BY JEANETTE LENOIR
“Now the old men are folding their arms and going to sleep and the young men are Wide Awake.” – William H. Seward (1860)
The term “Woke” may be wearing new clothes and taking on different meanings today, depending on which side of the political isle you’re claiming, but being “Woke” or “Wide-Awake” isn’t a new term or ideology. As a matter of fact, “Woke” has traveled a long way to meet the social media degenerates, I mean, generation intent on spinning the term to fit whatever cultural and political warfare they’re fighting from their keyboards and computer screens.
Historian and Curator Jon Grinspan captured some of the early movements of the Wide-Awakes in his piece for the Journal of American History titled, “Young Men for War”: The Wide Awakes and Lincolns 1860 Presidential Campaign:
The Wide Awakes were against slavery when they marched with torches to galvanize Lincolns presidential campaign long before the Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other white supremacists marched through Charlottesville over 5 years ago bearing torches and terrorizing folks with chants of “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
Staying “Woke” has also been part of African American discourse, similar to how the Green Book was used as a guide for Black people to travel safely across America, the term was used to encourage vigilance against the onslaught of white oppression and domestic terrorism.
The Scottsboro Boys were nine African American young men accused of raping two white women aboard a southern railroad freight train in northern Alabama in 1931. The case, which lasted more than 80 years, helped to spur the Civil Rights Movement and helped to inspire several prominent activists and organizers, including being the inspiration behind To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee.
The landmark legal cases begotten from the Scottsboro Boys incident didn’t just deal with racism but the right to a fair trial. If you’re “anti-Woke” like the Chloroformers, whose opposing aim was to put the Wide Awakens asleep, you should consider this piece of America history before you rally behind the likes of a misguided and ill-informed Florida governor intent on killing truth simply because it goes against the blatant lies that feed his hate for the awaken ones who refuse to be silenced in the face of oppression, gender dysphoria and, or white supremacy.
The Scottsboro Boys collectively served more than 100 years in prison. This historical fact cannot be taken lightly. Black folks in America must be Woke in order to survive the permeating racism and discrimination that maintains its choke-hold on our nation.
When Lead Belly sang about the incident in his song titled “Scottsboro Boys” he encouraged Black folks to “Stay Woke” in the aftermath of the injustice.
It’s never too late to become a proud member of the Wide Awake Club because all people deserve to feel good in the world.