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  An Essay By Brandon Jones, Death Row, Georgia

The federal government chose them from thousands of applicants for the color of their skin ([White), their poverty level (the bottom) and their physical ability to clear land and farm.

- Anne Rochell Konigsmark

'... this prison cell'                                                 By Brandon Astor Jones

Recently I came across a few quoted tidbits attributed to William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1703-1778). This famed orator and statesman passionately supported American independence from England. In a speech on November 18, 1777, he declared, "(if) I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms - never - never  never!  You can't conquer America [sic]."

With some sadness, as I pondered those words I wondered what he might have said in support of the subsequently displaced Native Americans who were in America first. I am often taken aback by the shortsighted selfishness of so many European males both past and present. I can only speculate, but it seems likely that he would have had an uncaring view toward any of the world's indigenous people, including the Australian Aborigine. History tells us that when indigenous people do not have White skin, in the eyes of most would be conquers (a.k.a. White colonialists) they tend to have little human worth.

In a letter to the Earl of Shelburne dated September 17, 1777, Pitt wrote that, "[r]eparation for our rights at home and security the like future violation [sic]." It does seem quite clear that Pitt was a supporter of just compensation for (some) mistreated people. The economic security of a people - more than any other contributing factor in their lives  will dictate the reach and scope of their future pursuit of liberty and happiness.

There are many ways to interpret the following statement that Pitt made in a speech before the House of Commons on January 14, 1766. "I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest [(sic)"

The word slave commands my attention in any stated context. It is not a word I take lightly. My esteemed ancestors, as slaves, were forced to pick cotton on a number of Mississippi Delta plantations. To enslave a people for hundreds of generational-years is, in and of itself reprehensible. It is even worse to then consign the descendants of those slaves to a social and economic second-class citizenship. The present economic growth and domination that America enjoys around the world was built upon the blood and sweat of Black slaves. There is more than sufficient proof of this fact. Yet, most of America's leaders become indignant when African-Americans speak of, let alone seek out, just reparations.

More than a hundred years ago the United States government promised freed slaves "forty acres and a mule." In reality, what the government did in the 1930's was gather up many of the same people who stole my people from Africa and gave them the acres and mules that had been promised to freed slaves. Why? Because most, but not all, white men who control politics in America are self promoting bigots.

From the stories handed down through generations in my family I can tell you that there is no human experience more demeaning and depressing than slavery. Even knowing that to be the case, the government routinely denies African-Americans. You see, the government is selective with its acres and mules. Let me share a few more words from Anne Rochell Konigsmark's "Dyess: Arkansas Depression Colony has a reunion article (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; July 7, 1999 issue):

"Dyess was one of 102 towns created by President Franklin Roosevelt for people lefi destitute by the Depression. About 45 were farming communities. In Dyess, each farmer could buy between 20 and 40 acres of land and a five room clapboard house for no money down at a very low interest rate. He also received a mule, a cow and groceries and supplies through the first year. The town worked as a cooperative; the cotton was sold communally, and the families received a share of any profits made off the crops and other Dyess industries, such as the general stores and cannery. About 500 families moved in the 1930's."

The government not only gave them my ancestors' "forty acres and a mule", it built them brand new houses, hospitals, general stores and industrial canneries to boot!

Today in states such as Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas, the average African-American farmer (who, I should add, has never known the government's favor) can barely get a bank loan to cover the price of seed for next year's crops!

To get 'forty acres and a mule' - or the modern equivalent thereof{ e.g. an amount of money of equal worth - in America, you have to have white skin. Black farmers in America have recently had to file civil lawsuits against the government - not to get preferential treatment, although we certainly deserve it as much if not more than any other group in America - just to get fair treatment. The fact that I started off as a good young Midwestern farmer fifty years ago but now find myself writing these words from a death row prison cell in Georgia, speaks volumes about America.

Lest I be thoroughly misunderstood, let me make the end of the paragraph above perfectly clear. I do not mean to use America's bigotry as an excuse for being on death row, rather, I want the reader to honestly appreciate that had the prospects of being a successful African-American farmer not been so bleak and entrenched in American racism I would probably still be in an Illinois cornfield - a place I love-  instead of this prison cell.

Brandon Astor Jones  EF-122216; G3-63
Georgia Diagnostic Classification Prison
Post Office Box 3877
Jackson, Georgia 30233, U.S.A.

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Brandon encourages response to this or any other essay/poetry be it pro or con. You may write to him direct at the address above (but be sure to include your lull name and return address on the envelope or the prison censors will not deliver your letter to him). Brandon appreciates your interest.

Copyright © 1999 Brandon Astor Jones All rights reserved. No part of this text/publication
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without Brandon A. Jones' written permission via Brandon's prison address above.
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