Ask a Negro Leaguer Column

Week of February 2, 2006

 Hey Joe: Do you feel that counties such as Calhoun County not far from your home, which is named after pro-states' rights leader John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, should feel obligated to change their name, or at least renounce its origin?
LaMarr Hoyt, Charleston, South Carolina

Until receiving your question, I had no idea as to how Calhoun County acquired its name. But following a brief research, I learned that John Caldwell Calhoun — in addition to being a state's rights advocate — was vice president of the U.S. during enforced slavery. Consequently, counties and towns named after Calhoun and the like are ten cents a dozen in America. Lynchburg, Virginia, is a prime example. Shamefully, such names as these date back to the country's sordid past in its relationship with blacks.

Lynchburg was named after William Lynch, a so-called expert in dealing out cruelty to blacks. Found here in this community is the Christian empire of Jerry Falwell — proclaimed man of the cloth, crusader against evil and supposedly a moral magnate. In answer to the question about Calhoun County, I do not believe that people in such counties should feel obligated to change the names, which should be viewed as a national disgrace initiated by members of the founding fathers. And any efforts on their part to change names are acts of renouncement.

In reference to Falwell, Abe Lincoln once stated, "You can fool some of the people some of the time and most of the people most of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." In other words: "Put up or shut up!" America has claimed to be the standard bearer of Christianity. In fact, it is advertised 24/7 as a Christian nation. Though, since its inception, two laws have been in vogue: the Bible, which is God's Law, and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — laws designed by man. The latter fails to correspond with the former.

During my short association with the Bible, seemingly my mind has become concretized with the Book of Exodus, which I have examined thoroughly. In so doing, it has enlightened me more than any preacher ever did about the disparity between God's Law as opposed to man's. Such as a verse recorded in it that states, "One law shall be to Him that is home born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you." It is my firm belief that it is an obligation of Falwell, and others who claim they were called by God, to renounce anything that differs from His Law.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn?t know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman?s Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry?s most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they?d arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to heyjoe@riverfronttimes.com. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

 
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