Do you know the truth about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.?


Which of the following statements is false about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.?

  • George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that created a federal holiday to honor King.
  • King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin. The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.
  • King entered college at the age of 15. King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.
  • King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death. On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.
  • He once attempted suicide: Distraught over the death of his grandmother Jennie, 12-year-old Martin jumped from a second story window at his family home, allegedly attempting suicide.
  • Surprising autopsy results: When he died, King was only 39 years old, but upon final autopsy, the medical examiner was surprised to find that his heart had the wear and tear of a 60-year-old. The doctor said he believed this to be the result of stress.
  • He spent his wedding night in a funeral home: At the time of his marriage to Coretta Scott King in 1953, honeymoon suites were unavailable to African Americans. Because of this, the couple spent their wedding night in a funeral home owned by a friend.
  • He was a Trekkie: At a fund-raiser, King convinced actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura, to stay onboard when it was rumored she wanted to leave after the first season of the original “Star Trek.” He told Nichols he was her greatest fan.

Take a moment now and consider which of the above statements is false.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Keep thinking.

Okay, I’ll go ahead and tell you.

All of the above statements about MLK are true.


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St. Nicholas and The Secret History of Black Santas

The modern image of Santa Claus was created in the late 1800s by American artist Thomas Nast in a series of cartoons for Harper’s Weekly magazine. It became a staple of Christmas cards and advertising images in the early 20th Century, most notably a 1930s Coca-Cola commercial, which some believe popularized his distinctive red-and-white garb.

Traditional Santa Claus Popularized by Coca-Cola

However, the origins of this cultural icon run much deeper than that. In fact, it predates the inception of our nation, itself. I’ll share the true origin of Santa Claus and the secret history of Black Santas in America in this special episode. Please, please, please (begging like James Brown) share this episode with with your network during this holiday season.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson as Santa Claus

Give the gift of Black History this holiday season!

Black History Quiz: A Word Find Puzzle Book of Black History Facts and Quotes – Throughout the book, readers are presented with clues to the identity of influential people and historic events. The answers to the quizzes are words and phrases which are hidden inside a word find puzzle.  Over 250 facts are shared in this volume of word find puzzles that are sure to educate and inspire people of all ages and all over the world. After all, black history is world history.

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The Most Racist Song in American History

I publish a black history newsletter called Black History Quiz. New issues post every Sunday. A sample issue is below. Check it out and if you are intrigued please subscribe to the Black History Quiz newsletter and share with your network.

I grew up listening to this song and no doubt you did as well. When I heard it, great joy would swell up within me and I would come running to its siren call. If you were a kid in the 1970’s – 19990’s (and even now, in some places) this music had you begging your parents for money to buy Ice Cream from the Ice Cream man. Check out the video below to hear the tune I am speaking of.

Now “Turkey in the Straw” sounds innocent enough especially when you consider the first verse of the song which goes like this…

Turkey in the straw — Ha ha ha
Turkey in the hay — Hey hey hey
The Reubens are dancing to Turkey in the Straw
Hey highdy heydy, and a haw haw haw

So why is this racist? Well, someone took the tune of that song and added new lyrics to it and the song became a big hit for him and Columbia Records who published it in 1916. Can you guess the name of the song?

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Black History Quiz: A Word Find Puzzle Book of Black History Facts and Quotes – Throughout the book, readers are presented with clues to the identity of influential people and historic events. The answers to the quizzes are words and phrases which are hidden inside a word find puzzle.  Over 250 facts are shared in this volume of word find puzzles that are sure to educate and inspire people of all ages and all over the world. After all, black history is world history.

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Black History Quiz Answer

The remix of “Turkey In the Straw” was called “Nig*er love a Watermelon, Ha! Ha! Ha!” Listen to this discussion about it on the Hot97 Morning Show below. (Video below.)

So, what’s the story behind this? Well, according to Wikipedia. Harry C. Browne (August 18, 1878 – November 15, 1954) was an American banjo player and Racist actor. He appeared on stage and in silent films and recorded for Columbia Records in the 1910s and 1920s.

Browne was born in 1878 in North Adams, Massachusetts. Before his acting career, he served in the Second Massachusetts U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish–American War and had a brief career campaigning for the Democratic Party. In fact, William Jennings Bryan, then the Secretary of State, offered Browne a diplomatic position in February 1914 but the latter declined. Browne later worked for a stock company as an actor, casting him in plays such as Arizona and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in the early 1900s.

A skilled banjo player, Browne performed in vaudeville for seven years before recording a series of songs for Columbia Records, starting in 1916. His first record, perhaps his most well-known, is a re-interpretation of the American folk song “Turkey in the Straw”. Released in March 1916, Browne appropriated the standard as a coon song re-titled “Nig*er Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!”. It is commonly referred to as one of the most racist songs in American music: the song relied heavily on the watermelon stereotype, a belief popularized in the 19th century that African-Americans had an unusual appetite for watermelons. For the B-side, Browne chose to record the minstrel show favorite “Old Dan Tucker”, marking the tune’s first commercial appearance on a major label.

So, does this mean that Ice Cream Truck drivers are all racists? No. Actually, there is a compelling argument from The New Republic against this music used by Ice Cream trucks is racist at all. In a nutshell, a few quotes from their argument:

  • “… it sound like the “Turkey in the Straw” version vanished in the wake of the racist ones, but it always existed alongside and has outlived them. All evidence points to “Turkey in the Straw” being what the ice cream companies intended. In pop culture of the early twentieth century, that tune is eternally associated with either its inoffensive, nonsensical lyrics or, when performed instrumentally, with farm animals and rural settings. For example, the man who scored Looney Tunes, Carl Stalling, used “Turkey in the Straw” constantly in scenes on farms and especially with chickens and the like.“
  • “Johnson’s unearthing of the “Nigger Love a Watermelon” song is invaluable as history, but the likelihood that this is what the trucks were playing is negligible. The tune has been set to innumerable verses of various kinds, and this “Watermelon” rendition was, in the grand scheme of things, one of the vast majority of pop songs that comes and goes in a flash. That’s why it’s a rare archival find and historical footnote today.” 
  • “Was it really a custom for ice cream parlors to have someone sitting at the piano singing in black dialect about “darkies” eating watermelon and having razor fights? Let’s allow it could have been the custom at one of them somewhere—or just perhaps it was a rather obsessive quirk in some small town. But across this vast nation as a whole, was it ordinary to receive your banana split while being regaled with an endless succession of songs about coons and the ol’ plantation? And why in ice cream parlors, but not shoe stores or barbershops?”

My opinion is this…

Harry Browne’s remix of “Turkey in the Straw” is racist, pure and simple. It makes me think of how Big Al Yankovich would remake hit songs and people would sing them as much, if not more, than the original ones. Who remembers when he remade Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” song into “Eat it” and more recently, “White and Nerdy?” It did not replace the original songs he lampooned, it co-existed with them. I think Harry Browne’s racist version of the song is in the same vein.

I also find it unlikely that ice cream truck companies play this song with racist intent as the culture of ice cream parlors does not align with songs of the racist south. I also think that if such was the case, it would have been cancelled back in 2014 when this controversy was originally addressed.

So, is “Nig*er love a Watermelon, Ha! Ha! Ha!” the most racist song in America. Yes, it gets my vote. Are Ice Cream Trucks blasting it in our neighborhoods to promote racism? No. That being said, it may be best for Ice Cream trucks to switch song selection in these days of Cancel Culture and easily triggered crowds. Just my two cents of advice.

Dem Quakers is Good White Folks

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The Underground Railroad was a network of people, African American as well as white, offering shelter and aid to escaped slaves from the South. It developed as a convergence of several different clandestine efforts. The exact dates of its existence are not known, but it operated from the late 18th century to the Civil War, at which point its efforts continued to undermine the Confederacy in a less-secretive fashion. [1] 

George Fox

So, who created it? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some historians credit white Christian abolitionists – “the Quakers.”  Quakers are a historically Christian denomination whose formal name is the “Religious Society of Friends” or “Friends Church.” Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united by their belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access the light within, or “that of God in every one”. [2] The “Friends” were informally known as Quakers because they were said to “tremble in the way of the Lord.” [3]

Quaker leader George Fox, after a trip to Barbados, where he saw conditions slaves endured, pleaded with members of his sect to release their slaves even though they had treated them well.  Not only did many Quakers release their slaves, but they saw to it that they could take care of themselves, teaching them to read and write and, in many cases, seeing that they were escorted to states or territories where they could live in freedom. [4] 

Although George Washington freed all his slaves in his will, [5] he once complained that Quakers had attempted to “liberate” one of his slaves in 1786. [6] 

Next time you see this in the grocery store, think about the Underground Railroad.

Two prominent Quakers – Levi Coffin and John Fairfield

Levi Coffin: Sometimes called “the President of the Underground Railroad,” for nearly 20 years, North Carolina — born Coffin and his wife Catharine used their strategic location in southern Indiana, the modern-day Fountain City, to help more than 2,000 former slaves escape to freedom. A successful merchant, Coffin personally helped finance many Underground Railroad efforts. So many fugitive slaves came through his home that people renamed it “Grand Central Station.” Coffin’s reputation as a model citizen inspired other white people to become involved with the Underground Railroad. His 1847 relocation to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he died many years later, didn’t end his Underground Railroad activities.

John Fairfield: Hailing from a slaveholding family in Virginia, Fairfield, who abhorred slavery, became involved in the Underground Railroad when he helped a slave friend escape to Canada. Subsequently other black people, presumably in the Ohio area where he spent a lot of time, sought him out and paid him to help their relatives and friends escape. Posing as a slaveholder, a slave trader, and sometimes a peddler, Fairfield was able to gain the confidence of whites, which made it easier for him to lead runaway slaves to freedom. One of his most impressive feats was freeing 28 slaves by staging a funeral procession. While he led many of his charges to Canada, others he delivered to Levi Coffin, who handled the remainder of their escape. [7]

Recently, a certain Quaker was featured prominently in the national news and the center of controversy related to race relations in the USA. Do you know the name of the abolitionist Quaker I am speaking of?

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Black History Quiz Answer

The Quaker featured in the news recently was Betsy Ross.  Historians think the story of Betsy Ross is more of a legend than fact, akin to George Washington chopping down a cherry tree or Davy Crockett killing a bear at three years old. There is no definitive proof that she did or did not sew the first American flag for George Washington, nevertheless she receives credit for it. As such, accusing a Quaker of creating a “racist” flag is laughable in the context of history. This is possibly why, some may not want her to receive credit. (The origin of Betsy Ross being credited for the flag begins with a testimony of her grandson to a Historical society, 50 years after Betsy Ross’ passing.) [8]  

Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama

Prior to Colin Kapernick declaring the Besty Ross flag as a symbol of hate, it was routinely part of American political celebrations (i.e. President Barack Obama’s inauguration) and is often seen waving from American homes nationwide. Although some have tried to tie the Betsy Ross flag to white supremacy (i.e. Jeremy Joseph Christian), it is often seen waving from American homes nationwide as a symbol of freedom and pride in country. 


[1] Underground Railroad
[2] George Fox’s Journal 
[3] English Dissenters and Their Beliefs – Living Gospel Daily
[4] Cameron, Judy, and Bachelor, Rosemary, “Quakers in the Anti-Slavery Movement,” The Second Boat, Vol. 17, No. 6, Winter, 1998.
[5] A Decision to Free His Slaves
[6] Letter from George Washington to Robert Morris (April 12, 1786)
[7] The Underground Railroad: Key Participants
[8] Cox, Vicky, “Betsy Ross – A Flag for a New Nation” 2013 

For further study:

Black History Quiz is a weekly celebration of the contributions and achievements of Africans and the descendants of the diaspora in the United States and around the world. PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to this newsletter and help spread the word about a proud people and their cultures. New issues post on Sundays.

(This issue of Black History Quiz was originally published on July 19, 2020.)

Let’s Wait Before We Believe the Next Hate Crime

People fall for hate crime hoaxes because they want to believe the narrative that America is a hateful and racist country. As such, they rush to judgement when an alleged hate crime is reported (the more sensational the better) and once it is proven to be false, there is an audible sigh of disappointment. Soon thereafter, the lesson is forgotten and the dance repeats itself when the next hoax comes along. Case in point, how long was it between the Jessie Smollet and Bubba  Wallace incidents?  My question is rhetorical.

What bothers me the most about hate crime hoaxes is the psychological damage they inflict. People give less credence to such reports over time and thereby make it more challenging for the authorities to take seriously actual hate crimes. Statistically speaking, reports of hate crimes are on the rise. Yet, how many of these reported crimes are real vs fake? I wish I knew but at this writing, I could not find the details.

Typically when I think of hate crimes, my mind goes to white people committing crimes against black people because that is what I tend to hear in the mainstream media. However, that is not the full picture. Consider this quote from The Bulwark.

According to FBI statistics for 2017, racially motivated crimes against black Americans—usually intimidation or assault—make up the single largest category of hate crimes (nearly 30 percent of the total).  Jewish Americans were targeted in about 12 percent of all reported hate crimes; Muslim Americans, in about 4 percent; Hispanics, in 6.5 percent; gay, bisexual, or transgender people, in about nearly 16 percent. African-Americans were overrepresented as both hate-crime victims and offenders: In cases with a known perpetrator whose race was identified, 26 percent of the offenders were black and 61 percent were white. (Blacks make up about 13 percent of the population of the United States and whites 64 percent.)

A look at news stories of hate crimes shows similar complexities. The spike in hate-crime reports around the 2016 election included attacks on white people perceived as Trump supporters. In a particularly disturbing case in Chicago in January 2017, a mentally disabled 18-year-old white man was kidnapped, tied up, beaten, and abused for more than 24 hours by four black assailants who livestreamed some of the abuse in a Facebook video while yelling anti-Trump, anti-white profanities. Some anti-minority bias crimes are also committed by other minorities—whether it’s last year’s vicious beating of a 91-year-old Hispanic man in Los Angeles by an African-American woman who told the victim to “go back to Mexico”; the recent streak of assaults on Orthodox Jews in Crown Heights, New York, in which most of the known suspects are black teenagers; or the brutal beating of a Jewish man in Brooklyn last October by a Muslim livery cab driver who shouted anti-Jewish epithets.

In light of that, I am not inclined to dismiss investigating a hate crime simply because it does not smell right.  However, I would urge the public to not rush to judgement when the next “white on black” crime is glorified in the media. And I say that because when the roles are reversed, the media and outrage is largely silent.

As a public service to the overall community, I would ask everyone who is justifiably outraged over { insert alleged hate crime here } to wait until the official investigation of  { insert alleged hate crime here } to conclude before being outraged enough to riot and loot. If at the conclusion of the matter, an injustice has been proven, at least the anger would have been justified. In the interim, I offer the following list of reminders as to why waiting for an official investigation to be over is in the best interest of all concerned.

(Big thanks to Milo Yiannopoulos who created the initial version of the timeline. My list is an update of what he created in 2016.)

















And while this post may not be relevant today, please bookmark it for future reference as it is only a matter of time before another sensational race crime is reported; real or not.