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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 13, 2010


Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, Black Commentator, March 2006 - Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., who wants to become a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, has sunk lower than a snake. He has defamed his grandmother, and his great-grandparents, by claiming that their lives were frauds and lies - that they were whites passing for Black.
. . . Ford's allegation, now mimicked by much of his highly political family, but never mentioned by any family member before the 35-year-old senatorial candidate casually smeared his grandmother in USA Today, in December, defies all reason. Grandmother Vera Ford, who died in 1994 at the age of 78, was the daughter of John Davis and Lottie McGinnis, both of whose death certificates list them as "Negro" - as skillfully reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Wendi C. Thomas on March 19.

Vera Ford's parents were married at a time of great racial violence in Tennessee and the nation. Shelby County - Memphis - recorded the highest number of lynchings of Blacks in the state. In 1917, a year after Vera's birth, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, white mobs vented their racist anger en mass:

Tennessee's "greatest lynching carnival" was held in Memphis in May 1917 when Ell Person, the allegedly confessed ax-murderer of a sixteen-year-old white girl, was burned to death in the presence of fifteen thousand men, women, and little children. The mother of the murdered child cheered the mob as they poured oil on the man and set him afire. The Memphis Press said that "the mob fought and screamed and crowded to get a glimpse of him and the mob closed in and struggled about the fire."

Young Harold Ford (known as "The Prince"), who ascended to his father's congressional seat at the age of 26 in 1996, would have us believe that, during this period of murderous white mob violence, a white couple from Memphis would both decide to become Black, and to subject their children to Jim Crow schools and lynch law justice. It defies all reason - an amazing fiction concocted in Harold Jr.'s head for purposes unknown.

Grandmother Vera attended all-Black Booker T. Washington High School. In 1934, at age 19, she married Harold's grandfather, N.J. Ford, a somewhat darker Black man. Together, they launched the family funeral home and political dynasty. Nobody questioned Vera's Blackness. As Wendi Thomas reports, "Vera was named the Tennessee Mother of the Year, 'the first black woman ever so honored in Tennessee,' the Nashville Banner wrote in 1976."

Vera's death certificate, like those of her parents, John and Lottie, identifies her as Black.

There is a level of corruption that even the Ford family of Memphis have never stooped to - until now. Harold "The Prince" Jr. has submerged himself in the muck, and all but one close family member has dived in with him in order to save his senatorial campaign. None say that Vera ever fessed up to being white. Retroactively, they now say it was assumed. "She looked white," (indicted) son state senator John Ford told reporter Wendi Thomas. . .

There is really only one definition for the people who became African Americans: those who were eligible to be legally sold as chattel, and whose children were condemned to also be chattel for slavemaster scum. The "one drop" and "one-sixteenth" Black blood rule was simply a commercial arrangement, that allowed white men to exercise their sexual privileges among the slaves while carrying no parental obligations. As a result, the United States became the only country in the world in which rich and respected men routinely sold their own children - an abomination almost beyond comprehension, one that challenges normal notions of human behavior.

Because of the high cost of slaves in the U.S. - the driving force in this grotesque social arrangement that led to child-selling - and because the United States had a large and heavily armed white population, there was no need to create a mulatto class with privileges recognized by the white rulers. Unlike elsewhere in the African Diaspora, the "one drop" rule reigned. All of the "one drop" or more people were herded together, to be sold during slavery, and Jim Crowed in its aftermath.

However, in this centuries-long process, a people came into being: African Americans of many hues but sharing the same references and history. During slavery, all could be sold. Afterwards, all could be lynched, and all were segregated - unless they "passed," which usually required leaving the region where everybody knew who was who and where they came from. But most did not, because of their ties to their land, family, community and collective aspirations.

A distinct people emerged from the cauldron, a people who developed their own institutions in opposition to white institutions, and their own view of the world. A people with a sense of community that had been forged in - among the many oppressions of slavery and Jim Crow - the sexual oppression of Black women that created the multi-hued African American group.

Vera Ford belonged to that group, as did her parents, John and Lottie. They did not "pass" but stayed within the community. Now, her grandson, the despicable and underbrained brat who wants to be a senator, is casting her out, claiming she was white.



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