It is never becoming for historians to enter into the world of historical fiction, and it is wholly destructive for them enter the world of alternative facts. Yet when we get caught in modern-day controversies and are actors as well as scholars, the need to defend untenable positions can lead even the best scholars astray. This has happened in the case of Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham as she responded to my letter to the branches. Her letter is filled with misrepresentations and even alternative facts to justify her position that the Executive Council still has the authority to make a decision on the future of the Journal of African American History. Moreover, she wants to erase or soften the debacle of the 101st Business Session, where we were lied to and disenfranchised for the sake of selling out our history of publishing Woodson’s journal. Mind you, she never explains why we have to cease our self-publishing after a century. It is not money, so it must be status.
I Reassert, Revenue Was Represented Falsely as Profits
In my letter, I argued that Gilbert A. Smith flat-out lied about the University of Chicago Proposal. He said repeatedly that the $100,000 promised by Chicago was profit, not revenue. How silly. Just because someone says you can do what you want with money they give you does not make it profits. You do not have to be a certified public accountant to know that if you have obligations to pay, it isn’t profits. What alternative world is the President trying to construct? As long as the journal has significant bills to pay–and there are tens of thousands of them to be paid from the $100,000, then the money is not profit.
Indeed, Evelyn and VP Franklin both say so themselves in post-meeting statements. After the 101st Annual Meeting, VP Franklin sent out an email in which he said part of the $100,000 would be spent on Journal expenses. In his words: “In light of the proposals submitted to publish the JAAH, there was no need to continue to ‘self-publish’ since the university press would cover publication expenses and guarantee an annual income to ASALH to cover all of the editorial expenses in producing the JAAH.” VP was utterly honest about this. In the letter to the branch members, Evelyn states “It is not fair to V.P. Franklin, now on a retiree’s income, to spend his own money on the Journal.” So, indeed, the money is not profit as Gilbert told everyone.
So profits were not profits, they were revenue. Gilbert A. Smith is not only a Christian gentleman associated with the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, DC. as Evelyn of Harvard states in her letter, he is also a Certified Public Accountant who had and has a fiduciary responsibility to report profits as profits and revenue as revenue. To suggest he did otherwise in front of 250 witnesses is to promote an alternative fact. When a CPA represents revenue as profit to a legislative body, he is lying about the business proposal. Revenue reported as profit is an alternative fact. The Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2003, which requires disclosure of financial information to decision makers does not allow alternative facts. Rather than taking the treasurer to task for misleading the people, our president is painting him as a victim. For reasons of status they are dedicated to ending a century of independent black publishing.
(And let us not lose sight of the fact that VP Franklin will only edit the journal one more year, so this should be a non-factor. Others are willing to edit the journal without compensation from ASALH.)
After Promising a Journal in Every Mailbox, the President Prepares to Renege or Go Broke
In my letter, I pointed out that the Gilbert A. Smith and Sharon Harley promised that if JAAH goes to the University of Chicago, the members of ASALH would all receive a hardcopy of the journal. In her long response, Evelyn gives the impression that everyone will get a hardcopy of the journal, then suggests everyone read a letter from Sharon Harley written after the October 6th Business Session and sent out. That letter silently breaks faith with the promise by saying in effect that everyone will not get a copy of the journal as she, Gilbert, and VP Franklin all promised in the meeting. Instead only life members and branch members will get copies. This may go over well with branch members, but what of the graduate students and the regular members who were sold a bill of goods by the president, the treasurer, the journal editor, and the publications committee chair?
It is rather clear that the regime, feeling the pressure from the business meeting, went beyond what they had planned in giving away journals. Indeed, in the handout to the membership, Sharon Harley stated that Chicago would pay for all eligible members to receive a hardcopy of the journal. Mind you, the University of Chicago proposal makes no such promise, so any journals received would be paid for out of that $100,000. Chicago charges members $20 for hardcopies. Not knowing the facts, she puts it at 500, which would cost ASALH $10,000 out of the $100,000. The cost to meet the current promise would be roughly $28,000. And the cost to meet the big promise made in the Business Session would be $44,000.
Shortly after the meeting, having pandered to the unwashed, disenfranchised membership of ASALH–the legislative body–of our organization, the leadership of the sellout started to walk back the promises. Here is a link to the Harley document, sent to all the members. In her letter to the branch leadership, she attached that post-101st Annual Meeting letter. Here is an excerpt:
The Chicago Proposal makes no such promise of free journals to anyone, so all of these journals will be paid for will come from the $100,000 of revenue. Mind you, ASALH now provides this to members as we self-publish. This means that the financial advantage of selling out shrinks by $20 with each journal given away. Indeed, if the promise made to the membership is kept, then there is no financial advantage of going to Chicago and we would make more money by continuing to self-publish.
The President Misrepresents My Seconded and Debated Motion to Deny It Is Controlling and that the Executive Board Must Now Yield to the Members on This Issue
At the 101st Business Session, the motion I put on the floor was the ASALH to cease and desist in any and all efforts to let any other firm publish our scholarly journals. That motion was seconded and debated but a vote was refused. The president did not say the motion was out of order–and that matters when you are following Roberts Rules of Order, and she had her paid parliamentarian there. Here she is trying to construct an alternative fact by altering the motion I put forward. By claiming that my motion was to break or end an existing contact, she trying to construct an alternative fact. You see, if my motion concerned a non-existing contract then it could be ruled out by a point-of-fact violation of Roberts Rules of Order. This is what she is suggesting happened. By putting an alternative fact in my mouth for my motion, she is trying to change the narrative so she can say she ruled it out for good reason. But, that, too requires another alternative fact–my motion was never objected to before it was seconded and discussed. Indeed, we discussed it for more than thirty minutes before she pulled the plug for other reasons. Below is her material alteration of the motion I made.
The Most Disturbing Part of These Misrepresentations
What I find most disturbing about the president’s response to my letter is that she writes as if no branch leaders witnessed the spectacle. The presidents of the South Florida Branch, the Tampa Branch, the Jacksonville Branch, the Chicago Branch, the Detroit Branch, the Julian Branch, the Manasota Branch, and others were all there. There were innumerable branch members and general members, numbering some 250 people. Many of you and your members know that $100,000 in revenue was called profit. Everyone heard the promise that all members–all members–were promised a hard copy. And you saw the President of ASALH–after my “cease and desist motion” was properly read, seconded, and discussed for more than half an hour was refused a vote. The motion was not called out of order. No, we were told that the Executive Council, not the Business Meeting, could make this decision. And not a mumbling word was heard about Associate Members–and if the president knew anything about ASALH she would know that there are less than a dozen associate members out of 2,200 or more members! This is a scam on the scale of the Republican claims of a tainted voters pool.
The Petty Claims in President Higginbotham’s Letter
I won’t spend but a moment on the petty claims that act as filler in the President’s effort to deny that the members now legally own the outcome of the self-publishing issue. Higginbotham is ultimately responsible for having the police sicced on me at the 101st Annual Meeting but she poses as a victim because I said she had done nothing worth talking about before becoming president. She made no significant contribution and she nor anyone else would dare list one. It would be another alternative fact. Her lack of experience is why she does not understand that there will be mailing cost that ASALH has to pay if the journal goes to Chicago. While Chicago will ship the journal, books and manuscripts in various stages of preparation are shipped, often by federal express, to and from the editorial office to headquarters. This high-priced mailing costs about in the $2,000 range. Had the president not rejected my offer to head the publications committee when I was president, she might know that. Enough of the petty.
We Are Not Deterred, the Decision Legally Belongs to the Business Session in Cincinnati
We will stick to our guns. Gilbert A. Smith should be recalled for lying to the membership gathered in the Business Session for representing revenue and profits, and thereby grossly misrepresenting the financial advantage of going to the University of Chicago. And we note for the record that Gilbert A. Smith did not speak up to refute my claim. He knows he is in deep. More importantly, the decision on the Chicago Proposal and any proposal from a publisher cannot be acted on until that 102 Business Session meets in Cincinnati. We will remain strong and firm, and yes we will go to court if necessary. We will not be disenfranchised, and unless it is the will of the membership in session, we will not break faith with our founder. And there is certainly no financial reason to do so. Under separate cover, I will show how the journal can be more profitable self-published rather than published by Chicago.