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Street Historian Simon Rutledge (left) speaks to passersby on the streets of New York City at the corner of 96th and Broadway.
On any given day, businessman, Simon Rutledge can be seen addressing a crowd on the streets of New York City. At the corner of 96th and Broadway, he pours out fountains of information – from politics to slavery to the African pyramids, Rutledge offers his knowledge in the informal setting. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, while selling his wares he engages everyday people in conversations that challenge their thinking – in the form of verbal history according to Simon Rutledge. Before he knew it he had a following.
“I’ve had diplomats and people from Wall Street say, they never understood certain concepts until I put it in just the right framework,” explained Rutledge from his home in New York with wife, Shirley of 52 years.
By connecting these historical dots, Rutledge at the age of 73, helps people understand that the demonizing and mistreatment of black people began with the Papal Bull, a public decree issued by the pope of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Rutledge, the pope decreed people of color as second-class citizens centuries ago. “When you dehumanized a person, you can justify any type of treatment toward that person. This has carried on to the modern day attitude that African American’s face today. “If you can justify that a person is less than, you can justify any mistreatment or indifference toward them. “The police department feels since we are outside the human race they have a right to kill us. That’s the reason why historically at every cross burning, house burning, lynching, law enforcement was always there.”
He also discussed the frenzy behind the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a group of bills that helped quiet early calls for Southern secession—and a new law that forcibly compelled citizens to assist in the capture of runaway slaves. “Abolitionists nicked nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Law” for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.”
Rutledge also cited the Dred Scott decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857, ruled that a slave, Dred Scott, who had resided in a free state and territory (where slavery was prohibited) was not thereby entitled to his freedom. “This ruled that African Americans were not and could never be citizens of the United States; It basically said a Black man has no right that a white man has to respect. Nothing has changed it just evolved.”
Born in 1944, Rutledge says his interest in history was sparked as a young boy growing up in the small coastal town of Georgetown, South Carolina, a city where “the First Lady Michelle Obama’s ancestors are from, a town that exported rice, and people did not live very long.”
“I witnessed people working in the rice fields all day and night. They were worked to death and I wanted to understand to them. How did this arrangement come about where one group of people hardly worked and had everything, while others worked themselves to death and had nothing?”
By reading, Rutledge says it took him all over the world causing him to question every thing; like how areas of the Caribbean and Africa become nation states under countries as small as Belgium. “How do people who had nothing now control 87% of the earth including countries as vast and rich as the Congo?”
Simon Rutledge meets Post News Group publishers Paul and Gay Cobb on the streets of New York City.
Rutledge says even the cell phone industry relies on Africa. “The Katanga Mining Corporation in Congo’s Katanga Province, produces refined copper and cobalt which are raw materials used to make components of the cell phone. Much of the world is operating off the Congo’s wealth and natural resources. The banks off the Nile River can feed all of Africa because it’s the longest
running river in world, 4000 miles long.”
Some of Rutledge’s findings are quite shocking, but put systemic racism into perspective. “It’s never discussed that the skin of Black people was used to make lamp shades and pocket books. Even the first erected skeleton was of a black man who was murdered and boiled. The Jews never discuss that prior to Hitler killing the Jews, he killed the Africans first, because Germany had a large black population also.”
From the IQ Test to the Emancipation Proclamation, Rutledge is filled with historical facts accumulated through years of research. “The very first IQ test came out of Germany in a Hitler Camp. They were trying to decide who to kill (exterminate). This is what prefaced the SAT and testing for special education. Also, after the Emancipation Proclamation 500,000 mixed people were born. It was black women having white men’s babies.”
While Rutledge never went to college or business school but learned the diesel engine industry. On Wall Street he owned a parking lot, a trucking firm and a grocery store. “I learned that nobody is going to take care of you and I now encourage young men to go to a trade school. They don’t need to go to a 4- year school and accumulate $200,000 in student loans. A true education is a farmer who teaches kids to farm and make a living. Then he can send them to college to bring up their intellect, speak well and read well and problem solve.”
Rutledge says Trump, just like some president’s post-slavery is here to push back all the laws and protections to undermine “our progress.” “In the preamble of the constitution it says that slavery will be abolished in the private sector but will always be a part of the penal system.”
With over 2 million Black men in the penal system that is now very privatized and prison labor is producing products for Fortune 500 companies, Rutledge advises Black people to recognize their worth.
“Everybody knows our worth except for us. Your critical thinking is key. Any man that invades your country, changes your name, strips you of your culture and kills millions and transfers millions around the world, have them work for hundreds of years and give them no land – what makes you think these people will be fair to you now?”