Dr. John Henrik Clarke famously said, “History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are. Most important, history tells a people where they still must go, what they still must be. The relationship of history to the people is the same as the relationship of a mother to her child.”
There are many ghosts of the greats who sacrificed so much for us to exist today. We would not have had our history known if it were not for the great historian Carter G. Woodson, we may not have succeeded in the civil rights movement without a strong Rosa Parks to push Dr. Martin Luther King into bring the civil rights movement to the forefront of America’s consciousness. Then came the Black power movement that was so strong and so serious that it gave even more urgency to the White House and American government to change rather than prepare for violence.
Dr. Clarke was the powerful mind that many leaders of the Black power movement would come to for his knowledge. People like Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and the most notable of the all - Malcolm X. Clarke became Malcolm X's chief consultant and best friend. His work with Malcolm resulted in one of Malcolm's greatest speeches, indeed, one of the greatest 100 speeches made in America, "The ballot or the bullet."
Dr. Clarke never wrote an autobiography but he had a huge impact his teacher and what he left the minds of his people. Clarke was born in Union Springs, Alabama on New Year’s Day, in 1915. His was a family of poor sharecroppers. But they soon moved to Columbus, Georgia when he was about four years old. There, he met a school teacher named Eveline Taylor. Clarke said Ms. Taylor told John that she saw something special in him. She saw a thinker. And she said to him:
"It's no disgrace to be alone. It's no disgrace to be right when everyone else thinks you are wrong. There's nothing wrong with being a thinker. Your playing days are over."
Here's a eulogy of him written by The Los Angeles Times:
John Henrik Clarke: Activist, Professor July 18,198
John Henrik Clarke never got around to writing his life story, which encompassed some of the more turbulent periods in American history.
Dr. Clarke is remembered as someone who put the forgotten history of Africa back into the textbooks, and gave an analysis of history that wasn’t mainstream and for this we honor him so dearly. This man who descended from a family of sharecroppers was born in 1915 in Union Springs, Ga. He left Georgia in 1933 going to Harlem where he became one of the greatest unsung heroes of our time.
His political and community activism began quickly, when Clarke opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s. Later, he became a close friend of black activist Malcolm X. Clarke helped to forge a link between Africans and African Americans.
Clarke studied history and literature from 1948 to 1952 at New York University and later at Columbia University. During his career, Clarke edited or wrote 27 books. His editing work included the classic “American Negro Short Stories” in 1966. I just wanted to remind us of this man who brought into remembrance of our Great, Mighty Walk!
And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…
I am personally inviting you to call in on September 5th and let us know what you’re doing, tell us what you’re writing about and where our audience can get your projects. Mark your calendar and take down this number – (718) 506-1699.