What follows are extracts from two articles entitled: ‘DEATH OF THE WILLIE LYNCH SPEECH’ by Professor Manu Ampim; Historian and Primary (first-hand) Researcher specializing in African & African American history and culture. Prof. Ampim is also a professor of Africana Studies.
Extracted from Part One:
‘Since 1995 there has been much attention given to a speech claimed to be delivered by a “William Lynch” in 1712. This speech has been promoted widely throughout African American and Black British circles. It is re-printed on numerous websites, discussed in chat rooms, forwarded as a “did you know” email to friends and family members, assigned as required readings in college and high school courses, promoted at conferences, and there are several books published with the title of “Willie Lynch.” In addition, new terminology called the “Willie Lynch Syndrome” has been devised to explain the psychological problems and the disunity among Black people.
‘Further, it is naively assumed by a large number of Willie Lynch believers that this single and isolated speech, allegedly given almost 300 years ago, completely explains the internal problems and divisions within the African American community. They assume that the “Willie Lynch Syndrome” explains Black disunity and the psychological trauma of slavery. While some have questioned and even dismissed this speech from the outset, it is fair to say that most African Americans who are aware of the speech have not questioned its authenticity, and assume it to be a legitimate and very crucial historical document which explains what has happened to African Americans.
‘However, when we examine the details of the “Willie Lynch Speech” and its assumed influence, then it becomes clear that the belief in its authenticity and widespread adoption during the slavery era is nothing more than a modern myth. In this brief examination, I will show that the only known “William Lynch” was born three decades after the alleged speech, that the only known “William Lynch” did not own a plantation in the West Indies, that the “speech” was not mentioned by anyone in the 18th or 19th centuries, and that the “speech” itself clearly indicates that it was composed in the late 20th century.
‘The “Willie Lynch Speech” is not mentioned by any 18th or 19th century slavemasters or anti-slavery activists. There is a large body of written materials from the slavery era, yet there is not one reference to a William Lynch speech given in 1712. This is very curious because both free and enslaved African Americans wrote and spoke about the tactics and practices of white slavemasters……………..Also, there is not a single reference to the Lynch speech by any white abolitionists, including John Brown, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips. Similarly, there has been no evidence found of slavemasters or pro-slavery advocates referring to (not to mention utilizing) the specific divide and rule information given in the Lynch speech.
‘Since the Willie Lynch speech was not mentioned by any slavemasters, pro-slavery advocates, abolitionists, or historians studying the slavery era, the question of course is when did it appear?
The first reference to the Willie Lynch speech was in a late 1993 on-line listing of sources, posted by Anne Taylor, who was then the reference librarian at the University of Missouri at St. Louis………On October 31, 1995, Taylor wrote:
“Enough butt-covering, now it’s time to talk about where I got it. The publisher who gave me this (speech) wanted to remain anonymous…because he couldn’t trace it, either, and until now I’ve honored his wishes. It was printed in a local, widely-distributed, free publication called The St. Louis Black Pages, 9th anniversary edition, 1994*, page 8.”
The Lynch speech was distributed in the Black community in 1993 and 1994, and in fact I came across it during this time period, but as an historian trained in Africana Studies and primary research I never took it serious. I simply read it and put it in a file somewhere.
However, the Lynch speech was popularized at the Million Man March (held in Washington, DC) on October 16, 1995, when it was referred to by Min. Louis Farrakhan. He stated:
“We, as a people who have been fractured, divided and destroyed because of our division, now must move toward a perfect union. Let's look at a speech, delivered by a white slave holder on the banks of the James River in 1712... Listen to what he said. He said, 'In my bag, I have a foolproof method of controlling Black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you, if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years’…So spoke Willie Lynch 283 years ago.”
The 1995 Million Man March was broadcast live on C-Span television and thus millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world heard about the alleged Willie Lynch speech for the first time. Now, ten years later, the speech has become extremely popular, although many historians and critical thinkers questioned this strange and unique document from the outset.
(Prof Ampim then includes the full text of the ‘alleged’ Speech. He then asks: Who was Willie Lynch?).
‘The only known “William Lynch” who could have authorized a 1712 speech in Virginia was born 30 years after the alleged speech was given. The only known “William Lynch” lived from 1742-1820 and was from Pittsylvania, Virginia. It is obvious that “William Lynch” could not have authored a document 30 years before he was born! This “William Lynch” never owned a plantation in the West Indies, and he did not own a slave plantation in Virginia.
‘The Lynch speech lists a number of divide and rule tactics that were not important concerns to slaveholders in the early 1700s, and they certainly were not adopted. The anonymous writer of the Lynch speech states, “I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves: and I take these differences and make them bigger.”……….However, none of these “tactics” were concerns to slaveholders in the early 1700s in the West Indies or colonial America. No credible historian has indicated that any of the items on the Lynch list were a part of a divide and rule strategy in the early 18th century. These are current 20th century divisions and concerns. (There then follows the Lynch speech tactics versus the real divide and rule tactics that were actually used in the early 18th century).
‘There are a number of terms in the alleged 1712 Lynch speech that are undoubtedly anachronisms (i.e. words that are out of their proper historical time period). Here are a few of the words in the speech that were not used until the 20th century:
‘Lynch speech: “In my bag here, I have a fool proof method for controlling your Black slaves.”
‘Anachronisms: “Fool proof” and “Black” with an upper-case “B” to refer to people of African descent are of 20th century origin. Capitalizing “Black” did not become a standard from of writing until the late 1960s.
‘Lynch speech: “The Black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self re-fueling and self generating for hundreds of years.”
‘Anachronism: “Re-fueling” is a 20th century term which refers to transportation.
‘Lynch claims that his method of control will work for “at least 300 hundred years (sic).” First, it has gone unnoticed that the modern writer of the “speech” wrote three hundred twice (“300 hundred years”), which makes no grammatical sense. It should be “300 years” or “three hundred years.” Second, the arbitrary choice of 300 years is interesting because it happens to conveniently bring us to the present time.
‘Lynch claims that his method of control “will work throughout the South.” This statement clearly shows the modern writer’s historical ignorance. In 1712, there was no region in the current-day U.S. identified as the “South.” The geographical region of the “South” did not become distinct until a century after the alleged speech. Before the American Revolutionary War vs. Britain (1775-1783) the 13 original U.S. colonies were all slaveholding regions, and most of these colonies were in what later became the North, not the “South.” In fact, the region with the second largest slave population during the time of the alleged William Lynch speech was the northern city of New York, where there were a significant number of slave revolts including the rebellion in 1712.
‘It is clear that the “Willie Lynch Speech” is a late 20th century invention because of the numerous reasons outlined in this essay. I would advance that the likely candidate for such a superficial speech is an African American male in the 20s-30s age range, who probably minored in Black Studies in college. He had a limited knowledge of 18th century America, but unfortunately he fooled many uncritical Black people.’
Extracted from Part Two:
‘Since my first essay on the fictional “Willie Lynch” speech in the previous issue of Next Generation, there has been an overwhelming response to my analysis of this prevailing myth among Black people in the Western hemisphere.
‘There have been three main responses to my “Willie Lynch” essay, and 90% of these responses fall into the first two groups.
‘The first group of responses are from those people who were very thankful to read my work because they knew the "Willie Lynch" speech was fake, but they had no real proof. Before reading the evidence presented in my essay, this group either ignored this fake speech, or they argued against its authenticity without the ammunition that my critique provides.
‘The second group of people also responded to my essay very favorably. However, this group initially assumed that the alleged speech was authentic and thus shared it with many people in their network. They simply never thought to ask themselves whether or not the speech was legitimate. Since reading my analysis of the Lynch speech, this group now sees it as a modern hoax and have indicated that they are going back to their networks to announce that the Will Lynch speech is a modern fake. I have the utmost respect for this group, because they have a high degree of integrity to admit that they had made a mistake and was now going back to make corrections.
‘The final group represents about 10% of the responses to my Lynch essay, and most of these people suffer from a complete lack of critical thinking skills. Many of them claim that "even if the speech is fake it is still true!" Their position is essentially that "the speech is important to me, and I don't care that it is probably fake, I still believe it is true." Some of these people have stated that they go so far as to meditate on the speech every day or every week! This group vows to continue using the Willie Lynch speech because they believe it to be an important "wake up" call for Black people. However, they fail to realize that the fake speech is only concerned with what a white slave-owner supposedly said, and there is no agenda or program for Black people to act upon. Also, they fail to understand that few people would consider trusting someone who they know will openly lie when it serves their interests.
‘If the Willie Lynch speech supporters are sincere and want to learn about influential and prominent pro-slavery advocates in the 1700s and 1800s, then they should read the recent book by Paul Finkelman, Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South (A Brief History with Documents) (2003). Of course, of all the most influential people noted in this study neither "Willie Lynch” nor his alleged speech are mentioned in this work.
‘As I indicated in Part I, there is absolutely no record of a 1712 Willie Lynch speech or any of the Lynch tactics being used in the 18th century, or referred to by any historians, pro-slavery advocates, or anti-slavery abolitionists in the 18th or 19th century. There is no doubt that the fake Lynch document is of late 20th century origin, and thus far it cannot be traced back before 1993. The problem with believing silly internet fairy tales is that if we don't know the origin of a problem then it is impossible to create a solution, because the ideas are based on false information. Black people will never be respected as an intelligent people or solve any of our major problems by believing in kindergarten internet myths.
‘In the arena of serious scholarship and primary (first-hand) research, the standing rule is that “documentation beats conversation.” There is a fundamental difference between proof and propaganda, between evidence and ideology, and between knowledge and mere belief. In the next five years the Lynch speech will likely be a forgotten myth of the past.’
But not yet……not yet.