Woodson’s initiative includes a series of essays and a school curriculum that recount the facts and stories of America’s founding and black history. It is from these essays that inspiration came for Woodson’s new book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.”
The stories and facts in the book, which was released in May, are important “for all people to know, to get an accurate understanding of America’s past—the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Woodson says.
He adds that the “message of the book to America is, if blacks could achieve these great things of creating their own railroad, if we were able to build our own Wall Streets, if we were able to achieve in schools, and reduce the income gap … then we need to apply these old values to a new vision.”
Woodson joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share some of his favorite true stories of American blacks’ success detailed in the book and to share a bit of his own personal story.
We also cover these news stories:
- The Senate takes a big step toward passing Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package.
- YouTube suspends Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., from its platform for a week over a COVID-19 video.
- Conflicts over mask policies in Florida continue to mount.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: Bob Woodson is the founder of the Woodson Center and the author of the new book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.” He joins me today to discuss his new book and his lifetime of service to America’s struggling communities. Mr. Woodson, thank you so much for being here.
Bob Woodson: Thanks for inviting me.
Allen: Well, before we discuss the book, I want to chat about the inspiration really for where this book came from. One of the more recent initiatives of the Woodson Center is 1776 Unites, which was really established in response to The New York Times controversial 1619 Project. So if you would, just tell us a little bit about 1776 Unites.
Woodson: Well, as a veteran of the civil rights movement, that I’ve spent all my life using the values and virtues of the Founders of this country, I was outraged in 2019 when The New York Times published … a book that tried to revise history and define America’s birth date as 1619, when the first 20 African slaves arrived on our shores. And then they went on to conclude that as a consequence, America should be defined and everything should be viewed through a lens of racial animus or racial discrimination, and that all whites are victimizers and all blacks are victims.
Well, I was outraged. So I assembled a group of black scholars and a cross section of activists to respond to this outrage. And so we published a series of essays to counter the argument being promoted by 1619, but we didn’t want to engage in another round of gladiatorial debate. What we wanted to offer the public is an accurate, inspirational and aspirational alternative narrative that will show by examples that Black America has never been defined by oppression and America should not be defined by its birth defect of slavery.
Allen: Powerful. Now, your new book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers,” it is described in a great sentence in the kind of Amazon review of the book as “an indisputable corrective to the falsified version of black history presented by the 1619 Project, radical activists, and money-hungry ‘diversity consultants.'” So explain, if you will, a little bit more about really the mission of the book and how 1776 Unites laid this wonderful foundation for the book.
Woodson: Well, first of all, what the Pulitzer company did was take this false history and they have [been] promoting it through our public school systems, so children are being taught curriculum that America should be defined as an oppressive, racist society and blacks are America’s perpetual victims. And that our history is from plantation, I mean, from slave ships to plantations, to ghettos, to welfare. What we are doing is providing an alternative set of curriculum.
We took some stories from the past that there were 20 blacks who were born slaves who died millionaires. When we were denied access to hotels, we built our own, our own medical schools, a hundred colleges throughout the country.
So in these essays, we just chronicle all of the successes that blacks have achieved. We have the highest marriage rate between 1930 and 1940. These are important facts for all people to know, to get an accurate understanding of America’s past—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We had 15,000 downloads of our curriculum in the first two weeks because Americans are eager to receive an accurate and uplifting and inspirational account of how this rich nation has achieved all it has achieved.
Allen: I think you’re so right. People are so hungry to know the truth and to know really the full picture of America’s past. Obviously, we can’t ignore America’s past of slavery and segregation, but I think you-all have done such a beautiful job through 1776 Unites, really aiming to tell that full story, and then that’s translated so, so beautifully in the book. Many of those essays are now all beautifully compiled in the book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.”
You mentioned some of those stories that you share in the book about African Americans who have overcome against all odds. Would you mind just sharing maybe one or two of those stories that really touched you personally?
Woodson: Yes. One of my favorites, I said, “America doesn’t have a race problem, it has a grace problem.” And so, there are all kinds of examples. And I’ll give you a couple of what I call “radical grace in action.”
A man named Robert Smalls was built in Sumter, South Carolina, a slave, and he found himself one of six members of slave crews during the war, of Civil War. He found himself one of six members of a crew of a supply ship in Sumter, South Carolina. And so when his master went off on a Friday night to dine, he commandeered the ship and picked up the families—so his family and the other slaves, crew members—and put on the boss’ hat and his coat and maneuvered past five Southern garrisons and turned the ship over to the Union Navy. He was celebrated and result of that, [President Abraham] Lincoln allowed blacks to fight in the Civil War.
After the war was over, Robert Smalls became a wealthy businessman. He also, during Reconstruction, served in the House of Representatives. He went back and purchased the plantation on which he was a slave. And because the wife and the children of the slave owner found themselves destitute, Robert Smalls took them into his house, and because she was delusional and never realized that slavery had ended, he permitted her to even sleep in the master bedroom.
Robert Smalls is an example of radical grace in action. And that’s one celebrated story.
Another one, Biddy Mason. She was born 1818 in Mississippi, since her master was a Mormon, she walked a thousand miles in Mississippi to Salt Lake City attending the sheep and also delivering babies. And she had three of her own, one by the slave master.
After a short while, they went to California, where she became a free, because that’s a free state. But Biddy Mason was a midwife. And for 10 years she made $1.50 a day and she saved her money, purchased land, downtown Los Angeles, and built homes. And as a result, she became a philanthropist and she was the founder of the [African Methodist Episcopal] Church. And when she died, she was worth about $5 million in today’s dollars.
There are other remarkable stories of resilience and perseverance in the presence of oppression. And so the book is filled with examples that only in America, with all of its flaws, could you find some examples of achieving against the odds.
Allen: That’s so wonderful. We are talking with Mr. Bob Woodson, author of the new book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.” Mr. Woodson, I’m familiar with the term “revisionist”—those who essentially revise history in order to further a specific narrative or an agenda—but I’m not too familiar with the term “race hustlers.” What do you mean by that?
Woodson: What I mean by that is there are people who profit off of promoting this fake narrative, a false narrative, that America is incurably racist and that racism is in its DNA.
And in order to resolve that, companies are racing to hire consultants who come in to do racial audits. School systems are hiring people to do critical race theory training. Universities are hiring diversity counselors. Companies are hiring people to come in and do racial training. … Ibram Kendi’s book [“How to Be an Antiracist”], he’s making millions on selling books. Ta-Nehisi Coates, his race grievance books are required reading at universities.
So … all of these people are becoming wealthy at the expense of the American public. That has spawned an entire industry of people who make a generous living off of the grievance and pain of people.
You know the Black Lives Matter founder, they found that she has purchased $3.5 million worth of mansions in the California community. And that’s just another example of racial profiteers that we call “race hustlers.”
Allen: So this book and 1776 Unites is such a direct response, as you say, to the 1619 product, to critical race theory, obviously, at a very significant moment in history. Mr. Woodson, … as you have personally kind of thought about America’s past of slavery and segregation, what has your journey been of processing through those things?
Woodson: I was born in South Philadelphia, during the Depression, during segregation, but we lived in a close-knit, blue-collar neighborhood where all of the households had a man and a woman raising children. But my dad died when I was 9, leaving my mother with five children to raise. She had a fifth-grade education and had to work hard. And so my dad moved us out of that neighborhood into a better place.
Since my friends were a year older and they graduated before me, so I dropped out of high school, went into the military, where I served and was the greatest decision in my life, but I was stationed in the Deep South. And when I took courses from the University of Miami, I had to take them on the base because of segregation. I could not attend campus. So I know what segregation is like.
Afterward, I got out of the military, worked full time, got an undergraduate degree from Cheyney State University, and then a master’s degree from University of Penn.
Then I became active in the civil rights movement, but became disenchanted with that movement when I realized that when many of the people who sacrificed who were poor, just opening the doors of opportunity was not sufficient, they had to be prepared, but the civil rights leadership has suddenly began to morph into a race grievance industry. And so I left the civil rights movement and from then until now worked on behalf of low-income people of all races.
My personal goal and the goal of the Woodson Center is to deracialize race and desegregate poverty. The biggest challenge we face in America is upward mobility for low-income people of all races and ethnicities. And there’s where we should be directing our time and attention, and not on race issues.
It’s also insulting for blacks to assume that we must have the rules, the standards lowered as an act of racial reconciliation. This has just been so insulting to me personally, and to our organization. And so we are trying to return America to the America of Dr. Martin Luther King [Jr.], where we’re judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.
Allen: And I do, Mr. Woodson, just want to take a moment to thank you for the work that you have done at the Woodson Center over so many decades.
I love the model that you-all have because you all decided, “All right, we’re actually, we’re going to go into those struggling communities, those low-income communities, and we’re going to look for the leaders. We’re going to look for the organizations that are already there working on the ground. We’re going to partner with them because they know what their community needs, and we’re going to come alongside them and give them what they need and support the work that they’re doing.” …
It sounds simple, but in many ways it’s such a groundbreaking model. Because it’s very different from what we see the government often try and do and what sometimes we’ll see other organizations do. But I know you have been involved in changing so, so many lives. So thank you for the work that you have done at the Woodson Center.
Woodson: Well, I thank you. And we’re being joined now—I mean, the very fact that the book sold out in just two weeks on Amazon. We sold about 15,000 books within a matter of a few weeks. Amazon did not anticipate, the publisher did not anticipate that response, and so they had to publish on demand for a month and now they’re resupplied.
So we’re very, very pleased at the receptivity on the part of the public for information that is inspiring and supporting the fundamental values and principles of this fine nation of ours. The very fact that people of color are risking their lives to come to cross our borders and yet people who are here are promoting this false narrative that racism is in America’s DNA.
Allen: Yeah. We are talking with Bob Woodson, author of the book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.” Mr. Woodson, I know there’s so many wonderful essays in the book. Like you say, the book sold out. People have just been snatching it off the shelves, virtual shelves. I know there’s so many wonderful essays in the book and I’m sure it’s very, very hard to pick a favorite, but do you have one that has personally really touched or impacted you or that speaks to you in a really significant way?
Woodson: Yeah, the one that I guess that I favor is—well, actually, there are two of them, but the one that I enjoy reading is when one of our essayists looked at the impact that slavery had on the family.
So he looked at six plantations, the records of six plantations, and [looked at] what the state of the marriage was. And they found that 75% of those slave households had a man and a woman raising children. Some could legally marry others. But right after that, it was just a lot of marriages occurred.
And another example of resilience and perseverance against the odds documented the fact that 75% of those slaves were illiterate, but yet within 40 years, that 75% illiteracy shrunk to about 25%. And when the Freedmen’s Bureau sent aides south to teach blacks how to read, they reported that there’s little that the government can do because the Sabbath churches, the churches on Saturdays, were doing a yeoman’s job of teaching blacks how to read.
And those family compositions, the black nuclear family of a man and a woman raising children, continued to prosper for a century up until 1965. Also, that the poverty rate in the black community declined from 1940 to 1960, from 82% down to 32%.
What I’m fascinated by our essays, [they] document the fact that when whites were at their worst, blacks were at their best.
The other essay is by John Sibley Butler that talks about, in 1929, in the city of the Bronzeville section of Chicago, where blacks were red-lined and segregated, they produced 731 black-owned businesses, $100 million in real estate assets, with an out-of-wedlock birth under 12%.
So those are my two favorite essays, because [they talk] eloquently about [and document] evidence of resistance through perseverance.
Allen: So then what happened to shift—now with so many kind of impoverished areas across America, and we see income levels falling, and obviously, high rates of single African American mothers, what changed?
Woodson: What slavery could not do, what 100 years of Jim Crow could not defeat, government policies from the ’60s absolutely devastated the black community, urban renewal wiped out all of the commercial centers around the country, like the Greenwood section and the Black Wall Street in the ’60s.
When we went from a market economy to a social economy, when social policies in the ’60s with the poverty programs where they separated work from income, removed the stigma of welfare, and the government actively recruited blacks into the welfare system, millions, according to Fred Siegel’s book “The Future Once Happened Here.” Blacks began to flood into the welfare system.
What the leftist social scientists predicted came true and that is out-of-wedlock births would soar, dropout work, drug addiction, criminal behavior, and all of these declines came in response to the poverty programs of the ’60s, where black civil rights leaders migrated into becoming elected officials in the cities and they were the managers and distributors of the $22 trillion in poverty programs where 70 cents of every dollar went not to the poor, but those who served poor.
So … we created a commodity out of poor people. And so that’s why all of these combinations of actions and policies that were taken on the part of the government served to devastate the black family and those communities. And that’s why we have the mess that we have today.
Allen: So then what’s your message in the book, to those who read the book, to those who visit 1776 Unites and look at the school curriculum, your many essays, what is the message that you want them to take about how we can move forward?
Woodson: The message in the book is that people are motivated to change and improve when they’re presented with victories that are possible, not injuries to be avoided.
So the message of the book to America is, if blacks could achieve these great things of creating their own railroad, if we were able to build our own Wall Streets, if we were able to achieve in schools and reduce the income gap, if we were able to do things in the past, then we need to apply these old values to a new vision.
And the Woodson Center, with its initiatives, is using this because … we have supported contemporary examples of communities being restored from the inside out and the bottom up, we have supported those grassroots leaders that have the same attitude of resilience. And so we think we should build on these centers of moral and spiritual excellence and invest in those. That’s what we must do.
So the Woodson Center, we give examples of the Piney Woods School, 115 years old, a black boarding school in Mississippi that takes in families that are in crisis, children of families in crisis, 96% of these kids go on to college. It is a Christian boarding school, that’s mandatory chapel, mandatory work.
So what the Woodson Center is about is identifying these islands of moral and spiritual excellence that reflect the values of the past. And we must promote them and make sure that we propagate them throughout the country.
Allen: And Mr. Woodson, you’ve been so faithful to do that throughout your career. I want to congratulate you on your recently announced retirement. We know that you’re not going away. As you say, you’re going to continue writing and researching and investing in American communities, but we really are truly thankful for the work that you have done at the Woodson Center.
And we encourage all of our listeners go to Amazon and get “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.” Also, visit 1776Unites.com to read the many, many essays. You can download the curriculum for students there. And of course, visit the Woodson Center website to learn about all their many initiatives and the work that they’re doing across America.
Mr. Woodson, thank you so much for your time today.
Woodson: And thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share with your listeners.
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