Lessons from Colorado: Black Ghost Towns – “Booker T. turning in his grave”

Go Lean Commentary

CU Blog - Lessons from Colorado - Black Ghost Towns - Photo 0This precept is straight-forward, natural and moral:

Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. – The Bible – Galatians 6:7

Or stated otherwise:

If you sow wheat, you will reap wheat … during the harvest.

Barring any extra-natural intervention, a roadmap that is based on this natural law should indeed experience success. And yet, Booker T. Washington – one of the most influential African-American leaders in the history of the country – is probably “turning in his grave”, when considering the actuality of so many Black townships that were formed in his wake.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean makes an important point about the African experience in the US; it is one of deferred gratification, not to expect an immediate return, result and consequence; the reap-what-you-sow mantra had been irrelevant.

There is a Lesson in History that Caribbean communities must consider. One commentator, activist and comedian summarized it as the “home court advantage”:

The world is mourning the passing of this comedian, Dick Gregory at age 84 (October 12, 1932 – August 19, 2017). Among the many accomplishments in his full life was this one declaration – quoted in a previous Go Lean commentary – on November 27, 1963 when President Lyndon Johnson announced at a Joint-Session of Congress that he would continue with the recently assassinated John Kennedy’s Civil Rights agenda:

“Twenty million American Negroes unpacked”.

He thereby acknowledged that until that moment – in the 1960’s – the United States of America was really not home for the minority African-American populations. No, White America had the “home-court advantage”.

This “home-court advantage” is in contrast with the straight-forward, natural and moral precept … mentioned at the outset. That precept was vocalized by Booker T. Washington. He advocated an economic empowerment plan to “prosper where planted”. This was sound, if not for the actuality of White Supremacy in early 20th Century America.

The details of Booker T.’s advocacy was fully detailed in a previous Go Lean blog-commentary:

A Lesson in History – Booker T versus Du Bois

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois … were [both] very important in the history of civil rights for African-Americans. They both wanted the same elevation of their community – [the “Way Forward”] – in American society, but they both had different strategies, tactics and implementations.

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Washington’s biggest legacy is the Tuskegee University (Tuskegee Institute in his day). Du Bois’s legacy stems from his co-founding the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

The conclusion … is that the journey for full citizenship for African-Americans took 100 years from the time of the Washington / Du Bois chasm. No matter the detailed approach, 100 years is still 100 years.

From the point of view of the Caribbean and the publishers of Go Lean…Caribbean, we side with both civil rights leaders in aspirations, but lean towards Booker T. Washington in strategies. Underlying to Mr. Washington’s advocacy, was for the Black Man to remain in the South, find a way to reconcile with his White neighbors and to prosper where he was planted.

The point from a Caribbean perspective is “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. We have problems in the Caribbean to contend with, many of which we are failing miserably. But our biggest crisis stems from the fact that so many of our citizens have fled their Caribbean homelands for foreign (including American) shores.

The purpose of this commentary is not to fix America, it is to fix the Caribbean. But the push-and-pull factors are too strong coming from the US. We must lower the glimmering light, the “pull factors”, that so many Caribbean residents perceive of the “Welcome” sign hanging at American ports-of-entry. A consideration of this commentary helps us to understand the DNA of American society: un-reconciled race relations in which Black-and-Brown are still not respected.

The logical conclusion: stay home in the Caribbean and work toward improving the homeland. The US should not be the panacea of Caribbean hopes and dreams.

Booker T. Washington advocated this strategy: prosper where you’re planted.

After 100 years, and despite an African-American President, we must say to Mr. Booker T. Washington: We concur!

The history and legacy of one of the Booker T’s inspired Black townships – Dearfield, Colorado – is commemorated in the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver, Colorado. This historicity – see encyclopedic details here – is one of the lessons learned from developments in Denver and the State of Colorado. This is the theme of this series of commentaries on lessons that have been learned by Caribbean stakeholders visiting, observing and reporting on this US State of Colorado.

Reference – Dearfield, Colorado

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Dearfield is a “ghost town” and a historically black majority settlement in Weld County, Colorado, United States. It is 30 miles (48 km) east of Greeley. The town was formed by Oliver T. Jackson who desired to create a colony for African Americans; [he was inspired by the ideals set forth in Booker T. Washington’s book “Up from Slavery”; see Appendix below]. In 1910, Jackson, a successful businessman from Boulder, filed on the homestead that later became the town and began to advertise for “colonists.” The name Dearfield was suggested by one of the town’s citizens, Dr. J.H.P. Westbrook who was from Denver. The word dear was chosen as the foundation for the town’s name due to the precious value of the land and community to the town’s settlers.[2]

The first settlers of Dearfield had great difficulty farming the surrounding pasture and endured several harsh seasons. However, by 1921, 700 people lived in Dearfield. The town’s net worth was appraised at $1,075,000. After several prosperous years, the Great Depression arrived and the town’s agricultural success significantly declined. Settlers began to leave Dearfield in order to find better opportunities. By 1940, the town population had decreased to 12, only 2% of the town’s 1921 population. Jackson desperately attempted to spur interest in the town, even offering it for sale. However, there was little interest in Dearfield. Jackson died on February 18, 1948.

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A few deserted buildings remain in Dearfield: a gas station, a diner, and the founder’s home. In 1998, the Black American West Museum in Denver began to make attempts to preserve the town’s site. It is a Colorado Registered Historic Landmark. A 2010 monument next to one of the remaining buildings contains information about the history of the site.

A 2001 state historical marker [3] at U.S. Route 85 mile marker 264 near Evans, Colorado, includes a panel with the history of Dearfield.
Source: Retrieved August 20, 2017 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dearfield,_Colorado

There were other Black townships as well; consider: Allensworth, California, Boley, Oklahoma, and Nicodemus, Kansas.

What befell these towns?

Agents of Change

This is a strong point of contention in the Go Lean book (Page 45). It asserts that the modern world does NOT stand-still; change is ever-present. The Agents of Change that befell the Black townships of that era were mostly:

  • Geo-political – An early round of globalization where focus, investments and jobs  shifted away from the farms to the factories in the cities.
  • Technology – Agricultural science and methods changed; i.e. fertilizers, seeds, etc.
  • Climate Change – In the early 1930’s, a pervasive drought afflicted the High Plains of the Mid-West United States, creating the Dust Bowl; this was exacerbated by bad farming practices, that cause the disaster to linger longer than best-practices dictated.
    CU Blog - Lessons from Colorado - Black Ghost Towns - Photo 3
  • Racism and White Supremacy could have been considered among these Agents of Change, though this societal defect remained unresolved and un-reconciled in American society, no matter the location, North-South or Urban-Rural. Whenever Black townships made progress, malicious acts from the White Majority curtailed any advances. See here:
    VIDEO – How Black Communities Were Destroyed | Sincere History – https://youtu.be/jRZ6o0W_pHI
    Published on Dec 21, 2015 – A hundred years ago, in communities across the U.S., white residents forced thousands of black families to flee their homes. Even a century later, these towns remain almost entirely white. BANISHED tells the story of three of these communities and their black descendants, who return to learn their shocking histories.”
    Reason TV: Urban Renewal – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWGws…
    For more, go to http://sincereignorance.com/2014/08/0…
    Sincere Ignorance Social Media
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sincereignor…
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/sincereignorant

In the Caribbean, we have so much in common and so much in contrast with this community of Dearfield, and the other towns who suffered the same Ghost Town fate. For starters, we have our own Ghost Towns. We also have Agents of Change (Globalization, Technology, Climate Change and the Aging Diaspora) to contend with. So we have to build-up our Caribbean homeland so that our people can “prosper where planted”. But we do have a home-court advantage that Dearfield et al never enjoyed; we have a majority Black population.

This commentary completes the 5-part series on the subject of Lessons from Colorado. There are so many lessons that we have considered from this land-locked US State; good ones and bad ones. In fact, the full list of 5 entries are detailed as follows:

  1. Lessons from Colorado – Common Sense of Eco-Tourism
  2. Lessons from Colorado – Legalized Marijuana: Heavy-lifting!
  3. Lessons from Colorado – How the West Was Won
  4. Lessons from Colorado – Water Management Art and Science
  5. Lessons from Colorado – Black Ghost Towns

This book Go Lean… Caribbean, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), which represents change for the region. The CU/Go Lean roadmap has 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance – including best practices in town planning and agricultture – to support these engines.

The Go Lean roadmap provides turn-by-turn directions on how to forge this change in the region for a reboot of the Caribbean societal engines: economy, security and governance. This roadmap is presented as a planning tool, pronouncing this point early in the Declaration of Interdependence with these statements: (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxiv.  Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

The Go Lean book calls for the elevation of Caribbean society, to re-focus, re-boot, and optimize all the societal engines so as to make the 30 member-states of the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.  Thank you Colorado for these lessons from your past, present and future on how we can better shepherd our society.

Your land is a great place to visit, but it is not our home. But still, you have shown us that nation-building is heavy-lifting and that we need good role models to follow.

There have been other Go Lean blog-commentaries that presented good role models for nation-building, especially in the light of societal defects; see this sample here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=12369 Happy Canada Day 150 to a Pluralistic Democracy
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=11386 Building Better Cities
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=10513 Transforming ‘Money’ Countrywide
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6563 Lessons from Iceland – Model of Recovery

If we do not learn from history, we are forced to repeat it.

This also applies to other people’s history. There are so many lessons that the Caribbean can learn from other communities: best practices and bad practices. Let’s pay more than the usual attention to these lessons.

We need all the help we can get. The bad old days of Caribbean dysfunction must end. We must work to do better, to be better.

These lands are our home! (Unlike our African-American brothers and sisters of olden times, we have the home-court advantage):

This is my island in the sun
Where my people have toiled since time begun
I may sail on many a sea
Her shores will always be home to me

Song: Island in the Sun by Harry Belafonte

Yes, we can! We can make our homelands better places to live, work and play. 🙂

… and RIP Dick Gregory.

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Book Review: Up from Slavery 

CU Blog - Lessons from Colorado - Black Ghost Towns - Photo 4Up from Slavery is the 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington sharing his personal experience of having to work to rise up from the position of a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education at the new Hampton Institute, to his work establishing vocational schools—most notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama—to help black people and other disadvantaged minorities learn useful, marketable skills and work to pull themselves, as a race, up by the bootstraps. He reflects on the generosity of both teachers and philanthropists who helped in educating blacks and Native Americans. He describes his efforts to instill manners, breeding, health and a feeling of dignity to students. His educational philosophy stresses combining academic subjects with learning a trade (something which is reminiscent of the educational theories of John Ruskin). Washington explained that the integration of practical subjects is partly designed to reassure the white community as to the usefulness of educating black people.

This book was first released as a serialized work in 1900 through The Outlook, a Christian newspaper of New York. This work was serialized because this meant that during the writing process, Washington was able to hear critiques and requests from his audience and could more easily adapt his paper to his diverse audience.[1]

Washington was a controversial figure in his own lifetime, and W. E. B. Du Bois, among others, criticized some of his views. The book was, however, a best-seller, and remained the most popular African American autobiography until that of Malcolm X.[2] In 1998, the Modern Librarylisted the book at No. 3 on its list of the 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century, and in 1999 it was also listed by the conservative Intercollegiate Review as one of the “50 Best Books of the Twentieth Century”.[3]

Plot summary

Up from Slavery chronicles more than forty years of Washington’s life: from slave to schoolmaster to the face of southern race relations. In this text, Washington climbs the social ladder through hard, manual labor, a decent education, and relationships with great people. Throughout the text, he stresses the importance of education for the black population as a reasonable tactic to ease race relations in the South (particularly in the context of Reconstruction).

Source: Retrieved August 21, 2017 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_from_Slavery

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