John McCaslin

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, says "the destruction of the black family" today can be traced to a single man from England who purposely paid a visit to Virginia during the early 18th century.

"In 1712, British slave owner Willie Lynch was invited to the colony of Virginia to teach his methods of keeping slaves under control to American slave owners," Rangel says. "Almost 300 years later, the techniques that he prescribed seem to have not only been successful in controlling slaves, but lasting as a means of weakening and destroying the black family."

Rangel explains that in slavery, "families were purposely divided, with husband and wives separated from each other and their children. Black males were humiliated and whipped in front of their wives and children. Stripped of their power and pride, black men were seen as weak, and black women had to be the strength of the household, distorting the traditional family structure."


As it turns out, however, the "Willie Lynch" cited by Rangel in the preceding item is an urban legend based on a document widely circulated via the Internet in recent years. "There are many problems with this document - not the least of which is the fact that it is absolutely fake," explains Jelani Cobb, a professor of history at Atlanta's Spelman College.

"In the few years since the speech on how to train slaves first appeared, it has been cited by countless college students, a black member of the House of Representatives and become the essential verbal footnote in barbershop analysis of what's wrong with black people," the historian writes on his Web site.

Detailing evidence of the Lynch letter's falsehood, Cobb notes that this document was unknown to historians before its appearance on the Web: "Considering the limited number of extant sources from the 18th century, if this speech had been 'discovered' it would've been the subject of incessant historical panels, scholarly articles and debates. It would literally be a career-making find. But the letter was never 'discovered,' but rather it 'appeared' - bypassing the official historical circuits and making its way via Internet directly into the canon of American racial (conspiracy theories)."


It was back in 1984 that Ross Perot purchased one of the few remaining originals of the 1297 Magna Carta, the foundation document of English common law.

Since then, this rare document, in which King Edward I confirmed King John's grant of rights and liberties "to all freemen of our kingdom," has been on indefinite loan to the National Archives.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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