on pan-african agriculture & industry for my daughter: great-great grandpa james (big jim) a. godette's letters from jail to james weldon johnson



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James A. Godette
(circa early 1900s)
2022, Minneapolis/Jamaica: Hughes-Kasoro Family Archives.

"To Mr. James W. Johnson, contributing editor of the New York Age:

"Sir, I notice an article in the last issue of your valuable paper. In title, Harness The Dollar, an I must say, it was appealing to me. That was my lifelong dream as to how could my race better their condition. From a politician, social, and financial standpoint so that we could be recognized as a race and demand our constitutional rights. I had this figured out 20 years ago and not being a man of education I didn’t no (sp) how to put it before my people and let it drop but this have inspired me and I shall lay my plans square before you for consideration because I see that my people have got the spirit and this is the way I layed out my plans then and now as follows.

"Get some loyal race man like yourself to whom has the confidence of all his people, call a committee of honest and loyal race men like Fred. R. Moore, R.S. Abbott, and our Ida B. Wells and form rules and lay out plans for a big race enterprise that would be a direct benefit to the whole negro race from a financial standpoint then lay the matter square before the people and tell them the (sp) you wanted 5,000,000 stockholders to sign a contract to take 10 shears (sp) each at $10.00 a shear (sp) and to pay down $10.00 in which is one shear and then pay $1.00 every three months thereafter until the remainding (sp) $90.00 dollars is paid and if they have not the $10.00 at hand, let them pay down $1.00 dollar and gave them 90 days to pay the remainding (sp) $9.00 dollars so that won’t no hardship on no one. Isn’t that easy. Think of it.

"Then when this is done it will give this committee $50,000,000 dollars spot cash to do business and no one hurt and $5,000,000 dollars every three months thereafter for 22 years and six month. That would put this business on cash bases (sp) and wholly independent of any one from a financial standpoint you would be under no obligation to no man or set of men outside of your race and for various reasons I will suggest to committee where this great plan should be. As history tells us gunboats runned up to Cairo, Ill. during the civil war, I feel that steam ships could run there now. So I suggest that this committee should buy a big tract of land somewhere below Cairo 3 or 4 thousand acres for this big plant and a city then buy big stone quarries along the river and big brick yards, saw mills, an plaining (sp) mills. Buy 7 or 8 big barges and 3 or 4 powerful life boats to play between New Orleans and St. Paul and Chicago and also buy two big steam boats then call in your skill and unskill (sp) labor and put them to work.

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"Some cleaning of the ground for the plant and others getting out material for the building of the plant then you can buy your machinary (sp) at Chicago & St. Louis and your barges can take everything down to the plant and store it away in your storehouse and this same fraight the next. As soon as the war is over go and buy 10 big wooden steam ships and about 8 schooners to play from our base to New Orleans & both sides of the gulf and all around the Atlantic coast via New York to Chicago and Duluth. Now from a commercial standpoint that will put us in direct touch with our people all over the world that will able us to say to Siberia, see here, we are able to finance you and furnish you with everything that you need if you will let us develop all your natural resources and allow us to put a railroad across your country so that we can get you material from our commercial enterprise and you can bet your last dollar she would snap us up at the word. Look what that would mean to this race.

"The last holding of all our fathers’ land rich with gold, iron, copper, lead, and coal, mahogney (sp), rubber and dye wood. Not only that, look at our nighbor (sp) and friend France (???) right next to us with all her millions of our people that we could furnish cloths, shoes, grain, and meat and cottonseed oil in exchange for their products. Is not this a possibility. How could we loose (sp) if we are a going to have an enterprise, let us have a real one, on a wholescale plan, one that will benefit the whole race and not a few.

"Now back to the u.s.a. put your agents out all over the country and Latin america, and let the agent go to every farmer all through the rural district of the south and tell them that we want all of their cotton and all of their timber and all the products that they raise, other than what they kneed (sp) for them selves and that we are in a position to furnish and finance them with everything they need and will give their sons and daughters work anytime they need it and above all do that and save them from the hands of those robing (sp) sharks. Back to the plant, here is our plant. Right in the black belt in easy excess (sp) of our people north east south and west. Caro (sp) is a railroad center running many direction. That will make it easy to reach our people inland. We are in easy excess (sp) of the great grain fields of the north and the grazing land. We can buy stock sheep wool hides and potatoes and load it in on our barges and take it direct to the plant and it is easy for our poor people to reach this plant without haveing (sp) to brace there (sp) way clean across the country and it is easy for them to get our products without big fraight expence (sp). The next (sp) here is a plant that will manfactory (sp) every article that is used in america and if no other people buys one penny from us we could use it all our selves and wouldn’t have enough.

"The next. we have got the Brains to run this business. and when my son and the rest comes home we will have a job for them and when _____ have accomplish this, the race question will be solved. We will cease to be alms seekers and begers (sp) and we will keep away from our enemies. We won’t need his jobs and he can draw the color line on his self, for all we care. There will be no more race riots. There will be no union, but we will have a unit. Each man and woman working for him self. And when this have been done, the race will then have made history, and we will be recognized as a race of people, the world over. And if this is done now before the war is at and end, there will be a different story to be told at the peace table when the negro question comes up. We will have repossesstiae there with 5,000,000 banks and a unit with their money to back him if the question come up as to our innate ability of governing our selves we can point out to them what we have done and what we are doing at the present.

“Now friend I am not an educated man. That you can see at a glance at my letter, but I have world wide experience. I’ve seen lots with my own eyes, and I observe them closely. With this very thing in object. I am a contractor and foreman in the northern woods, work in big mills as grader, and rail road contracting, so my education is from worldy experience, and the lines I pointed out to you are safe and sound and every word I said to you is based on facts. And if my race follows the case line lyed (sp) out there will be nothing but success and glory for the whole negro race. The american negro is the only hope that affrica (sp) has, and without him she is lost so may god grant that my people may hear my pleading and act and do it now. And if this is excepted, (sp) give my 3 children the honor of taking the first shares. The money is ready. Hoping that you may answer my baby girl, as to your aproval (sp) of my plans.

"Yours respectfully,
James a. Godette."




“To Mr. James w. Johnson:

"My dear sir I’m just in communication of your letter of recent date and I must say that it brought much joy to my very soul to think that you have given this matter your attention. And what I said in regards to your work is based on facts. I’ve kept close watch on you for many years and could not find any doubt or guilt in you. And the able way you deal with all matter pertaining to the race and other wise is enough to convince me that you are the right man to head this business. For I have seen enough to know that you have the interest of your race at heart. How this great number of stockholders I speak of may seem strange to you and is it worth the while. Ans. yes a thousand times yes if 5000,000 (sp) people trust you with their money. You have their confidence and they will back you to the limit from a financial or political stand ------- t brings about a large unit that never have existed before. And when this is done, we ----- demand recognition the word own is arace (sp). This enterprise is design to manufacture every useful article in the world that is used by man and ------. These people will patronize their own businesses. Listen today as things stand we own 20,0000.00 (sp) ----------- which is no material benefit to the ------ as a ------- but if we start this enterprise we will be able to develop this land and get all of it’s (sp) products which will give work to hundreds of thousands of our boys and girls and that will put a stock to the ignorant farmer. Boys and girls running all over the country with their bold ignorants and raising more pry---- against the race he wil (sp) be cont---ted to step down --- this plant close to his people so that he can help them at home. This will put a stop to peonaage (sp) and many other request that are going on.

"Nex the suggestion I made as to the location of the plant would put right at the gate of the great northern wheat fields and grazing land and easy exchange to products and I will you start this year should do it with the first money you get. Start it with haste and viger (sp) and hit --- night and day until it is finished and let the people know that you mean business and when this is done say to the people I want $200.000.0000 (sp) dollars at once to put in a rail road in aff (sp) and a rubber dye plant. I saw mills and ------ mills. Teas and ----- plantation whe (sp) this is done we have completed (sp) with the world and that is what this great body of people means. It enables you to do business on a cash basis.

"Here is the picture of my baby girl whom I would like to have the honor of being the first stockholder. Will you please put her picture in your paper calling on the girls to follow her and this is what to say:

"Come on girls and let us back up this enterprise by taking 10 shares cash. I've taken the first for myself and my brother Corporal James A Godette in the army -------- infran. This -------- every to us in the future. This is the wishes of my father that I should carry out his life long dream (by Naomi Godette of Mpls, Minnesota)."

"I want to boost this girl as I want here (sp) to be a real race woman. The money is ready shall i send it. . .

"Respectfully yours,
James A. Godette"


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... Cultivare, cultiva terra, arable land, colere, colō; worship, protect, cultivate. As a regular gift to our $2400+/biennium members, Live From Planet Earth extends a special unlimited invitation to our family's homestead/farm/estate in Jamaica. Sign-up by clicking your membership contribution amount below. Live From Planet Earth is a hands-on, cooperative meditation — on self-sustaining, tropical, organic human being and development — rooting and producing through your generous, reparative, faithful contributions. Please support by helping us fill this measure little by little, slowly but surely: Biennial ($2400); Monthly ($5), ($10), ($25), ($30), ($40), ($60), ($70), ($80), ($90), ($130), ($200), ($500), ($1000).