TheGrio Daily

The Unsung Heroes of White History

Episode 29

“White people are the only ones who really don’t know their own history.” As much as we love celebrating our Black heroes, we can’t forget about our “Unsung White Heroes” and remembering their contributions to our lives, while we’re still allowed to!

You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello, and welcome to another episode of theGrio Daily, the only podcast that has declared August to be White History Month. But, it’s only for white people because, you know, white people are the only ones who really don’t know about their own history. You know, for the rest of us, this is Black August still. So don’t worry, we’re still celebrating Black August. But, you know, like, it’s technically illegal in some states, so we can’t really be talking about this because, you know, the police might come out and grab your phone. So instead of talking about some of the Black heroes that we talk about all of the time on this podcast, we are going to sing the praises of some of the most remarkably white men in American history. Today, we’re going to talk about five unsung heroes of white history. Welcome to theGrio Daily. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:05] I’m Michael Harriot, world-famous wypipologist. And this is theGrio Daily. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:15] Yeah. See, we always like to talk about historic figures. Right? Like, we like to talk about George Washington, but, you know, not in the sense that we’re supposed to talk about him, but we won’t be talking about that today. Today, we’re going to be talking about unsung, white heroes. Now, some of these names you might know, but you won’t know about the things that they did to make them heroes in white America, heroes in the racist legacy of American history. And some of these you will never hear about unless you tune in to a show like, theGrio Daily. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:52] At number five is one of my favorites, Benjamin Tillman. Now, Benjamin Tillman, he was a racist. He was a white supremacist. He, probably, you know, killed cats on the side. But, one of his favorite pastimes was killing Black people. Matter of fact, killing Black people is what made Benjamin,  “Pitchfork.” That’s his nickname, “Pitchfork.” Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman became the governor and became a senator because he liked to kill black people like right after the Civil War. Of course, we’ve talked about this before, but South Carolina was a majority black state and everybody was scared that black people were going to exercise their voting power. And so, to reduce the chances of South Carolina becoming a state that was under the control of those “crazy Negroes.” Benjamin Tillman and his partners, the Brownshirts, they go by many names like the Red Sores, the Brown Shirts, the Red Shirts. They just went around South Carolina and started killing people. Right? Like, they just massacred hundreds of Black people across the state, which made Tillman a hero. Like, it wasn’t a secret. They didn’t, like, do this at night – they would just go into a town and murder people. His legacy was so cemented among white people that by the time they started suppressing Black votes, it was natural that Benjamin Tillman was going to represent South Carolina in the state legislature. And, that he did. First, he became a state legislator, then he rose to Governor. And at his inauguration, he said that they have ensured that Thomas Jefferson’s legacy of all men being created equal, will be subservient to white supremacy. I mean, he said that at his inauguration. So everybody heard it. And, he was elected to the Senate and would advocate for stuff like lynching, the Ku Klux Klan, and much more. Anything that was Black, Tillman hated it. And that’s why he is an unsung hero of white history. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:33] And the fourth most unsung hero of white history is your boy – we know him and we love him, everybody’s heard about him. White Jesus. White Jesus is a historical figure that is also fictional, but, because so many people believe in him, we’re going to treat him like he’s an actual person. Like, the white dude with the blue eyes and the blond hair, surfboard abs, you know, who looks like he does, you know, PR, PX-40 or whatever you call that shit. You know, Jesus be working out like, I don’t know where they had gyms in Bethlehem, but you know, the Jesus that the white people believe in, right? He ripped. Right? I bet you he could do more pushups than Pontius Pilot and Pontius Pilot, you know, he was like the chief of police. But anyway, this white Jesus guy, right? He came to America with the first white settlers. And he was the reason that many of the racist laws that we know today were enacted, because according to white Jesus, these people were not civilized. Like, that’s why in the charter of Virginia, they said that the purpose of coming here was to “civilize the savages” and “teach them about God.” White Jesus was used to justify slavery. As a matter of fact, in many of the early slavery laws, there weren’t laws against Black people. There were laws against, quote unquote, non-Christians. One of the first laws in Massachusetts that made slavery legal said that it was okay to put men into bondage who were not followers of the Christian religion. And it was based on a book of the Bible. If you believe that Jesus was white. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:36] And number three, the 3rd unsung hero of White America is one of your favorites. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:45] Thomas Jefferson. Now everybody knows Thomas Jefferson wrote that thing about all men being created equal. And, you know, we’re not even going to talk about, you know, the fact that he raped a slave and he started when she was 15. We’re not even going to talk about the fact that he enslaved his own biological children. We’re not even going to talk about the fact that he is heralded as someone who was anti-slavery, even though he never emancipated a slave in his entire life. Let’s talk about the other Thomas Jefferson that no one ever talks about, right? Like, we can talk about how he treated the woman he supposedly loved. But, did you know this, right? So, on Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, one of the ways that he made money was through a nail factory. He had a factory that made nails. And the reason it was so successful was not just because slaves worked in it for free, but because he would take Black boys as young and as nine and ten years old and begin teaching them how to make nails by using the whip. He would whip young boys until they taught themselves how to make nails. And that’s not the only thing Thomas Jefferson did, right? Like, he was just like, a really – by any measure, he was a racist. One of the other things that Thomas Jefferson did was, he wrote a book, right? On his musings, because, you know, white people think they’re smart. And so they got to write down the things that they think about. And Thomas Jefferson wrote a book called “Notes on the State of Virginia,” which is about, like, basically everything, like, just like a white man ranting. It was like, if it was today, it would be called a manifesto. But, back then, it was just called a book or a pamphlet. And in that pamphlet, Thomas Jefferson started talking about Phillis Wheatley, who was one of the greatest poets in the world at that time. And he remarked that, yeah, like she good, right? But, like, she only imitating white people, like, Black people cannot be poets because they don’t have art in their heart. Like, Thomas Jefferson was just that crazy – is there anyone in history who thinks Black people aren’t creative? But, that’s not all he said in that book. Thomas Jefferson laid out the reason why, even though he thinks that people shouldn’t be enslaved, why we could never emancipate slaves. And this is what he said, he says that, “among the Greeks and the Romans who -” societies that also had slavery. They could emancipate the slaves because once they emancipated them. They were free – just free white people. But in America, the reason we couldn’t emancipate our slaves was because once they were free, they might intermingle and mix with white people. What Thomas Jefferson was afraid of, was little mixed kids running around sullying that pure-blooded whiteness. And for that, he’s the third unsung hero of American history. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:25] Now, number two is your boy, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. I know what you’re thinking, like, “John Roberts is a moderate, he’s been a swing vote for a long time, why are you saying that he’s racist?” Nah, I’m not saying he’s racist. This is a list of the whitest unsung heroes, right? John Roberts, throughout his entire career, he has had one goal: To stop Black people from voting. His goal has always been to dismantle the Voting Rights Act. And he was – he’s kind of halfway there after he authored the Shelby Vs. Holder decision that kind of stripped away the protective provisions of the Voting Rights Act. 

Michael Harriot [00:11:14] See, John Roberts’ entire jurisprudence ideology is based on the idea that racism is a thing of the past. Right? So, he thinks that racism is over and so we can’t have any laws. It’s unfair to have laws that benefit Black people. That’s why he said he allows for gerrymandering cases because he says, like, it’s not racist if they didn’t intend to be racist. That’s why he upholds every restrictive voting rights legislation against Black people, because his goal has always been the same and is based on this idea, that is counterintuitive, right? Because, like, a Supreme Court justice is supposed to believe in precedent. But, what John Roberts says is like all the stuff that white people did before, it doesn’t matter. Right? Which is kind of strange because there’s never been a moment in the history of America where, when given the opportunity, white people haven’t taken the opportunity to be racist. But, according to John Roberts, like, none of that counts. History doesn’t count. Legal precedent doesn’t count. The past doesn’t count. Black people’s vote doesn’t count. And that’s one of the whitest ideas of all time, which is why he is an unsung white hero. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:47] And the number one unsung hero of white history is another name you might recognize. I don’t know, like I know a lot about history, so I’ll say I recognize this name, you probably don’t. It’s this guy named, George Washington. George Washington was an unsung hero when it comes to his whiteness. Now he – we know he could fight. You know, we know that he led the revolutionary forces into a victory over the greatest army, the British army, during the Revolutionary War, which, you know, I still don’t give him credit for because, like, how can you not miss the people who were wearing red coats, like, that was crazy. But, he was one of the largest slave holders in Virginia. And, he wanted to keep the forces of this country purely white. And I mean, I’m a be honest with you, like white people were really getting their butts kicked in the American Revolution. And it’s because, like, you know, they couldn’t – the British couldn’t send a bunch of people over here. But, one of the largest slave revolts in history, if you categorize slave revolts in this way, was the Black people who ran away from slave plantations and joined the British army to fight the so-called patriots. Not the New England ones, but the, you know, the people who, you know, blew flutes and played offbeat rhythms on snare drums during the American Revolution. Like, about 5,000 people fought for the American forces and about 25,000 Black people fought against the American forces. And so, George Washington didn’t want to relent and allow Black people to fight in the Revolutionary War. And they kept getting their butts kicked until basically he was overridden by the Continental Congress after the American Revolution. Rhode Island, who, instead of sending their white people, allowed them to send their slaves to fight. Washington and the other generals got together and said, “Like look, I know we promised that the slaves who fought for us would be freed after the American Revolution, but, ah we gonna renege on that. And not only did Washington do that, but Washington also had an enslaved woman, named Ona. Washington chased Ona who ran away, for his entire life. After she fled Washington’s plantation and sought out her freedom, Washington spent the rest of his days until the day he died, chasing Ona Judge because he wanted his property back. And, that’s why Washington, the father of our country, is the number one unsung hero of white history. 

Michael Harriot [00:16:06] Remember to download the podcast and remember to tell one of your friends about this podcast. We’ll be here every day. Download theGrio app, man, and tell one of your friends about it. And, as always, we’ll leave you with a great Black saying: “What you talking ’bout, Willis?”. 

Michael Harriot [00:16:25] See you next time on The Grio Daily. 

Michael Harriot [00:16:28] If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download the Grio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to 

[00:16:44] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

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