Blackest Questions
The Blackest Questions

Laughing & Learning With Comedian Roy Wood Jr.

Episode 11

Comedian, actor, radio personality and writer Roy Wood Jr. does a little bit of everything but in recent years has become a fixture on Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.’ Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Christina Greer will test Wood’s knowledge of the city that was pivotal to the civil rights movement. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 21: Roy Wood Jr. attends the 50th International Emmy Awards at New York Hilton Midtown. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi and welcome to The Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we asked our guests five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. So here’s the way this works. We have five rounds of questions about us, Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, everything with each round. The questions we get a little bit tougher and the guest has 15 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they will receive one symbolic artist and hear this. If they get it wrong, they’ll hear this, but we’ll still love them anyway. And after the five questions, there’ll be a Black bonus round at the end just for fun. Our guest for this episode is Roy Wood Jr. Roy has entertained millions across the stage, television and radio, and in 2015 he joined the best effing news team as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s Emmy nominated The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Comedy Central continues its long stastand-upnding relationship with the talented comedian and actor collaborating on two podcasts, Roy’s Job Fair and Beyond the Scenes, as well as a third hourlong stand up special Imperfect Messenger, now streaming on Paramount. Plus will star along alongside Jon Hamm in the upcoming film Confess Fletch.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:32] He’ll also executive produce write and star in Fox’s untitled single-camera comedy about the National Guard. Roy’s additional credits include Only Murders in the Building, Better Call Saul,  Space Force The Last O.G. and the Emmy nominated PBS documentary The Neutral Ground, for which he served as the executive producer. I am so excited to have you here, Roy. Thank you so much for joining The Blackest Questions.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:01:55] Yes, thank you. And I apologize in advance of my voice is a little off from time to time. I was out way too late being irresponsible with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. That’s all I’m going to say.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:09] Yeah, I saw. I saw your Instagram feed. Shenanigans abound. I’m not judging you. No judging.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:02:14] Fair enough. Fair enough.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:15] I’m so excited to have you here because, you know, we met a long time ago thanks to the brilliant comedian Marina Franklin. Shout out to Marina Franklin. And I just I love your comedy because you’re super smart, but it’s observational, it’s thoughtful, it’s political, it’s timely. Tell our listeners how you first got into comedy really quickly.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:02:33] I was at Florida A&M University, shout out to FAMU Rattlers, and comedy was always something that I wanted to try and get into. But the issue in Tallahassee is that, you know, comedy is not a regular thing in the Florida panhandle, but it was at Florida State. So I would go over to Florida State and pretend to be a student at a partner from Birmingham that was on the Student Activities Board. And she straight up hooked me up with a Seminole card and I would show up to Florida State student comedy competitions. And that’s kind of how I got my feet wet. I had a screenwriting class as well that kind of got me a little bit into the world of film and television writing. And from there, you know, that was it. When I graduated college in ’01, I went back home. I took over for Ricky Smiley on the morning show, the seat that he vacated to go start his syndicated show. And I did standup and I did radio, and that was my life for the first ten years of my career, and I’m so thankful for it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:37] Yeah, well, it sounds like radio is in your blood, though, because wasn’t your dad on the radio in Alabama as well?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:03:42] Yeah. I mean, my dad goes I mean, his radio lineage goes all the way back to Chicago, to WVON. You know, my father was one of the first he was the first news director at WVON. When they first signed on, he hired Don Cornelius, my dad, I like to say, wherever Black people were suffering, my dad showed up with a tape recorder. It was like they’re trying to make sure that the truth got out, that he was in Vietnam. Rhodesian civil war before Free Zimbabwe, South Africa. He was getting shot at snipers during the riots in South Africa. You know, of course, the civil rights movement, duh. But, you know, my dad, I like to joke that he did the real work and then I just come and do a weird version of it with a bunch of jokes for The Daily Show. So it’s not it’s like same but differnt.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:34] It’s civil rights two-point-oh. I mean, because your observations about Black culture, Black society are actually spot on. Okay. So one day I’m going to play my mbira for you, which is an instrument from Zimbabwe. Okay. So you ready to play The Blackest Questions?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:04:45] Okay. I am very nervous about this game. You know why? You know why games like this make me nervous? Because I don’t know how deep into the diaspora you’re going to go because they’ll be like like when I was like, we all email me about this. I was nervous. I was like, I don’t know if I know enough Black. Do I know enough how Black and my oh, my Lord, they they don’t we don’t find out in public that I’m not Black enough.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:07] And I get to play Alex Trebek where it’s just like, you know, I know some of this stuff. I don’t know all of it. But as I tell our listeners every week, this is A, not to embarrass our guests, B, Black history is American history. And C, it’s just a way for us to recognize and realize how much we know, but how much we should know about all the beauty that is part of our culture and our history. That’s all. You ready?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:05:30] No, I’m still not ready, but thank you for trying to comfort me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:32] Let’s get started. Question one. This institute’s research center is also home to an expansive archive of documents from the civil rights movement and nearly 500 recorded oral histories relevant to the period. What is this place?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:05:51] This institute got a lot of documents on civil rights. Do we get hints? Is this like millionaire or is it like Jeopardy? You just got 10 seconds and that’s it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:11] You just got 10 seconds. And so I think our 10 seconds are up.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:06:13] Oh, Lord Jesus. Okay, Tuskegee.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:16] Okay, good guess. But it’s the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:06:21] Well, that’s not fair. Now, not really making me look silly.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:23] It’s an interpretive museum. The traces, the journey of the civil rights advocates of the 1950s and sixties who changed the course of American history. And you can even examine a replica of the Freedom Riders bus and go behind the actual jail cell where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr wrote his famous letters from a Birmingham jail. So as a Birmingham native, have you been to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:06:45] Oh, many times. You know, when they first built it, I was still in high school and that was like a mandatory field trip. Like people forget that Birmingham is still like a 75% Black metro. The school that the public schools is all predominantly black. So you can get your silver rights education or you don’t get if you don’t get nationals, you will learn about some struggle. They send you down to Montgomery. And, you know, it’s it’s a lot. I will say, though, it’s interesting growing up within that and seeing it then, but then going back as an adult and it hitting way differently.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:25] No, I mean, you go back quite a bit. I mean, I follow you on social media and you’re pretty active in the Birmingham community. I saw that you did, you know, quite a bit for some baseball teams. And you’re involved in local issues, you know, with this long legacy of Black history that comes out of the South and the you know, what do you think is is the current impact of Birmingham today? And what what should we northerners be thinking about? When we think about Birmingham?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:07:48] You’ve got to stop thinking about Birmingham the way you think about Alabama and Alabama and Birmingham the same way Georgia in Atlanta, you know, it’s in Georgia. It’s in Alabama. But there are a lot of progressive people that are wanting to do a lot of different things there. You know, Jefferson County, Jefferson County, you know, Birmingham, Jefferson County at one point had the most sitting Black women judges of any county in America. I think the number was like 11 or 12 at some point. So and these were women that were doing all types of progressive non non jail related sentences. Go get your high school diploma and I’ll waive your fine type of stuff. So there are a lot of progressive people there that are working to make things a lot different, you know, you know, we have a wonderful mayor, Randall Woodfin, who, you know, his brother’s young and his brothers brought a lot of different ideas. The one story I like to tell about what Birmingham is now goes back to 2020 during George Floyd. And we had, as I like to call it, our statue moment. And so there’s a statue in Land Park that’s, you know, Confederate General, whatever, whatever. And we had tried to take it down in the past. The city tried to take it down. But every time Birmingham tries to do something, the state puts their foot on Birmingham’s neck. City of Birmingham approved a $15 minimum wage, I think, in 2015, and the state passed down a mandatory statewide minimum wage. Like, that’s like stupid games that happen. So the fine for removing this Confederate monument was going to be $25,000. And because of that, the city didn’t move because the city didn’t want to pay it. George Floyd happens. People get fed up. A lot of local activists, they were the ones and I’m not going to include myself in this, but they were the ones who were there and were, you know, ten toes on the ground demanding that this statue come down today. And Randall Woodfin was one of the people that came out there and gave his guarantee to the crowd that he would bring the statue down. And he was a man of his word. I think within two days the statue was down, then a group of white people. Raised money to pay the fine for the city. That’s what Birmingham is now. It’s that that’s that’s what and then I come in two days later and help clean up the city because a couple of out of towners came in and broke some windows and stuff. You know, my my contribution to the city of Birmingham, you know, I’m not there on a regular enough basis to be a part of the active fight. I just can’t I was there when I did mornings for ten years. So I know what I know what’s needed from a present standpoint, but what I can be is support and part of the solutions. Like I am a big advocate, advocate for literacy, especially with Black kids. So, you know, literacy and I don’t have to tell you and your listeners the connection between literacy and crime rates, you talking about reducing crime, increase literacy, also increase, STEM, also increase, you know, access to technology. And so those are the things that I tried to come in from time to time and support or fund or bring a light to or whatever word you want to put to it. But yeah, Birmingham is a lot of great people trying to come together to do the right thing.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:21] Oh, I love how you have like this love for a city. I’ve moved around a ton so I don’t have a I don’t have a Birmingham, but I love to hear you talk about Birmingham. Okay. You ready for question number two?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:11:32] No, but come on with it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:35] You can do it, you can do it. Okay. Question number two. In 1936, this Black businessman developed and wrote what became known as the Green Book, a listing and travel guide for all first class hotels that cater to African-Americans. United States. Who is he?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:11:52] I don’t know. I don’t know. And I’m embarrassed because when the Green Book movie came out, we were working on another accompanying podcast version of it, and we were trying to get Mahershala to be a part. Oh yeah, sorry for yelling. I don’t know that one. I for sure I don’t know his last name King?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:15] This is probably on that. This is on the tip of probably a lot of listeners tongues. It’s Victor Hugo Green. Born in November 9th, 1892, in New York City. And as African-Americans began to own automobiles and take part in the developing American car culture, they were restricted by racial segregation in the United States. And so there were state laws in the South that required separate facilities for African-Americans. And many motels and restaurants in northern states also included them, excluded them. Excuse me, sir. Victor Hugo Green changed that by publishing the Negro Motorist Green Book, where he collected information on hotels, restaurants and gas stations that served African-Americans. Since some towns did not have any hotels and motels that would accept African-American guests. And Hugo later changed the name to the Negro Travelers Green Book, where he listed tourist homes where owners would rent rooms for the Negro traveler, whether on business or pleasure, since there’s always trouble finding suitable accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. And so Green reviewed hotels and restaurants that did business with African-Americans during the time of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in the United States. And so he printed about 15,000 copies each year, and there were actually similar guides that were published for Jewish travelers who sometimes faced discrimination. And although Green died in 1960, the publication continued with his widow, Alma, who was the editor through 1966. And as you mentioned, there was the Academy Award winning Best Original Screenplay and Best Motion Picture of the year, the film called The Green Book, which was in 2018 with Mahershala Ali, who won an Academy Award for his role as Dr. Don Shirley. So The Green Book before the film, The Green Book was released, had you heard of The Travelers Guide?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:13:57] Yes, I’d heard of it only because they were trying to do something similar, like it had been used as kind of like a North Star comparison tool for oh we need to bring that back and you know, you know about the Black pages. And so that was you know, there was a group I can’t remember if they were in Birmingham or in Tallahassee, but they were trying to do another version of the Black pages. And they kept referring to the Green Book as kind of been the model for that. But the Black pages, of course, was just the Yellow Pages, but just Black owned stuff. It wasn’t it wasn’t specifically travel centric. So I was aware of the Green Book. I will say that, you know, I didn’t I didn’t get to see the movie. You know, I’m a little leery about, you know, the framing of certain Black experiences. You know, I you know, I’m trying to be nice, but you get what I’m saying.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:54] Listen, I didn’t watch the movie because I was like, I’m tired of the civil rights movies, you know, putting a white person at the center. So I didn’t see it. Sorry, Mr. Ali forgive me.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:15:04] I’m happy he got the trophy. I have seen him and other things and I’ve enjoyed that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:07] He’s brilliant. He’s brilliant, but he’s like, I’m not. But that’s typical for the Oscars. For me, they give you an Oscar for something that I tend to disagree with and not enjoy some, you know.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:15:17] But for the most part, those films are not made for the Black audience, in my opinion. It’s something that Black people can watch and enjoy if they want. But it’s for educating everybody else that don’t know what we already know about the topic. And so because of that, the scripts and then also the scripts are given notes by people who have not lived the experience as well sometimes. And I think that that can sometimes for me, certain films of a certain genre, I have to be in a mood to watch.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:48] Mm hmm.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:15:49] Because I know what the film is going to do to me on the back side of it. And so I have to like. Okay, let me let me see if I don’t know if I’m ready for this one.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:58] Right. I mean, well, certain films that center whiteness just make me frustrated when it’s about the Black experience. And I understand, just as you said, oftentimes it’s to educate white viewers and, you know, and do it in a palatable way so you can spoon feed them. Part of American history, which is Black history as well.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:16:14] Which I hate, which I don’t. Right. You just need to know the truth and you just don’t get hit over the head with it. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:21] Rip the Band-aid off. Now, now, here’s a question, because, you know, Malcolm X said that everything south of the Canadian border is essentially the U.S. south. But I feel like the the American South gets this bad rap that it’s like way more racist in the north. And they struggle with race relations so much more than the north. As someone who kind of lives in both worlds or has lived in the South, you know which school you born and raised there, but you’re currently living in New York and up north and traveling across the country. Do you think that the South has has deeper struggles than the North, or do you think that kind of our history of American racism is kind of across the board?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:16:58] I think it’s terrible across the board. I just think that the South that’s in the open, the north, it comes with the smile. So it’s harder to detect, which honestly, you know, and this is coming from a child. We were in Memphis to the third grade before we moved to Birmingham, before I went to college in Florida, and I spent every summer in Clarksdale, Mississippi. So that’s four states worth of racism that I’ve in. I’m like the Bourdain of discrimination. I’ve sampled it in a lot of different metropolises. The South will straight up tell you, you know, you can’t eat here. Well, I feel like the north will say, well, we don’t have a table right now. Those tables are all reserved.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:41] That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:17:45] And I think that’s that’s the difference. Like, you’ll never leave an experience in the South going. Is that racist?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:53] Right? Scratching your head was like, call it hologram racism.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:17:57] I’m not sure.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:58] I’m not exactly sure what happened. So it’s like it depends on the angle.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:18:01] When I was trying to get apartments down south, when I would move in to get an apartment or whatever it was. Oh, we don’t have any units. Just straight up. Nah. And they would just look you in the face. And what? The listing was in the paper. I know you have a unit, dog. When I moved to New York, this is when I got The Daily Show. When I got The Daily Show, they were like, Yeah, we got a unit but for you. We need three months rent and a deposit. I never heard of no ish like that in my life. But you’re hiding behind policy and weird. Whatever, whatever. And I can’t prove it. I can’t prove it. Then when I got the place, then once I. Once I showed the money that I had to prove that. Yeah. All right, here’s three months of deposit. Boom. What next? What. What’s the next hurdle? Well, I had to get. And this is true. I had to get a letter from Comedy Central verifying that I had a job after I’ve already jumped through the hoop. That you set, and I made it through that hoop. There was another hoop. And to me, that’s more maddening.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:17] Right.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:19:18] In the South, they just go. Now it’s either yes or no. And you know what it is. Whereas up here, it’s. It’s. And I couldn’t get mad at it because I just got hired. I have to go to work tomorrow. I need a place to stay. And it wasn’t just one building. Multiple buildings were playing those those types of game with me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:35] It’s coordinated.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:19:35] With me. And that would have never happened down south.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:38] Okay. We’re ready for question number three?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:19:41] I’m ready. I’m ready.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:43] Okay, question number three. This population of people is a people of mixed African and indigenous American ancestry with roots mostly in Central American countries like Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Who are they?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:20:03] I’m going to not guess rather than give what I know is the wrong guess. When you first started asking the question, I thought you were going to go girly geeky. But then you pivoted to a different region.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:16] Yes. It’s the Garifuna descendants of Carib, Indians and Africans. Garifuna are people who went to British, Honduras and Guyana. They are Afro-Latinx community who originally lived on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and speak Garifuna and Arawak and Language and Venetian Creole. It’s a total of the total Garifuna, Creole and African population estimation is about 3 million, with about a 30% estimation of this population residing in Honduras, which makes Honduras the nation with the highest population of Blacks in Central America. So have you heard of the Garifuna before?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:20:51] No. This is why I like doing stuff with you. Because I leave educated. I this is I was not taught this in Alabama public schools. No.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:03] Like you travel a lot as a comedian. Like I consistently say that you are literally the hardest working person, not Black man, that comedian. You were the hardest working person I know. But have you done much international travel to, say, South and Central America or the Caribbean?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:21:19] No. Like honestly. Well, you have to remember, the first ten years of my career, I was in radio. I’ve been doing standup 23 years, ten of those years I was in radio, seven of those years I’ve been at Comedy Central. So it’s a bit of a tether. So it doesn’t give you an opportunity to go anywhere for more than a week and a half ever at any given time. So in that little six year gap, six, seven year gap that I had, I have most of my the bulk of my international travel was USO tours, which I mean, honestly, I don’t count that as international travel because you’re visiting a base and every military base feels like America. Like the drive in is exotic and different, but once you’re on the base, you may as well be in El Paso. There’s a Baskin Robbins. There’s a Burger King. Like, it’s not, you know. Yeah, I went to Baghdad, but I stayed four hours and they flew was the hell out of there after the last joke was told. So did I see Iraq, right? No, but South America? No. I’ve only been to Argentina and Uruguay. You know, as far as the South American kind of I have a lot of travel that I have to catch up on once I’m done with The Daily Show. Like whenever that happens, that’s probably the first thing I would do is just take a year to just go and just be and observe.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:44] Right. Well, I’ll give you a list because, you know, my passport stays hot. You know, I’m like Mark Twain. I got to leave this country, too, to love this country. It’s okay that there’s a lot that we can impact that in another broadcast. Yes. Okay. You ready for question number four?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:23:00] Okay. I’m ready.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:01] Okay. Nearly 200 years ago, Central Park’s landscape near West 85th Street entrance was home to a community of predominantly free African-American property owners. What was it called?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:23:18] I just don’t know nothing today. I’m gonna pour myself a little water while you tell me the answer.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:24] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825 with the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. And so following this purchase, this African-American community grew steadily and was later supplemented by Irish immigrants who also moved into the area. And so both populations were marginalized at the time and faced similar discrimination throughout the city. And so, despite their social and racial conflicts elsewhere, the Irish and African-Americans in Seneca Village chose to live in close proximity to one another. And so this was a very unique time. And there were high rates of land ownership and education. It was sort of a Black middle class that was Seneca Village. And so in 1856, the city of New York acquired the village through eminent domain, which means the city can come in and just take land.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:24:05] Of course, we just jack you, jack your stuff.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:08] It’s now known as Central Park. And so the city paid landowners, though many found the payment inadequate, oftentimes in eminent domain, and the renters were displaced without compensation. And there are few records of where residents went after their eviction and the community was destroyed. So we actually don’t know where many of these African-Americans ended up settling. And so now that you’re a New Yorker, do you actually use Central Park often?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:24:31] Um a little bit when I’m with the boy, you know, six year old, it’s a safe place to ride the bike together rather than the West Side Highway, which is fun but deafening. Right. So, you know, the park is much quieter and nice and I’m on a couple of softball leagues out there. So, you know, for one reason or another, I have to be up that way, but not on a regular. Like, I’m not the person who gets up every day. I’m not a regular at the park. I swing through.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:59] I’m not a tree hugger. You know, I’m a birder. I literally hug trees like I’m a nature nerd. Is that growing up in the South, I always assume that Southerners are like nature people, but that is an incorrect assumption.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:25:11] But that’s. But it’s so hot that now I’m just. I’m pro inside.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:15] Right.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:25:16] I’m very I’m very pro air conditioning. And I like being outside. Like, I’ll sit on a porch. I’ll like, I’m the guy who go to the beach and then sit at a table and I’m content. I don’t ever need to touch the water. Okay? And I’m and I’m happy. I’m just as happy as whoever is neck deep out there in the ocean. I don’t need to go all the way out in to it. I just need to be next to it. Close by.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:40] Okay.

Panama Jackson [00:25:40] That’s my move. I’m close by nature.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:43] I’m the person who puts on number four suntan oil. And it’s like, I’ll be out here for the next 12 hours baking.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:25:49] I was I was in Hawaii and I sat at a poolside bar in jeans and sneakers and I was content. I’m sure I should have put on shorts.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:59] No judging.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:25:59] But that was and just being around people and people watching. That’s kind of more of my thing than actually being out in the forest. Like in the okay, like I’ll be honest with you, any time I’m outside on a hike in the back of my head, I’m like, I had how much longer I got to be out here?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:19] At some point, I’m going to take you to Central Park and we’re going to go birding with the Wild Bird Fund. I’m just going to put that out there. It won’t be very long, but it’s we’re going to do Central Park Nature tour, to honor our ancestors in Seneca Village.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:26:33] I’m okay with that because it’s shaded. Yes. Most of the bird watching footage I’ve seen is shade, so I’m okay.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:39] Okay. Question number five. All right, last one. Fingers crossed.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:26:43] Okay.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:43] Founded 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims arrived on American soil, this Florida location housed America’s first community of free Blacks. What is it?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:26:57] Rosewood?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:59] It’s St Augustine’s Fort Mosey.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:27:03] Oh, no. Why did I not know that? Because it’s called First Coast. They called themselves First Coast News. St Augustine’s were Old City and Ponce de Leon I.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:27:14] Covered only 25 years ago. Archeologists uncovered the site of Fort Mosey, the first legally sanctioned community of free Blacks in what would become the United States. This remarkable landscape is now a museum and a state park and reveals a glimpse into St Augustine’s lesser known history. And so they can boast the only 17th century fort still standing in North America. Did you know that? So there’s a long history.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:27:36] I’m very ashamed of myself for not knowing this here.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:27:38] Well, you can go and visit the grounds and enjoy the boardwalk that’s built on the site. And today, Fort Mose is now a historic state park and declared a national landmark in 1994. And nothing remains of the fort or the wooden structures where the original residents lived. But you can still go and visit. Okay. So you were a Florida A&M gator. It’s gator or rattler? Well, I don’t know why I put gator? So you’re a rattler. You’re the the the rattlesnake in Tallahassee. We’re St Augustine’s roughly a three and a half hour drive away and doing your college years of Florida. Did you ever go and visit Fort Mose?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:28:14] Yes. Not the fort, but the city of Saint Augustine. I performed everywhere. Here’s a stupid trivia fact to know about me. I’ve performed in more cities in the states of Florida and Georgia than anywhere else on Earth. They teach you about the struggle across the diaspora. They only going to teach you. Thank God I know the Roman numerals now know which Super Bowl we all for whatever reason. There’s always comedy happening in some random Mars town or some random little armpit of a city. Not cause they’re not extreme. But yes, I’ve been there a couple that like the idea that. Oh, yeah, this was the first city. This is where everything started for this whole land here. I was always fascinated with that, you know? You know what I do enjoy? I’m not a nature person, but I do enjoy history. I do enjoy, you know, museums and and in this case, like old buildings and ruins and stuff like that. So, yeah, I’ll I’ll add this one to the list and I’ll go check it out.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:19] Oh Roy. Okay. So we’ve had an interesting time with these questions. Lots of tip of the tongue answers. But the whole point is actually not to get 100% on the test. The whole point is for us to learn a little bit more about American history and Black history in particular. And before I let you go, because obviously I could talk to you all day. We have time for some Black bonus rounds. Are you ready for Black Lightning Round?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:29:40] I’m very ready. Ready?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:42] All right. Blade or Luke Cage? These are just yes or no answer.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:29:46] Blade.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:48] The Wire or Power?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:29:49] The Wire.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:53] Okay. Hot take. Best stand up comedian Martin Lawrence or Katt Williams?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:30:03] If I had to take their catalog today, I would go Katt. But that’s only because Kat has created more product and just.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:16] Okay.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:30:17] It’s Kat. It’s Kat. But also with with the artists with a stand up like Martin, you have to take into account that he had an opportunity for a film career that wasn’t necessarily afforded to Katt Williams. Same with Chris Tucker. I feel like because their film careers took off, we got cheated out of those extra two or three more our specials that would have made them canon. You know, like truly, truly, you know, Canon the way Katt is.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:47] Okay. Late 1990 and early 2000, Southern Rap goes to Outkast are Big Timers?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:30:54] Outkast, it doesn’t even. I don’t even whatever I was about to say after that didn’t even matter. I think I enjoyed Big Timers and I can listen to them.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:02] Uh huh. Okay. I’m. Listen, I’m going with Outkast hands down. On Thanksgiving, are you grabbing a slice of sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:31:10] Sweet potato.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:12] I mean, like, where’s why are we stalling? There’s no there’s no question. P.S. one day I’ll make a sweet potato pie. Everyone wants my recipe from a few episodes ago, but I can’t share it because it’s in the family. Okay. Favorite city to perform stand up?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:31:27] Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:29] We’re going to have you back.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:31:30] There’s no better. Cleveland, Ohio, and it’s not even close. Chicago’s close, but Cleveland.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:40] Okay.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:31:41] Then. Black people is happy and Black people is smart them Black people ready to laugh then Black folks. It’s the perfect convergence of the different wealth classes of Blackness all in one place, ready to laugh at something. I’ve never had a better time on stage.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:59] Like, Ohio feels like a very northern southern state to me. Okay. Where do you feel most? At home. Birmingham or New York City?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:32:10] It’s. There was a time where this wouldn’t have been a tough question. You know, New York City’s my home. That’s where that’s where my son is. You know, in my Twitter profile, it says Bury me in Alabama.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:26] That’s true.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:32:27] And I still stand by that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:28] Okay.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:32:29] You know, so that will always be home. But, you know, when you go home, you start seeing the things and the policies that restrict you from doing the things that you want to do. So there’s more work to be done at home to change the infrastructure so that the same type of accomplishments can be achieved.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:47] Our last question for some listeners, they know that the two of us have a complicated history with grits and how I choose to eat my grits and it’s caused some strain in our friendship over the years. So knowing that complicated relationship between Christie and Roy and Grits, are you a cheese or butter or sugar grits person?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:33:12] Never sugar. Cheese, cheese and a little salt. Some cheese and a little salt.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:17] Oh, Roy, thank you so much for joining me today. I could talk to you forever.

Roy Wood Jr. [00:33:22] Yeah, let’s let’s segway out of that. But we will go to war.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:25] Go let’s end on a good note. Is that what we’re saying?

Roy Wood Jr. [00:33:30] Yes.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:31] For our listeners out there, we don’t want to go down the grits rabbit hole. That’ll be another podcast where I’ll explain to you our long and sordid history and grits. Thank you all so much to Roy Wood Junior for joining the Blackest Questions. I want to thank you all for listening to the Blackest Questions.

Maiysha Kai [00:33:49] Don’t forget, you can listen to theGrios Writing Black podcast hosted by me, Maiysha Kai. This isn’t your typical writing podcast. We interview any and everybody that has anything to do with writing from comics to poets to authors to journalists, to politicians and more. Remember, that’s Writing Black every Sunday, right here on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, download theGrios app to listen to writing Black wherever you are.