Seems Like Murder Here (book)