January 7, 2022
Las Vegas . . .
Millions honor actor Sidney Poitier who died today as a judge sends three white men to prison with life sentences for killing a black jogger. Poitier will be remembered for decades. the three who killed the jogger are already dispatched from memory.
This ironical matchup is accompanied by a new book called “America’s Original Sin” by John Rhodehamel, a distinguished American historian who chronicles the source of America’s White Supremacy still plaguing us today.
John does this by detailing the facts of John Wilkes Booth’s youth and the South he was born and raised in. He documents that Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, was not a lone or lonesome killer.
He was the product of a South that bought and sold black men and women kidnapped by pirates to enrich themselves. With precisely researched facts, John spells out the mindset of the early Southern Whites who created American slavery.
Doing so, he shines a spotlight on the deeply flawed culture that still inspires a formidable number of White people to claim superiority over Black people. It is a damning book every White and Black should read.
I once attended an affair in New York City where Sidney Poitier was honored. I never spoke to him. He passed within feet of me. I was a very young advertising trainee at an advertising agency. There was a palpable atmosphere that surrounded Poitier.
His presence was so physical and concrete, his eyes so piercing, I can remember it today as if it were yesterday – so clear and determined. He strode through a large group of White and Black men and women with no hint of arrogance. He was above that.
His life’s work in movies speaks to his character. He selected scripts carefully and filled his fictional characters with a life you can still touch. The difference between his insightful vision and the sightless vision of the three men now in prison is day versus night.
John’s book is a fascinating description of the mental illness of White Supremacists as germinated by America’s early slave owners. It rings true to the unsubtle tones that identify the crude message of today’s American White Supremacists.
John makes his point very forcefully: the original sin of America is still alive. It is not a flimsy thing. It is a profound failure of character still attributable to us all. The current animosity between White and Black Americans has a tangible foundation.
John’s writing authenticates this fact. He is a strong writer, not sentimental, but factual and in good command of English. Whether your skin is the light beige and tinged pinkness of Whites, or the deeper beige, brown, and black of Blacks, this is a book to read.
You can get a copy free at your local library.
Reading it would be a good New Year’s resolution.