International Lifestyle

Dr. John Henrik Clarke 2023

Sylvester Loving discusses how to celebrate our ancestor in the new year, and in the right way.

Family, its nearing that time again. 

A new year is upon us and we once again get the opportunity or better stated the honor of celebrating one of our greatest legends. 

January 1st is Dr. John Henrik Clarke Day and it celebrates the birth of the one of the American Black community’s and indeed the world’s greatest scholars, John Henrik Clarke. 

Dr. John Henrik Clarke

Born in 1915 to a humble couple in Union Springs, Alabama, Clarke worked in the fields as a sharecropper like his parents while also teaching junior bible classes. While Clarke was considered an excellent reverend by his peers, he truly excelled in historical research and analysis.

He regularly gave lectures at pool halls, jazz joints, or town halls throughout his youth, sharpening his vociferous tongue, and further strengthening his resolve to properly inform the masses of why their situations looked so dire.

Dr. Clarke in youth

Clarke was most famous for chronicling historical events, while also examining the African man, woman, and child’s place in it. 

Often delving into complexities surrounding socio-economic changes that were targeted towards or affected the Black family, Clarke was himself no stranger to economic warfare. 

Coming to age in the bowels of the great depression, Clarke worked alongside his parents sharecropping, which is essentially slavery under a different name. During the same era in America, Black citizens were segregated from the national economy by the American white supremacist. They were excluded from most labor industries of any worth, denied the ability to obtain or lend credit, banned from public housing, and even segmented from public amenities. This time would come to be known as the era of the negroe codes, or more commonly referenced in a political sense as ‘Jim Crow’.

American Sharecroppers, 1929

Clarke and other Black Americans in this era lived miserable lives, while simultaneously creating vibrant entrepreneurial meccas like Harlem, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Under the worst circumstances they not only created success, they created institutions able to oppose the American white-supremacist.

 Clarke was an entrepreneur in his own right, publishing over 20 books with hundreds of his other unpublished works being passed down to his relatives.

He taught multiple subjects including history at Hunter College, Cornell University and the New School for Social Research. 

Dr. John Henrik Clarke (left) consoles Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan

He is perhaps best known for his autobiographical works on Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Nat Turner as well as his comparative analysis of the greatest atrocity of the 20th  century, the Afrikan Holocaust

We honor Dr. Clarke by not only reading one of his works during the month of January, but living his life’s work by empowering ourselves politically and economically. Clarke is famous for criticizing Black people’s lack of manufacturing and production abilities worldwide, often challenging audiences whom he lectured to attempt to start their own factory or production line. 

“Just a diaper pin. Every mother needs it, and it’s simple but important. Start there.” He would say.

Dr. Clarke knew what true empowerment looked like.

Now we get to show him that we do too.

Sylvester Loving, B1Daily

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