Land of Lincoln (They Say)

January 1, 2013

They say that Illinois is the land of Lincoln
And that Springfield is the heart of that land.

They say that Lincoln was ugly, morose and awkward
And that despite his character flaws he should be honored
For keeping the country together
For freeing Africans from chattel slavery.

They say, they say, they say
Until I can’t help being sickened.

Yes, Lincoln signed his name on a document
That nominally ended the American version of slavery
Once and for all

But he took a long and winding road to get there
And part of that road included a path off the beaten trail
Called the american colonization society
A society that didn’t want to participate any longer
In sucking the blood from Africans
A society that just wanted us to recross the Middle Passage
And take our black asses on home.

Lincoln found out that wasn’t feasible
the day he took office
and southern state after southern state
seceded from the union.

See, president after president
from the first to the fifteenth
consistently passed the buck on the question of slavery.
None of them had the werewithal
to disrupt the economy of the country
by dismantling slavery.

Northern mills manufactured the cotton
Produced from Africans enslaved on the plantations.
Coffee drinkers had their coffee sweetened
With the sugar produced from Africans enslaved
On the plantations.
No president could conceive the building of this country
Shouldn’t have to rely on the whip, the dogs, the blood soaked earth
The all-encompassing misery of African people
To make this country’s destiny manifest.

But they say that Lincoln had the courage of his convictions
And they say his convictions were inherent in the words
Of the declaration of independence.
They say he was The Great Emancipator

Lincoln signing his name on a piece of paper
Couldn’t stop Northern whites from rioting
Because they had to go to war
To free Africans.

Lincoln signing his name on a piece of paper
Couldn’t stop the South from beating the North
In battle after battle.

Lincoln signing his name on a piece of paper
Was a strategic move
To break the South economically.
If the South didn’t have the revenue produced by Africans
They wouldn’t be able to keep up with the cost of war.
That was the real reason behind Sherman’s march to the sea.

So on this day
When they have closed downtown Springfield
For the grand opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
When they say that Illinois is the Land of Lincoln
And Springfield is the heart of that land
After I get up from praying to the porcelain god
And rinse my mouth out
I take up my pen
And try to give you the real deal.

 

Excerpted from my book, In the Whirlwind

 

For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria:

I’ve started reading this already but have been interrupted by other reading interludes: A Thousand Splendid Suns; Something Torn and New; I, Alex Cross; The Epic of Askia Mohammed; Our Sister Killjoy.  I’ll be discussing some of them in later posts as they do fit the meme.

After reading the above paragraph, I realized someone reading this might think that my detours on the reading path are the result of a disinterest in Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (FRK). Nothing further could be the truth.

The other day after a reading bout with Something Torn and New  by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, I had the thought that he just might transplant Malcolm X as my ideological father. However, I quickly realized it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. As a writer, Ngugi helps me to be centered and connected to what is ultimately most righteous about writing. As an African, Malcolm helped me to be proud. Both help me to be a better human being. But there’s no denying they are both men. As historian Edna Gay said in her introduction to Wives of the Leopard (another book on my list),

“Dahomey seemed a place where women prior to the colonial period had enjoyed extraordinary liberties and powers – an ideal subject for a young woman, like so many others at the time, looking for patterns of female autonomy different from the experience of the West”.

I didn’t realize how hungry I was for “patterns of female automony different from…the West” until I started reading about FRK.  All the contradictions black women, in general and conscious black women, in particular, face were experienced by Funmilayo. She responded to these pressures and contradictions by drawing closer to Africa (and African culture) rather than divorcing herself.

I believe that part of her ability to do so was fostered by her parents’ belief in educating girl children. In fact they believed in it so much, they sent her to England to continue her education…even though she was deeply in love with her future husband. While in England, she chose to drop her Christian first name of Frances and be known only by the African Funmilayo. This, at age 19 in 1919. Also at some point in her activist life, she also chose to forgo wearing european clothing.  All this while still remaining a Christian. How was she able to manage what seems to be incompatible identities? What was it about her husband that made him supportive of her goals? Basically what lessons can we glean from her life and doings that would enable us to be healthier and whole instead of fractured and ill.

As I stated at the beginning I haven’t finished the book yet. Therefore I don’t feel qualified to post this like it’s an actual review. These are simply my first impressions. When I finish it, you know I’ll have more Mad Reader thoughts.