America’s 1st and Last Great Black Midfle Class, A Memoir

We (FLINTSTONES) Flint, Michigan natives and residents are so much more than those “tough people” from that city with the lead poisoned Toxic Water. Our hometown city is also the original home of General Motors/Chevy, the birthplace of the UAW, known by it’s High Violent Crime/murder rates, Exceptional Athletes of Basketball, Football, Baseball Students and Professional levels, Vacant and Abandoned House Properties.

But, because I am a Flint Native, and more importantly because I was born, when I was born, at the place I was born, which was at Hurley hospital, I’m flat out saying, “those labels”, descriptions, and stories are just too incomplete to tell Our story.

This story is not “my story”, but is in deed and effort, our collective story that “fills in” some details and paints a clearer picture, of this mystical, popular city just north of Detroit that almost every body in America has at least “heard about” or many actually have some kind of “family ties” connection to the place called , The Vehicle City, Flint, Michigan.

Kaboom is a “rags to riches, back to rags” story “uniquely” told by a first descendant Baby Boomer offspring and Generation X’er.

I wrote this book and entitled it KaBoom because I believe it is important for my generation, The middle child Generation X to tell “this story, my parents generation story, A story, that is, in essence, OUR “Once upon a time in America” American story.

After much and many conversation with those born between 1940 and 1965, this is my attempt to “stitch together” shared memories, the research and my own life experiences to capture and tell this story. Kaboom is a story about about how, when, and why some Black American migrated from “down south” to Up-north after the wars, Vietnam, World War 2 and at a time of heightened racist attacks against blacks.

The paradigm shift from agriculture based to industrial based “economics” was so drastic that it eventually formulated into the Industrial age. The Great Migration of black Americans from the south, mostly from Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia, brought with it the “physical laborers needed to work ”indoors”.

Those laborers joined other “factory workers”, they formed the unions and negotiated lifetime employee contracts that positioned and elevated them, to become The First and Last Great Black Middle class of The Industrial Age.

So because We are the “first direct decedents” of that progress, it is my generation, Generation X, those born between 1966 and 1985 who are the best people to tell this story.

Our story is about what it was actually like, and what it has meant to be born and raised in The Vehicle City during the development and overall evolution of the “middle of the country (we call Midwest). From the middle of the country spreading outward, it was no doubt the black population of American men who did what needed to be done to progress before, during, and after becoming, Middle class workers, Property Tax Paying Citizens of shared communities, and became Black Middle Class Family households.

Geographically speaking, Flint, Michigan sits near the middle of country, and historically, if traveling from the east to the west coast (gold rush days), was once a midway (Midwest) stopping point” whether traveling by horse/carriages, locomotives or train routes, which evolved into automobile highways and expressways.

As I mentioned, I want to be clear, as you read because I do not want you to become”bored with the “flow and story line of KaBoom, This is a multi faceted personal, family and “historically based”, black American, multi-generational, story, that stitches together real life African American experiences and shows how, when and why we made it to The Middle class level being today, still counted as less than 14% of the total number population of people , living in The United States.

This book, Kaboom as a whole piece, tells the story of the “outdoor to indoor” transition and “labor force” evolution, when black men and their families exchanged and replaced the use of their agricultural mastered skills, for sharecropping and other work related” skills to help formulate both the Agricultural and Industrial age and associated industries that preceded the robotic age.

The social “fabric” of this book capture past down “stories” childhood memories, popular and little known political and industry related events, acknowledgment of the cultural influences of “black” community church life, and my personal reminiscing of school age years and high school experiences, that capture the essence of what it was like to be “project community” born, heavily influenced by the musical culture of gospel, disco, soul, blues, hip hop music/dance, the pop music genre, and the street/gang life intersections in Flint, Michigan.

I am no doubt just one native from this city, who knows and understands that it was growing up in Flint , that prepared me (us) for the “uncharted” opportunities and experiences that existed beyond The Black Middle Class life I (we) lived in Flint.

Without any doubt, I know that growing up in Flint from 1970-1990, prepared me for any where I wanted to go in the world. I believe in my heart that all of us, Flint natives feel the same way about our city and can attest to how it helped to build and shaped us to become who we are today and yet still influences us beyond measure in who we will become in the future.

THE BOOM of Slavery

Once upon a Time in America,The Europeans came to this “native land of others” and spread their “ideas to “expand on their aristocratic formulated high, middle, and bottom level economically tiered “caste system” engineered by “the first bankers” of Government, Bourgeoisie and Peasant classes.

The European designed three level tiered staus(income based)system was incorporated into a new system, of “Have and The Have nots”. In the new “tiered” system the “middle tier” becomes settle minded enough to be
“indoctrinated” into long term, debts as “consumer borrowers” in essence helping to establish and sustain the “gaps” between Owners and “the owned”. The Rich and the Poor, Masters and Slaves.

Once upon a time, there was no middle “American” economy between these two realities. America first began building and borrowing from it’s two-tiered European “caste system” “traditions and methods of nation building.

However, the “open Land” attraction and opportunities “dreamed of” in and across America required that mobility became more important and valuable than the need for totaland complete control of black people lives, who were “once upon a time” legally owned property of white Americans, not indentured servants for a set period of time, like the Irish, but enslaved for a lifetime to work for their owners on slave plantations.

Slave Jobs, Skilled trades and Domestication Black Africans brought to, and black slaves born in America are typically portrayed in history as field hand laborers or domestic servants, but were in fact skilled laborers whose creativity, especially in tool making and crafts were a vital part of the American economy, particularly in the South.

However, one can use “common sense and there is ample evidence that the black man slave-labor force, always included those with creative, artistic and design engineering skills that they used to be home and church builders, ship wood-carvers, bricklayers, blacksmiths, furniture makers, shoemakers, basket weavers, metalworkers, pottery makers, and masonry.

There was also other jobs and duties of black men, while working on plantations, that included a designatio of being the “lead” black slave was referred to by such titles as the “slave foreman,” “manager,” “superintendent,” “leader,” “gang boss,” and still a “nigger,” depending upon the circumstances of the moment. He was chosen by the planter (owner of the plantation) to work under direction of the planter or overseer (if there was one), and in many cases functioned alone, and at times was giving the role of running the plantation during the absence of the planter or overseer.

If there was a black overseer, than he would often also be the horse or mule carriage driver for the “massa” and/or his wife/family on extended road trips.

A number of plantation owners preferred their black slaves to oversee their “property/assets” who had earned their trust because “white/Irish” men who were hired as overseers was comprised mainly of unskilled and often brutal white Eastern European migrants who were prone to: a) dishonesty (lying, stealing); b) excessive cruelty to blacks; c) sexual abuse of female slaves.

In the absents of a white overseer, and whenever the black driver did not accompany the “massa” on his business trips, he would be placed in charge and responsible for the the field gang.

His duties included supervising and setting the work pace of the slaves.

He was also responsible for the general deportment of plantation hands, not only while they were working in the fields, but also their behavior in the quarters. At times, the duties of the slave driver were not only supervisory; but he also worked alongside the blacks in the fields and over seeing the “weigh in”collection of the cotton crop.

Planter/owners devised a system of incentives to encourage his black slave driver to have allegiance to him. Rewards for zeal in service were given chiefly to the drivers or gang foremen. As part of their incentive program, planters often showed trust in their drivers, sometimes instructing drivers to check-up or spy on the white overseer, if asked to.

This controlled “balance of power” system was set in place so that the black slave drivers would feel obliged to be faithful to the master’s interests and not be tempted to be involved in any slave rebellions, uprisings or planned run-ways.

The slave driver was trained and employed by the planter/owner to supervise, lead and sometimes to administer punishment towards the other slaves. This turning of black against black was one of the most degrading and dehumanizing aspects of the American slavery institution. But most black drivers instinctively bent the other way, and they often used their position to protect the slaves and ease the burden of bondage.

Irish White Overseers did not possess the paternalistic attitudes of some planters; they possessed no property or investment in the slaves, and, therefore, self-interest failed to check their abuses. Their only and primary aim was to harvest high crop totals for a given year. They, therefore, had strong inducements to overwork the slaves.

Some planters encouraged this inducement in their overseers by stressing yearly production quotas on their farms as the standard measuring of an overseer’s worth. Others paced their plantation for sustained value and discovered the “benefit” to providing an environment where black slaves could mate, have children, and keep their own families together.

Most plantation owners blamed or praised the overseers for the numerical standard of production alone, without concerning the demeanor in which things were managed, or whether they may have lost more in the diminished value of their slaves by the overseer overworking the labor force. Experienced Plantations owners knew all to well that it was detrimental to have the “right white overseers” because overworking slaves produced premature old age, body deformity, and a decrease in the number of females, thereby negatively effecting the overall value and net worth of his most valued property and wealth, which was, the physical human bodies and minds of black slaves.

The defective education and consequent habits of white overseers of the South, with a few exceptions, disqualified them for the high and sacred trust confided to them, and yet the extravagant salaries which they received, from one to three thousand dollars should’ve commanded the services of men of exemplary character and distinguished abilities.

The most usual causes for overseers being discharged from their position and duties were drunkenness, absence from the plantation without permission, failure to get along harmoniously with the slaves, cruelty to slaves, chronic illness, incompetent management and the general failure to attend to duties. By their own behavior and actions, Irish overseers often maintained a brutal attitude toward slaves.

The floating Irish population of “non educated overseers” from plantation to plantation, contributed greatly to the unsavory reputation of Southern overseers. Their general lack of competence brought a storm of abuse from Southern planters.

It was planter discord and owners dissatisfaction with white overseers that provided an impetus to use black slave drivers as overseers on the plantations.