Canada's History of Service To The
An Interview Prepared For A Canadian Radio Station
The Following Was Prepared For An Interview With A Radio Station In Canada
QUESTION: You have written five novels and a blog. What role does Canada play in your writing?
RESPONSE: It seems to me that Canada has always been a refuge for oppressed minorities. In my first novel, Frank Yerby : A Victim’s Guilt Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass conduct fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad to St. Catharines in Ontario.
St. Catharines was founded by the Cathars, one of the world’s earliest oppressed minorities. In the 13th century, Pope Innocent III ordered his knights to exterminate the Cathars in what history calls the Albigensian Crusade. Those Cathars who survived the massacre fled to Canada, founded St. Catharines and became known as Quakers
Canada became a refuge for Native Americans fleeing America. As a matter of fact, the United States even invaded Canada and initiated the War of 1812 because of Canada’s support for the Indians. Before Sitting Bull was murdered by the US government, he settled some of his people in Canada. Many of the survivors of the Wounded Knee massacre escaped to Canada.
During the Vietnam era, thousands of Americans sought asylum in Canada to avoid participating in America’s extermination of Vietnamese people.
Today, as the American government is kidnapping parents off of street and depositing them into privately owned concentration camps, another category of oppressed minorities ___ Muslims and Hispanics ___ are seeking asylum in Canada. So to me, Canada remains the sole refuge in the western hemisphere for oppressed minorities. And I try to stress this fact in my writings.
QUESTION: Illegal immigration of racial and political minorities causes a major concern for Americans. Some hate for non-white immigrants was a major cause of Donald Trump’s election. In what way has Canada’s policies giving refuge towards oppressed minorities soured relations between the US and Canadian governments in the past?
RESPONSE: To maintain peace with the United States, Canada has had to submit to a lot of bullying from Washington over the years. One example is the US seizure of Alaska. In 1897, when gold was discovered in the Yukon territory, armed American fortune hunters flooded the area. Americans with the backing of the U.S. government prevented Canadian citizens from staking any claim to the land. Only American companies profited from Yukon gold.
In the War of 1812, when President James Madison ordered the invasion of Canada, the American army was as ruthless against Canadians as it was in massacring Native Americans. Canada’s defense against the American invasion in the battle of York is still commemorated as Canada Day. York is a former municipality within the city of Toronto, Ontario . York Township was home to one of the original Black communities in the Toronto area, which was populated by many African American fugitive slaves. By 1861, the township had the second-largest Black population in the Toronto area.
QUESTION: Your research reveals that there were presidents of the United States with Negro ancestry before Barack Obama. What role did Canada play in your research?
RESPONSE: The black historian, J.A. Rogers, lists President Andrew Jackson as one of the American presidents with Negro ancestry. But my research reveals that, although General Andrew Jackson of the Tennessee Volunteers was a Negro, Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States was indeed a white man.
The story goes like this. When President James Madison’s invaded Canada during the War of 1812, he left the entire southern United States vulnerable to attack. So Madison decided to protect the south by asking the governor of Tennessee, Willie Blount. to send the Tennessee volunteer militia south to Natchez, Mississippi to defend the southern United States from an attack against New Orleans and up into the Mississippi River valley. However, even as the Tennessee Volunteers marched to the defense of the United States, Madison was informed, that Andrew Jackson, the general in charge of the Tennessee volunteer militia, was not only a Negro, but a man who had adopted Indian children. The War of 1812 was being fought to get rid of Indians, not adopt them, exclaimed Madison.
So President Madison immediately dispatched Major General James Wilkinson, to Natchez to relieve Andrew Jackson of his command. However, not only did Andrew Jackson refuse to turn over his Tennessee militia over to Wilkinson, the Negro general marched his volunteers back to Nashville, Tennessee. Madison was outraged. Thomas Benton and his brother, Jessie, were sent to Nashville to forcibly remove Andrew Jackson from his command. The pair assassinated Andrew Jackson, the Negro and had a white man assume the general’s identity. This white Andrew Jackson gained celebrity as the victorious general in the Battle of New Orleans and was elected the seventh president of the United States.
It was Canada’s determined resistance to America’s invasion that caused in this strange episode in American history.
QUESTION: Who were the other presidents of the United States considered to have Negro blood before Barack Obama?
RESPONSE: According to J.A. Rogers, the others were Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding and Dwight Eisenhower. Hannibal Hamlin ___ Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President during Lincoln’s first term ___ was himself, a Negro. When Abraham Lincoln removed Hannibal Hamlin as his Vice-President for his second term and replaced him with the unreconstructed, racist Southern Democrat, Andrew Johnson, Lincoln signed his death warrant.
QUESTION: Your first book was Frank Yerby: A Victim’s Guilt. Who was Frank Yerby?
RESPONSE: Frank Yerby was an Black writer who gave the world a body of literature that has inspired and thrilled millions of readers. A brilliant storyteller, Yerby wrote thirty-three novels and sold over a hundred million books in eighty-two countries and in twenty-three languages. Three of Yerby’s books, The Foxes Of Harrow, The Saracen Blade and The Golden Hawk, were made into blockbuster movies.
Frank Yerby created the literary genre known as the costume novel which addresses four themes:
the unsolvable problem of evil;
the use of hate and prejudice to compensate for inferiority;
man’s definition of himself through his relationship with God; and
the eternal battle of the sexes.
Yerby was the first truly multicultural writer. Through his writings readers transcend the religious, cultural and racial barriers to achieve some understanding of the human condition.
QUESTION: What other books have you written?
RESPONSE: In addition to Frank Yerby: A Victim’s Guilt, I have written Blood And Brotherhood: A Novel Of Love In A Time Of Hate, The Idumean Covenant: A Novel Of The Fall Of Jerusalem, Cassandra’s Curse: A Black Life In A Police State and Consort Of The Female Pharaoh: Hat-Shep-Sut, Senen-Mut and Egypt’s 18th Dynasty.
QUESTION: What made you decide to write a book about ancient Egypt?
RESPONSE: In a way, I wrote Consort Of The Female Pharaoh to compete with Frank Yerby. I could never match Yerby’s productivity ____ he wrote 33 novels ___ so I decided to go back further in history. Yerby’s earliest book, The Goat Song, goes back to approximately 300 B.C. and is set during the Peloponnesian War. My Consort Of The Female Pharaoh goes back to approximately 1500 B.C.
QUESTION: You have had an interesting teaching career at several universities. What is the most surprising thing you learned from teaching?
RESPONSE: My students taught me over and over again that people behave according to what they believe and value rather than behaving according to facts as things exist.
QUESTION: What do you mean when you assert that people behave according to their beliefs and values rather than facts?
RESPONSE: I experimented with my classes. For example in a Greek Thought class, when discussing Homer’s Odyssey, I would have the class spend considerable time discussing the facts of the story ___ the characters, what happened to them and why it happened. I wanted the students to have a thorough understanding of the facts as Homer presented them. Then I presented them with the following challenge:
You are a member of the victorious Greek army. You have been fighting for ten years. Now, laden with treasure that you looted from Troy, you prepare to board a Greek ship which will take you back home. Four squadrons of ships are leaving Troy for Greece under the leadership of four commanders: Agamemnon, Menalaus, Nestor and, of course, Odysseus, for whom the book The Odyssey is named. Given what you have learned from reading the Odyssey, whose squadron would you choose to join for your return to Greece?
Generally, only 2 students out of 20 would make the best choice. Generally 10 or more of 20 students would choose to return home with Odysseus even though not one of those returning home with Odysseus’ squadron survived the journey; all of them died horrible deaths. The remaining students would choose to return with Agamemnon whose entire crew was massacred by Clytemnestra or with Menelaus many of whose crew perished at the hands of the Egyptians.
The best choice according to Homer’s Odyssey would have been to return with Nestor. All of Nestor’s squadron speedily returned to Greece safely and without any loss of life.
QUESTION: You studied at the University of Lund. Why did you decide to go to Sweden to study and what did you learn?
RESPONSE: I went to Sweden to study the Swedish Ombudsman, which is an institution that is reputed to protect Swedish citizens against arbitrary use of power by the government as well as big corporations. What intrigued me about the Swedish ombudsman was that it guaranteed basic rights to all Swedish citizens ___ rights that are available to American citizens only if they have money and a high priced attorney. In Sweden, if a private citizen is harmed by the government or a corporation, the Ombudsman will come to his aid without being paid. In America, if a private citizen suffers injury, that citizen must secure legal representation and seek a remedy from a court system predisposed towards government and corporate rights over those of private citizens. As a matter of fact, American courts have given corporations greater citizenship benefits than private citizens , themselves.
I was especially interested in going to Sweden to understand what Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish intellectual, learned about race relations. Myrdal was paid by the Carnegie Foundation to come to the United States in 1943 to recommend methods of reducing America’s Negro population by means other than the legal and extra-legal lynching that were being were currently being employed.
Myrdal recommended in his book, An American Dilemma: The Problem of the Negro in the American Democracy forced sterilization, mass incarceration, economic deprivation and biological susceptibility to disease. Myrdal also recommended that white people maintain absolute control over black leadership and fully utilize the services of black preachers.
QUESTION: Are you working on another book or another project? What would you like to accomplish next?
RESPONSE: I have been researching a book for a while, but I am not certain it will ever be written. The publication costs of my other books have caused me to reconsider any future project. In 2006, I hosted a Frank Yerby Symposium at the Oakland Museum and showed the movie based upon Yerby’s best seller, Foxes of Harrow.
I would like to produce a second Yerby Symposium and show Yerby’s other movies, The Saracen Blade and The Golden Hawk
QUESTION: Speaking of movies, do you have any videos on YouTube?
RESPONSE: My wife and I made a video to accompany our presentation to the Concerned Educators of Black Children at the International Reading Association’s 56th Annual Meeting in 2011 entitled Meeting The Challenge. Meeting The Challenge. This video was shown at the Oakland International Film Festival. I have a trailer for Consort Of The Female Pharoah. I have a video summary of the Frank Yerby Symposium. My daughter, Jennifer, recorded a video of my presentation at the August Literary Festival in 2013 when the first Frank Yerby Literary Prize was awarded.