TheGrio Daily

The Critical Race Theory origin story

Episode 91

“If you ever attended a public school you can thank South Carolina’s Black voters.” The Anti-CRT movement is popular with conservative circles, but it did not start with former President Donald Trump or Governor Ron DeSantis. Thankfully we have Michael Harriot to explain where the hate for “wokeness” began.  TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network.


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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Welcome back to theGrio Daily. If you were listening to last episode, we were talking about South Carolina and our theme for this Black History Month is that the capitol of Black America is in South Carolina. And we’re going to continue with that theme, because that was kind of like the origin story for a lot of the things that we’re going to talk about today. For instance, today we’re going to talk about, you know, Critical Race Theory. Let’s talk about Critical Race Theory. That’s a good idea and how Critical Race Theory became a thing. 

[00:00:48] Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Theory. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:53] Well, again, and I’m not just saying this because it’s our thing, but to understand that, you need to go back to what we talk about, talked about in the last episode, and you have to focus on South Carolina. And here’s why. So remember the thing we said about absolute power and authority and the Negro Act of 1740 again, and we were talking about the Stono Rebellion, one of the reasons that it caused the Negro Act of 1740 and the provisions in it was because Jimmy, the organizer with the supposed organizer of the Stono Rebellion, could read. So the Negro act of 1744 forbade slaves or enslaved people from reading and writing, among other things. Like regulated what colors they could wear. They had to wear white, stuff that was white. They had to they could not assemble in groups of two or more. They had to have like these things called freedom passes if they were ever caught off their plantation. But that reading and writing thing, man, that was really, really scary, right? And that is why the Negro Act of 1740 banned slaves from reading and writing and then all the other states that had enslaved people they kind of just basically copied that template because they were really afraid of these rebellions. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:27] And you have to remember, see, this is important. That South Carolina imported more people before the Civil War than all of the colonies combined. Right. So South Carolina was a majority Black state. And just think about what would happen if all of those enslaved people rebelled at once. Well, the only way they could communicate with each other was reading and writing. So reading and writing was really bad. And and all of the other states understood that because they used South Carolina as the example, like, look at what happened during that Stono Rebellion. Well, reading and writing really became a thing that prevented like the symbol of the thing that could keep people subjugated and oppressed. Right. So we’re going to even skip past, you know, Denmark Vesey and his his so-called conspiracy. We’re going to skip past for us. So we’re going to talk about the Civil War. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:36] See when the Civil War came about. Right. South Carolina was again, the first state to secede. They really wanted to create this white supremacist confederacy that enshrined the control, absolute power and authority forever. So the in the articles of secession, they said slavery like 18 times. Right? They mentioned slavery. It was not about taxes. It was not about, you know, states rights or whatever people say, it was all about slavery. And after the Civil War, after the white people got their asses kicked. Well, let let us go to during the Civil War, right? So during the Civil War in South Carolina, the Confederacy was flailing. They were losing. And so the Union sent this woman down to help as a nurse. Right. And as a scout. And, you know, they knew that she knew like some of the routes. And she also served as a spy. And, you know, she was like a one man Swiss Army knife or one woman in this case. And so she worked with the general over the entire southern troops. And she convinced them she was like, man, you know what? Like, we would probably kick ass a lot quicker if we just started freeing the enslaved people. And so this General was like, Man, you know what? That’s a good idea. And so he just told all his troops, like, look, if you come across some enslaved people, just. Just free them. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:26] Now that made Abraham Lincoln real angry, so angry that he relocated the general, but he couldn’t do anything with the woman because she like it wasn’t like she was getting paid. She was volunteering. Right. She would sell pies. She would make pies to pay for food and serve as a nurse. But, you know, she was a lot of people liked her because she was kind of like a semi celebrity. Her name was Harriet Tubman. So, you know, she was really beloved. So when those enslaved people set themselves free because Abraham Lincoln did not want to un-enslave the people. So they un-enslaved themselves. Those people would go to, you know, the nearest plantation and set more people free. And all those people they didn’t leave. They stayed, a lot of, them in South Carolina. So after the Civil War, what happened was all of those enslaved people. With a majority. And of course. The 13th Amendment not didn’t just un-enslave them, but they became citizens. And they became citizens with the right to vote. And so these Black people, these people who freed themselves control the state political apparatus. And remember, after the Civil War, because these people have seceded, the states had seceded. They had to create a whole new constitution that had to be accepted back into America. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:14] But now Black people were the majority. So when they wrote the state constitution, Black people sent Black delegates to the South Carolina Constitution. And these Black delegates, the delegation, which was majority Black, they did something that white people were fearing for the entire civil war. First of all, they expanded voting rights. You didn’t have to have property. You as long as you were over a certain age, you could just vote, man. And that was crazy because all of these Black people started to vote. And in South Carolina and Mississippi and other states, the Black voter participation rate was 90%. Right. So one of the things that they did was they created this land commission that actually took the land that the enslavers, the traders had owned, and they distributed it amongst freedmen. They also did one other thing. Those Black delegates came together because. You know, to be honest, they didn’t just do it for Black people. They did it for everybody. Because in the South, like white people were very uneducated. Like South Carolina had one of the highest illiteracy rates in the country, and the South was way more illiterate, even the white people, than the rest of the country. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:50] And the Black delegation noticed this. So they use that template from those Carolina constitutions that gave them absolute, the whites absolute power and authority. And they created the one thing that would last those Black delegates from South Carolina in that 1868 South Carolina constitution created America’s first constitutionally guaranteed public education system. Now every state has one and it’s like basically a constitutional right. But if you’ve ever attended a public school, you can thank South Carolina’s Black voters and that Black delegation for creating guaranteed public education. And they created some of the country’s first HBCUs because they took what was called these land grants and created, you know, they knew that South Carolina still had segregation, so they created HBCUs. And that was really upsetting to the whites in South Carolina. And so they began to recreate this version of history where the people who started the Civil War were brave. They were heroes. They were fighting for states rights. And that movement was called the Lost Cause. And that movement eventually became the anti-Critical Race Theory. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:41] And we’re going to talk about that on the next episode. And the only way you can see the next episode is by subscribing to this podcast on whatever platform you’re listening to it on. You’ve got to download the app and you’ve got to tell a friend about it. And as always, we leave you with the Black saying, and today’s saying is, “If you don’t know it, then how can you teach it?” If you liked what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at the 

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