Is the “Willie Lynch” Speech a Hoax? You Decide
~ Prof. Manu Ampim
It is well-documented that slavery was a brutal anti-Black institution organized by Euro-Americans, and thus there is no reason to add silly myths to this fact. However, many people are lazy and do not want to research and read important works on slavery, but rather they want a Ripley’s Believe It or Not version of history to summarize the entire 400-year experience of Black people in 1 page! Even the alleged forger of the Willie Lynch “document” (see #2 below) has stated that the speech “will not show you how to control a population, you have to go deeper” than this.
1. No one has ever found the location of the *original copy* of the “Willie Lynch speech.” Likewise, in the longer version of the fake Lynch speech Frederick Douglass’ name is mentioned as the author, but the 20th century fabricator never considered the fact that the Douglass Papers are in the Library of Congress (Washington, DC), and there is no such document related to “Willie Lynch” in these files. This can be verified by either visiting the Library of Congress or searching the files online (www.loc.gov). As I documented in Part I, the fake Lynch “document” first appeared in an online database in 1993. The person who gave the “document” to the librarian who posted it online at the University of Missouri at St. Louis asked to remain anonymous. Authentic documents do not just magically appear in a cloud of secrecy.
2. Since writing the first two Willie Lynch essays, the man who claims to have created the first version of the fake Willie Lynch “speech” contacted this author to confess his actions. The forger wrote a confession letter to this author to indicate that he fabricated the “speech” in 1979, and that he willingly, but reluctantly, admitted his actions to me because I pinpointed the profile of the person who wrote the modern speech. In Part I, I stated the following, “It is clear that the ‘Willie Lynch Speech’ is a late 20th-century invention because of the numerous reasons outlined in this essay. I would advance that the likely candidate for such a superficial speech is an African American male in the 20s-30s age range, who probably minored in Black Studies in college. He had a limited knowledge of 18th century America, but unfortunately, he fooled many uncritical Black people.” When the forger read my above comments while he was surfing the net, he indicated that he simply said, “Damn, the brother got me!” because of my accurate description. In my next communication, I will give the full details of the forger’s identity and his confession statement, but he asked that I not reveal his name until he finishes his next book. I will respect his request and give him a short amount of time before presenting all of the details of this entire story. Suffice it to say that the alleged forger is an established African American member of a noted university, he has a Ph.D. in psychology and specializes in brainwashing, and he is a long-time member of a Black psychological group.
3. There has been complete silence from all of the noted historians, anti-slavery abolitionists, and pro-slavery advocates alike regarding the “slave consultant” Willie Lynch or his alleged 1712 speech. There is not a 2 single mention of this alleged consultant or his influential “speech.” (Many Willie Lynch followers incorrectly state that it was a “letter” that he wrote, instead of a speech given).
4. There are many who know (and admit) that the “speech” is fake but they want to “wake up” Black people. In other words, they consciously lie to Black people when it is convenient. What else are these people willing to lie to us about if it serves their interest? Besides, the racism (white supremacy) and lack of response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the flooding of New Orleans is the biggest “wake up” call that any of us have seen in the 21st century. Never before have we witnessed an entire urban Black population permanently dislocated from a modern U.S. city. Black people have had many real life wake-up calls in America and the Willie Lynch supporters can take their pick of the shocking real life historical speeches, documents, and events that have “waken up “ the Black community. They could choose from this list if they are short on historical facts: David Walker, Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829); Henry Highland Garnet, “An Address to the Slaves of the United States” (1843); William Wells Brown, “Slavery As it Is” (1847); Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the 4 th of July” (1852); Paul Finkleman, Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South (A Brief History with Documents), 2003; James Allen, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (2000); Frances Cress Welsing, The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism /White Supremacy ( 1989); Cheikh Anta Diop’s “Two Cradle Theory” in The Cultural Unity of Black Africa (2000); Michael Bradley, Iceman Inheritance (1991); the assassination of Black leaders in the 1960s; and the 1991 videotaped beating of Rodney King.
5. Since the publication of my first two essays in this series the argument has shifted from the Willie Lynch speech being “real” to the position of “the speech may be a myth, but the tactics outlined in the speech were real.” The major problem with this position is that the tactics outlined in the Lynch speech were not used by slavemasters. There is no evidence that there was any system by slavemasters to divide Black people based on male vs. female, young vs. old, or tall vs. short, etc. The Lynch promoters have no concern for the fact that these are late 20th century issues. The actual historical tools of control were to use violence, instill fear, and force Black people to adopt the slavemaster’s values and belief system in order to keep them subservient and docile. The specific tactics that were used are clearly documented in the first-hand texts of Frederick Douglass, David Walker, and Olaudah Equino, etc. and these included division by language, ethnicity, occupation, class status, etc. Also, Paul Finkleman’s work, Defending Slavery (2003), contains the most influential first-hand documents used and promoted in the 18th and 19th centuries by the defenders of slavery, and there is no mention of Willie Lynch and his alleged “tactics.”
6. The information in the 1712 “Willie Lynch speech” is false and based on historical ignorance. Here are a few facts: (1) In 1712 Queen Anne was the ruler of England, and King James I (1566-1625) had long been dead for almost a century. In this 100 year period, there were no less than six rulers of England since the time between James and the alleged speech, and very few people would have still seen James as an “illustrious king.” By comparison, as proud as many people are to be “American,” yet very few of them have any idea who was a U.S. president 100 years ago. (2) Hanging Black people from trees was a practice that began in the mid-1800s and was not a method of murder used in 1712. (3) The term “Black” as an ethnic indicator with a capital “B” was not used in the 18th century. The capitalized term “Black” did not come into usage until the emergence of the Black Power Movement in June 1966. (4) There was no such region as the “South” in 1712. This regional designation did not occur until after the American Revolutionary War (1775- 1783). Before this time there was simply the “13 American colonies” without any distinction between 3 “North” and “South.” (5) If Willie Lynch was a slaveowner of British descent, then he would have certainly used the British spelling of “colour” (instead of “color”).
7. “Willie Lynch” and white people are not omnipotent gods which give them the power to make a single speech and somehow control 40 million Black people 300 years later. Black people should leave the cult and stop worshipping Willie Lynch and the powers of white people because they are not gods!
8. The fake Lynch speech keeps Black people in a mode of ignorance, and believing in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” kindergarten myths. Rather than teaching critical thinking skills and how to access primary sources to learn about their history, the Willie Lynch cult followers are more focused on promoting urban myths. This cult following keeps Black people in a perpetual role of simple-minded people who are constant victims that simply focus on their victimization, and can do nothing because Willie Lynch has such omnipotent authority. The use of a fictional kindergarten “document” instead of original first-hand materials is completely unnecessary and teaches Black people to believe in fairy tale myths, rather than learning legitimate research methods.
The Willie Lynch fairy tale has no more historical value than the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Mary Poppins, or Santa Claus to the progress of African Americans.
9. Even if the fake “Willie Lynch” speech were a legitimate document, it does not give Black people anything to do. There is no agenda or plan of action, but only to be in awe of Willie Lynch’s power. Like most urban legends, the Lynch speech is simply designed to create shock without any action plan. Black people are presented as helpless victims, who are hopelessly paralyzed by a 300-year-old speech, and unable to solve social problems because of Lynch’s mighty authority. This is a perfect excuse for the lazy person who has no real interest in working to solve the problems in the African-American community.
10. Knowledge of the “Willie Lynch speech” has done absolutely nothing to improve the materials conditions of Black people in America, and it has not improved marriage rates, divorce rates, murder rates, or any other social problem. No intelligent argument could be made that Black people are better off because of the “discovery” of the Willie Lynch speech, so there is no practical value in promoting it.
11. The fake speech completely disregards the great tradition of African-American resistance to enslavement. Herbert Aptheker in American Negro Slave Revolts (1965) documents numerous uprisings and this is only one form of this tradition of resistance. There were other forms of African cultural resistance to social disintegration. For example, Sterling Stuckey in Slave Culture (1987) documents the African cultural retentions through rituals such as the ring shout, which is a traditional African community sustaining practice that became central to the cultural transmission of African traditions into Black life in America. However, many Willie Lynch promoters falsely believe that if it is pointed out that African social structure held the dominant influence on Black life even in the midst of slavery, then somehow it is being argued that slavery was not a brutal institution. They incorrectly believe that it is either one or the other, but it is actually both/and, meaning that both slavery was a vicious institution, and the traditional African social structure provided an effective defense against complete social disintegration. The Lynch supporters should be proud to come from such a strong heritage that was able to sustain itself through one of the greatest tragedies in human history, rather than thinking that Euro-Americans are being “let off the hook” for slavery.
To assume that naïve Black people were simply controlled and manipulated by the all-wise slaveowners would require a total dismissal of the evidence of plantation and city life during slavery. The fact must be 4 acknowledged that African culture was resilient enough to sustain itself throughout several hundred years of the vicious slave system. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise.”
12. The “speech” promotes ignorance of the negative impact of the 20th century on Black family and community life. For years the works of E. Franklin Frazier and Stanley Elkins had been accepted as the definitive history of Black families, and both writers concluded that slavery destroyed the Black family and decimated Black culture. However, this thesis about the Black family was first challenged by John Blassingame, The Slave Community (1972), whose use of slave narratives indicated that in the slave quarters Black families existed as functioning institutions. Other studies also challenged the Franklin-Elkins thesis, but it was the landmark study by Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925 (1976), that put to rest the enduring myth that the Black family was destroyed during slavery. Through the use of plantation birth records and marriage applications, Gutman concluded that the two-parent household was the dominant family form during slavery.
Using census data for a number of cities between 1880 and 1925, Gutman found that the majority of Black people of all social classes were living in nuclear families as opposed to single-parent homes. Their family forms evolved from family and kinship patterns that had originated from African extended family values and communal behavior patterns. As sociologist Robert Staples states, “[T]hese historical studies demonstrate that the Black family was a stable unit during slavery and in the immediate postslavery years. The rise in out-of-wedlock births and female-headed households are concomitants of twentieth century urban ghettos” (Staples, The Black Family, 6th ed., pp. 4-5).
It was the triple negative factors of migration, urbanization, and integration during the “Jim Crow” era which brought about the disintegration of the Black community in the mid 20th century, and to ignore these potent factors is misguided. (See Part II for a detailed discussion). The divorce rate was never an issue in the Black community until the 1960s, and in fact it was California’s Family Law Act of 1969 (went into effect on January 1, 1970), passed by Governor Ronald Reagan, which created the “no fault divorce” that has caused a great deterioration of the Black family. The vast majority of us born in the South can still remember that our grandparents and great grandparents were in a married relationship and a two-parent household.
Further, there were no Black gangs, black-on-black violence, disrespect of elders, or abuse of women in the Black community until the 20th century. The triple negative factors of migration, urbanization, and integration have had a far more destruction impact on the social fabric of Black community life and marriage than did slavery, despite the savagery of the U.S. slave system. To dismiss the 20th century origin of these problems as unimportant would be foolish to say the least. Any solution-oriented person knows that to solve a social problem, one must first determine the true source of the problem, rather than invent silly myths about its origin.