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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Knowledge of History is Critical to Success

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and published on June 20, 2021

I get asked all of the time why I write and publish articles about the Carmichael/Varnado/Watkins family history, social justice issues, domestic politics, and international affairs. The answer is simple: These are the matters that will shape the future of my five children and seven grandchildren. I know from personal experience that knowledge about these matters is critical to their success in life.

Dr. Levi Watkins, my father, reported on these topics in two newspapers he founded and published -- "The New Herald" in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1935 and "ASU Today" in Montgomery, Alabama in 1978. Rev. Willie Varnado, my maternal grandfather, was a well-known Baptist minister and civil rights leader in Jackson, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. He also reported on these topics in church bulletins that were published each Sunday. Joseph Talmadge Watkins, my paternal uncle and a civil rights icon in Washington, D.C., wrote articles on these topics in the newsletters published and distributed by his federal government employee union.

As a result of our early and consistent exposure to world history, American history, and current events, my siblings and I were able to break down scores of racial barriers along the way to reaching the pinnacle of success in our respective professions. Our children are following suit, as this collective body of knowledge has been passed down for five generations in the Carmichael/Varnado/Watkins family.

We are the proud descendants of courageous African slaves, leaders in the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations of Native American Tribes, and Scottish and Irish immigrants of interracial goodwill. The formal education we received in our K-12 public schools in Montgomery, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee and colleges and universities across America provided us with a baseline of textbook knowledge. This body of knowledge was woefully inadequate with respect to the true history of the achievements and socio-economic status of our African and Native American ancestors prior to and after the enslavement, violence, and racial oppression inflicted upon them by many whites in America.

Not surprisingly, it was the in-home education we received from our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts that served as the rocket engines that propelled us to the greatest heights in our chosen professions. They always made sure we knew who we were, where we came from, and what we were capable of achieving. We never sought or needed validation of our self-worth, potential for intellectual achievement, and career success from outside sources.

The Carmichael/Varnado/Watkins family has been one of America's mixed race legacy families since 1865. Since that time, this family has weathered all forms of white racism, from vigilantism to government-sponsored acts of domestic terrorism and strictly enforced segregation laws and customs. For us, white racism has been an ever-present fact of life. The only thing that changed throughout the years was the various reasons for why so many whites hated us.

I write my articles to continue the time-honored tradition within the Carmichael/Varnado/Watkins family of educating our family members and circle of global friends regarding (a) the looming patterns of modern-day racism that threaten our existence and/or quality of life and (b) the strategies that allowed our family to overcome past forms of white racism. I present the cold, hard, truth on every subject covered.

This reporting is important because I do not want my fellow Americans lured into the blissful ignorance that flows from news content by most white-controlled media organizations that everything has been, or is okay, for people of color in America. We know that such blissful ignorance can manifest itself so easily. Indeed, even the past achievements of blacks has been suppressed or omitted in many traditional American history books. For example, until last month, most Americans did not know that blacks in America had a thriving "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Oklahoma from 1906 to 1921 that was completely destroyed by an angry and violent white mob during a murderous rampage in May 1921. Not one of these inciters of violence, nor the powers-that-be behind them, was ever prosecuted for the 300 known murders of black Tulsa residents or the wholesale destruction of property in this incident. Additionally, most Americans did not know about the Tuskegee Airman and their heroism during World War II until Hollywood released movies about them in recent years.

As a family, we are now grooming our sixth generation of bridge-builders in America. They are my grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews. This generation is learning our family history in detail. They are prepared for the world because we teach them our family history, American history, world history, and multiple languages. Their collective friendship circle is international. They use knowledge as rocket fuel. A continuation of our family's legacy of success in America depends upon their knowledge of history. This is the greatest gift we can give to our children and grandchildren.

PHOTO: 1957 Carmichael/Varnardo/Watkins family photo

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