economic-history

9

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT BLACK TULSA? IF NOT… WHY NOT?

This horrific incident has been well documented, everywhere: from YouTube videos of survivor interviews to PBS Lesson Plans for school teachers. Please do your Google diligence:

  • From May 30 to June 1, 1921, white citizens of Tulsa bombed burned and shot up the “Little Africa” section of Tulsa FOR 18 HOURS STRAIGHT
  • Why would they do that? That same old lame excuse, a Black man supposedly did something to a white woman. But the real reason was ECONOMIC JEALOUSY. Whites may have called it Little Africa derisively, but there is a reason that Black Tulsa is known as Black Wall Street
  • In addition to the 300 Blacks killed, and over 1,000 residential homes burned to the ground, also destroyed were:
  • The Mt. Zion Baptist Church and five other churches; the Gurley Hotel, Red Wing Hotel, and Midway Hotel; the Tulsa Star and Oklahoma Sun newspaper offices; Dunbar Elementary School; Osborne Monroe’s Roller-Skating Rink; the East End Feed Store; the Y.M.C.A. Cleaners; the Dreamland Theater; a drug store, barbershop, banquet hall, several grocery stores, dentists, lawyers, doctors, and realtors offices; a U.S. Post Office Substation, as well the all-black Frissell Memorial Hospital. All told, marauding gangs of savage whites destroyed 40-square-blocks of Black economic and entrepreneurial prosperity!

64 years after the first bombing of an American city was committed against the Black residents of Tulsa… the second bombing of an American city took place in Philadelphia when the city bombed the black members of the MOVE organization. (see the blackourstory archive for details). 

Isn’t it a shame that 76 after the bombing of Tulsa, when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, most historically illiterate Americans - including American “journalists” - responded as if it were the first time such a horror had been visited on Oklahoma. If only we knew.

While there are many lessons to be drawn from this, a few questions that stick out to me are these:

  • If the answer to Black second-class treatment from whites in America is supposedly to become the ultimate American capitalists…the ‘model minorities’… how do you explain Tulsa 1921?
  • For those Black folk who think that the sole answer to Black people’s problems is simply more Blacks becoming business owners and more Blacks spending money with other Blacks… how did that work out for our people in Tulsa in '21?
  • Considering not only Tulsa, but Rosewood, Florida, and many other thriving all-Black towns that you may know of that all met the same fate at the hands of murderous, envious, lazy crackers… WHEN ARE WE GOING TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND TAKE SERIOUSLY THE IDEA THAT BLACK WEALTH (ESPECIALLY ALL-BLACK WEALTH) WILL NEED TO BE PROTECTED WITH PHYSICAL FORCE?

There is a reason that Marcus Garvey AND Elijah Muhammad had armies of trained Black men as a huge part of their organizations. Many of us Black folk took those great men as jokes, yet NO BLACK LEADERS SINCE THOSE TWO have reached the same heights of economic and ideological success and unity of Black people. 

Not only do we need to LEARN THIS HISTORY, we need to start taking these events men and movements MORE SERIOUSLY, and doing some CRITICAL HISTORICAL ANALYSIS if we are ever to stop being on the bottom rung of every metric in American life. Not just some casual or accidental reading of history; some CRITICAL. HISTORICAL. ANALYSIS.

We’ve had many examples before us, but were often too undisciplined or brainwashed or lazy to follow them. Shame on us. If even one-fourth of the people who claimed to love Brother Malcolm in his day had at least one-tenth of Malcolm’s discipline, he might not have needed to hire an FBI Agent named Gene Roberts whom he didn’t have time to scrutinize properly beforehand, because all the Black folks who gassed him up to leave the Nation of Islam and who joined Brother Malcolm’s MMI were too damned undisciplined and untrained IN ANYTHING USEFUL TO PROTECTING BLACK PEOPLE to even serve as proper security for him. Read it again, in context of this entire post, and let it marinate.

AMERICA NEEDS TO PAY US WHAT THEY OWE FOR ALL OF THIS TORTURE ROBBERY AND MURDER that they’ve visited on us since they brought our people here as captives and bred us for profit.

TULSA 1921 was real. PHILLY 1985 was real. Will it happen again?

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What happened to Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921?

“Black Wall Street, the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious Whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering – a model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

The night’s carnage left some 3,000* African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials and many other sympathizers.

The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to compare it to a mini Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans could create a successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about.

The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As for resources, there were Ph.D.s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry, who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, hefty pocket change in 1910…”

*Other sources state that the death toll was 300, thanks to those who pointed that out. However, whether 300 or 3,000–the destruction and lasting effects are no less devastating. And, really, accurate records weren’t kept, so we’ll never know the actual number of casualties.

Receipt for a Dead Sheep

This Ur III administrative text records in Sumerian cuneiform a receipt for a dead sheep. In as well documented a period as the Third Dynasty of Ur, it is no surprise that everything had to be recorded! The tablet also bears the impression of a cylinder seal, which would have conferred legitimacy on the clay document, much like a signature would today. (Source)

Umma (?), Ur III, c. 2041 BCE.

Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The world’s oldest banknote: a piece of art

What looks like a great piece of art, a mixture of stylistic forms, is in actuality the oldest surviving banknote. The Chinese were printing text centuries before Gutenberg introduced the printed book in the West. What they also printed well before such was done in Europe was banknotes. This one dates from c. 1375 and is the earliest banknote that survives today. It’s made of mulberry bark and looks kind of attractive in its simplicity. “Great Ming precious money. For circulation throughout the empire,” it reads in Chinese characters. The note measures 340x222 mm, a fist taller than an iPad. Printing money may have been innovative in the medieval world, and the result quite artistic, carrying the bills around was not particularly convenient unless you had a super-size wallet.

More information from the British Museum: this written piece and this movie.

“In the early 1600s, the King of Sweden declared that copper, along with silver, would serve as money.  He did this because he owned lots of copper mines and thought that this policy would increase the public’s demand for copper—and also its price, making him much wealthier.  Because silver was about 100 times as valuable as copper, massive copper coins had to be minted, including one that weighed 43 pounds. This rendered large-scale transactions in Sweden virtually impossible without a cart and horse.  It also explains why Sweden was the first European country to use paper money.”

Professor of Economics at Wesleyan University and author of WRONG: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn from Them, Richard S. Grossman is sharing seven little-known facts about economic disasters all this week on Tumblr.

Image credit: King Charles IX of Sweden painted by unknown artist. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Road crews tear down Mayan pyramid to make gravel.

Belizean police are investigating a construction company that has destroyed most of one of the largest Mayan pyramids in the Caribbean nation to make gravel to dump on village roads, according to reports from the Caribbean.

Archaeologists and a local TV station witnessed the destruction Friday as bulldozers and excavators continued to demolish the 60-foot-tall main temple at Nohmul – “great mound” – one of the tallest structures in northern Belize, along the Mexican border in the Yucatan Peninsula.

“We can’t salvage what has happened out here,” John Morris, of the Institute of Archaeology, told 7 News Belize. “It is an incredible display of ignorance. I am appalled.” A news crew was threatened by a man with a machete as dump trucks hauled away rock and limestone from the temple, which has been “whittled down to a narrow core,” the TV station said.

A Caterpillar excavator was photographed tearing down what was left of the limestone-rich ruins. “It’s like being punched in the stomach, it’s just so horrendous,” Jamie Awe, head of the institute, told the Associated Press. “These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It’s just bloody laziness.”

The pre-Colombian site is about 2,500 years old and consists of twin ceremonial clusters surrounded by 10 plazas and connected by a raised causeway. Mayans used stone tools to quarry the rock and build the complex by hand. An estimated 40,000 people are believed to have lived there between 500 and 250 BC.

More of these incidents to come in the years ahead as population growth outweighs the need to protect resources.

After Sundiata, the most famous ruler of the Mali empire is Mansa Kankan Musa I, who came to power several decades after the death of his legendary predecessor. Musa was not the first emperor of Mali to embrace Islam; unlike the Soninke and the Soso, Mande royalty adopted the religion relatively early.

However, Musa’s hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) of 1324–25 drew the attention of both the Islamic world and Europeans, who were unprepared for the lavish wealth and generosity that the Malian king displayed during his stopover in Egypt.

Accompanied by an enormous entourage, Musa apparently dispensed so much gold in Cairo that the precious metal’s value plummeted and did not recover for several years thereafter. The Mali empire, previously little known beyond the western Sudan, now became legendary in the Islamic world and Europe. The image of Mansa Musa bearing nuggets of gold was subsequently commemorated in maps of the African continent.

“After the Great Depression and the postwar period, capitalism was in its seductive phase. Capitalism knew there were rival suitors and it came with flowers and chocolates like health care programmes and unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and all kinds of goodies precisely because it was part of this seductive dance to keep people from sliding into the hands of the socialists or, God forbid, the communists. Neoliberalism is really just capitalism in its boorish phase, capitalism on the couch in an undershirt saying, ‘what are you going to do, leave me?’”

- Naomi Klein

Shell Inlay of a Woman from Sumer

This shell inlay from the Early Dynastic period depicts a woman playing the flute. Interestingly, she also wears a cylinder seal around her neck. Cylinder seals, which would have been rolled onto clay tablets to function like signatures, often have a narrow whole through the center where a string could have been laced through to tie the item around one’s neck. Throughout Mesopotamian history, both men and women used seals. (Source)

Early Dynastic, c. 2600-2500 BCE.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

4

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

Evolution of Civilisations: Prelude to Collapse (1)

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

Evolution of Civilisations: Prelude to Collapse (2)

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with “Elites” based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

“… accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”

END:CIV ‘Resist or Die’

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from “increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,” despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

“…. appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature.”

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that “with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites.”

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).”

Late Bronze Age collapse

Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

“While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

“Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”

The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.

To The Sky: Carl Sagan on the implications of technological progress

Source: Raw Story

“So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me ‘archpriestess of the sightless’, ‘wonder woman’, and ‘a modern miracle.’

But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics – that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world – that is a different matter!” - Helen Keller, (6/27/1880 - 6/1/1968)

4

It’s Only Paper — Hyperinflation in Weimer Germany.

After World War I the Kaiser was kicked out of Germany, the German Empire was dismantled, and a new German republic was formed.  The new “Weimer Republic” was certainly in a financial pickle.  The government had no gold, then considered the standard of wealth for nations.  After four years of war the German treasury had been emptied and replaced with tremendous debts.  The new government also governed a nation in chaos, which required even more money in spending to solve. Finally Germany was forced to pay reparations to the Allied Powers, in other words Germany had to compensate her former enemies for damages which occurred during the war.

So without any gold, how was the Weimar Republic supposed to pay off its debts and fund a working, viable government?  In 1919 Germany suspended the convertibility of its paper money into gold and began issuing bills which were backed by nothing.  The Weimar Republic’s solution was very simple; to print all the money they needed.  While the prospect of creating free money sounds tempting, there are terrible consequences.  Money, just like any other good or commodity, is only valuable in its rarity.  The less money in circulation, the more valuable it is, the more money in circulation, the less valuable it is.  When the value of money decreases it is called inflation.  Inflation is a normal occurrence when it comes to money which isn’t backed by a valuable hard commodity.  Sometimes governments need to print more money to supply a growing population or expanding economy.  It’s also not uncommon for governments to print money to pay for goods and services.  When money decreases in value to the point of worthlessness, this is called hyperinflation.

In 1919 inflation became rampant in Germany as the Weimar Republic began to print paper bills like crazy.  In 1918, around the end of World War I, one German mark could buy a loaf of bread.  By 1922, 163 marks could buy a loaf of bread.  As the German government printed more and more bills, the value of money fell as the price of goods and services skyrocketed.  When small denomination bills became worthless, the government began to print bills of larger denominations. Ultimately the Republics attempts to print money to pay its debts was fruitless.  When nations pay foreign debts, they have to pay in the currency of creditor nation.  So to pay off France, the German government had to exchange it’s marks for francs.  However, the more money they printed, the value of the mark fell, and the value of the franc rose.  In desperation, the Weimar Republic continued to print more.

By early 1923, the cost of a loaf of bread was 1,500,000 marks.  Money became so worthless that people had to lug wheelbarrows full of bricks of cash to buy groceries.  Workers were paid twice daily, before lunch and at the end of the workday, so that they could buy goods before their money lost value.  As money became worth the value it was printed on, people came up with creative ways to use the useless bills.  Children used bricks of cash as building blocks while others used them as fuel for heating (see pics above).  Some people even used money as wallpaper.

By 1923, the Weimar Republic was printing bills in ridiculous denominations.  Pictured above is a bill dated November, 1923 which is denominated 10 billion marks.  While a large number, it wasn’t worth much as the price  of bread in late 1923 had risen to 200 billion marks per loaf.

In 1924, after suffering severe economic consequences, the Weimar Republic ceased its reckless printing of money.  To reverse hyperinflation the German National Bank introduced a new currency called the “rentenmark”.  The new currency was exchanged at 1 rentenmark for 1 trillion marks.  As Germans exchanged their old bills for the new currency, the supply of money in Germany began to shrink and prices returned to normal.  In the meantime the German government destroyed the exchanged old currency which amounted to a total of 1,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 marks.

Same holds in the U.S., and especially New England, which was deforested 4 times since colonization.

Watch: How Europe is greener now than 100 years ago

“More than 100 years ago, timber was used for almost everything: as fuel wood, for metal production, furniture, house construction. Hence, at around 1900 there was hardly any forest areas left in Europe. Especially after World War II, many countries started massive afforestation programs which are still running today,” Fuchs told The Washington Post.

As a result, Europe’s forests grew by a third over the last 100 years. At the same time, cropland decreased due to technological innovations such as motorization, better drainage and irrigation systems: Relatively fewer area was needed to produce the same amount of food. Furthermore, many people migrated from rural to urban areas, or overseas.

Fuchs’ fascinating conclusion: Forests and settlements grew at the same time and Europe is a much greener continent today than it was 100 years ago. A closer look at different regions and countries reveals Europe’s recovery from the deforestation of past centuries.

More of these maps at WaPo

When Chocolate Was More Valuable Than Gold

In the Mayan civilization, cacao beans were the currency, and counterfeiting cacao beans out of painted clay had become a thriving industry. Goods could be priced in units of cacao: a slave cost 100 beans, the services of a prostitute cost 10 beans, and a turkey cost 20 beans. In some parts of Latin America, the beans were used as a currency as late as the 1800s.

The history of money and its “devine” metamorphosis in the 20th century

Professor Jack Weatherford, a renowned cultural anthropologist:

“In the 20th century, we saw money turn rapidly from paper into plastic and then into mere electronic blips generated in computers, transferred over telephone lines and through computer terminals, and without any corporal existence outside of the electronic domain. Throughout its history, money has become steadily more abstract. By moving at the speed of light, electronic money has become the most powerful financial, political and social force in the world. Money has become even more like God: totally abstract and without corporeal body.”

Weatherford, Jack. 1997. The History of Money. New York: Crown Publishers. (p. 248)

In this book Weatherford identifies three great mutations in the story of money. The first began with the invention of coins in the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia 3000 years ago, sparking a monetary revolution that underpinned classical Greek and Roman civilizations. Next, family-owned, credit-giving banks of Renaissance Italy ushered in the modern world capitalist system, which swept away feudalism and abetted the expansion of European hegemony to the Americas. In the third major transition, predicts Weatherford, the current age of paper money will give way to an era of cybermoney, or electronic cash, in which transactions are conducted via the Internet and by other forms of electronic transfer. Along the way, the book traces the rise of banking systems and other financial institutions and shows how national governments are playing a dominant role in managing the money supply.

Early Writing: A Proto-Cuneiform Record of Sheep from c. 3400 BCE

This small administrative tablet from Uruk comes from the period of the earliest known examples of writing (c. 3450-3200 BCE). Impressed into clay, the proto-cuneiform signs on the obverse of this tablet (upper part of photo) indicate seven male sheep, and the tablet likely represents an administrative record. (Source)

Read more about proto-cuneiform and early writing in Mesopotamia.

Uruk IV, c. 3450-3200 BCE.

Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin. Photo courtesy of CDLI.