By Leon A. Waters
Chairperson of Louisiana Museum of African American History, Manager of Hidden History LLC, a publishing, touring and research company
Have you ever taken the time to get acquainted with Dr. Roudanez’s newspaper – the Tribune? If not, I suggest you do. There are about 140 original copies at Tulane University – Jones Hall – Rare collections.
There are about a thousand more that you can read and study online. If you take the time to study the paper, you will notice some common threads that are common in papers that are journals of radical or revolutionary oppositions to the prevailing oppressor governments or states.
I like to call these common threads the 3 C’s.
Now, it does not matter what the historical period is; you will note these 3 C’s. They represent a vital role in unifying the fighters for freedom- in unifying the fighters and the oppressed sections of the masses ideologically. Without the unity of ideas, the vanguard class in alliance with other social strata will not be able to win victory.
This fact was evident in the American revolution. Newspapers like the Boston Gazette, New York Journal, South Carolina Gazette, and others would master the skill of combining agitational and propaganda articles that enlightened the masses to champion a political program, or another way of saying their maximum and minimum demands.
Historians observed this fact in the French Revolution of 1848. Where newspapers like the Universal Monitor, the Cause of the People, or the Representative of the People would guide the masses in their struggle to break free from feudalism and win the beginning features of democracies.
And we observe this again during the Civil War where Africans would transform the Civil War into a war for liberation for themselves. Papers like Freedom Journal, Frederick Douglas Paper, the North Star and others were the ideological and political weapons of that time. But an equally, and to some degree more important specific organ, that began here in New Orleans, but is not well known throughout the country among schools, universities, historians, libraries, archival institutions, today – would become a genuine champion of the non-exploiting and oppressed sections of the social classes – the New Orleans Tribune.
First and foremost this paper was a political newspaper – a political organ that strived to transform numerous local movements into a single city-wide, single Louisiana-wide and single country wide movement that masterfully excelled at the 3 C’s.
- It was a collective agitator – The paper would work to connect and report on all the battles fought by the Corps d’ Afrique (U.S. Colored troops) in the Civil War, Louisiana river plantations would contribute more troops than any other southern state, between 24-28,000 to the Union Army and 7 -8000 to the Navy to hold and maintain control of the Mississippi River; the paper would work to connect with all the spontaneous manifestations of the struggles of the Black freedmen and women after the Civil War; that included the conflicts between the freed people and the employers over the working day, wages, working conditions; the conflicts between Black pregnant women who were made to work up to their delivery in the sugar cane fields and return to work the next day; the conflicts between those newly freed to gain an education and improve their well being; the conflicts to sustain and expand the Freedmen’s Bureau; and the conflicts to accomplish the agrarian revolution which was repelled.
- The paper was a collective propagandist – Unlike agitation – which is the promotion of one idea, propaganda is the explanation of many ideas. The paper would further excel in this area of political journalism. The tribune would spread among the freed people a proper understanding of the new social and economic arrangement that the paper envisioned after the capture of political (or state) power, its more democratic basis and democratic character, and an understanding of the role of the various classes in New Orleans and Louisiana society, of their interrelations, of the struggle between these classes and of the role of the main social class, the newly freed, who were the majority and who could play the decisive role in the struggle for democratic change. The paper would champion the alliance of the main social class, the newly freed, with the non-exploiting section of the free people of color. Roudanez would refer to the main social class affectionately as ‘our African brethren’. From his social class analysis, Roudanez articulated that such an alliance would form a vanguard for social change.
- But the paper was not limited to just a collective agitator and collective propagandist, It was also a Collective Organizer. With the aid of the paper, an organization could take shape and emerge that would engage, not only in local activities, but in regular general work across the Louisiana state and the country.
History teaches that such a journal combined with the popularization of a political program is absolute in the building of an organization to lead the masses to victory.
Here this journal guided by the skillful leadership of Roudanez illustrates that whenever you have proper leadership and proper organization, you make gains.
Unity of Ideas and proper leadership & organization make a prescription of success.
May we learn from the 3 C’s as we continue the struggle today for the complete social emancipation of the working class and the complete liberation of the oppressed African American nation today.
Click here to watch a video of this presentation by Leon A. Waters at the Memorial Forum.
Leon A. Waters is the Chairperson of Louisiana Museum of African American History, Manager of Hidden History LLC, a publishing, touring and research company. A native New Orleanian who finished Xavier University in Business Administration. Publisher of On To New Orleans: Louisiana’s Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt. This 300 page book is the story of the largest slave revolt in the United States that happened here in St. John the Baptist Parish, St. Charles Parish, and Orleans Parish. He has been active for a long time in the struggle for complete liberation for the African American nation and the social emancipation of the working class. He is married to Aleta Cornin Waters. They have three children, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
© Leon A. Waters, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.