The following is a biographical account of the Legendary Political Trailblazer Arthur Negro II (A.K.A. Black Art).
This is a re-posting and is updated based on newly discovered documents. The documents include a book store receipt for a purchase of Harold Cruz’ Crisis of the Negro Intellectual . On the back of the receipt appears the handwritten notes determined to be that of Arthur Negro. Also, a yellowed mail order form for Argyle sweaters with Arthur Negro’s name and address on it (this is the first time an actual address has been established for the enigmatic leader). And lastly, a signed copy of Barbecuing with Bobby Seale (signing date date indistinguishable).
WHAT IT WAS
Arthur Negro, the founding member of the Former Black Militant Golf and Country Club, is considered a pioneering force of his time. He operated behind the scenes of many of the 20th century’s most charged and politically divisive campaigns for racial equality.
Although retired from day to day activism, Art Negro (as he is referred to by those close to him. In some circles he is known as Black Art), was a powerbroker in the 1960s orchestrating behind the scenes for such organizations as the Student Non-violent Co-coordinating Committee (SNCC), The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) as well as the militant wing of the Black Panthers.
In the comfort zone of his post-rebel days however, he remains a progressive thinker recognizing the necessity for a private environment in which trailblazers of the past are permitted to commune and discuss strategies for future movements. What has transpired is the first and only Golf and Country Club devoted exclusively to the post-militant years of former radical political activists.
Art Negro’s early years are vague. Some say he organized the protests against the guilty verdicts against the Scottsboro Boys in the early 1930s. It was he, some say, who advised the Till family on the open casket presentation of little Emmett Till’s mangled corpse after he was killed for allegedly whistling at a southern white woman. Others speak of how he devised the very successful strategy for the Montgomery Bus boycott in 1955. He is also said to have taken the infamous picture of Malcolm X peering through the curtains of a window while propping an assault rifle on his hip. His impact was even felt in the dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990’s.
Separating the legend from the facts is a difficult task. He was never filmed giving a speech since neither cameras or tape recorders were allowed in meetings at which he was designated to speak (The few photographs appearing here are the only known images of the elusive Mr. Negro). His writing contributions were always published under a fictitious name or were often attributed to such figures as Martin Luther King, Adam Clayton Powell and Eldridge Cleaver.
Art Negro visited Martin Luther King in a Birmingham jail where he was said to have proofread King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” It was he who smuggled the ink pen King used to write the letter. About the parts written on toilet paper, Art Negro joked, “Marty they’re gonna think you’re full of shit.” It was one of the few times Martin laughed during his incarceration. “It was a blessing he came to see me. It’s difficult to find amusement in jail. Art Negro provided some much needed humor and relief under the circumstances. He had me in tears many times”
Ralph Abernathy, who was also arrested and held with King, apparently was of little help to King during their time in jail. “Ralph basically slept the whole time. If he wasn’t sleeping he was eating. Along with the pen, I also concealed some Oreos,” said Art Negro in a 2001 interview.
He is said to have visited Martin Luther King, Jr. the night before the historic March on Washington in 1963. In Martins hotel room, Arthur Negro proof read his speech and made the most significant change to a speech formerly titled, “I Have an Idea!” Historians shutter to think of the impact the Martins version would’ve had on the course of the civil rights movement.
Art Negro was also a known covert adviser to the Black Muslim movement that came to the fore in the early 1960s. Malcolm X, a vital force in the Black Muslim’s rise in popularity, was quoted as saying, “If it were not for the council of Art Negro, I doubt that much of what the Black Muslims, or myself as an individual in the struggle for Negro equality, would have accomplished very much. The odds were so greatly stacked against the so-called Negro, that the ideas and strategies he devised were, at the time, revolutionary. He inspired many of us to continue fighting for the rights of our people.” Two weeks after giving this quote in an interview in the February 1965 issue of Jet Magazine, Malcolm was shot and killed in New York City. “I didn’t believe in separating movements by religion, personal politics, money or geography,” said Art Negro, “The goal was freedom and equality. The minutia of our differences was not to overwhelm that single objective. I finally got Malcolm and Martin to agree to that. They even shook hands on it. There is a picture of the informal meeting. It is the only time the two were ever photographed together,” he said with a wink.
Likeness of Arthur Negro as he may have looked circa 1934.
The Realization of a Dream
After a few years of retirement, Art Negro came to a cross roads in his soul. His dilemma: Return to the front lines and assist in new, more contemporary platforms for fighting racism and discrimination, or stay retired. One day, he was over heard saying the words, “why be on the front line, when I can be on the front nine?” And so his golf and country club was born.
By Money Means Necessary
With money set aside over the years from a combination of donations never spent, thefts from various white-owned properties and countless speaking engagements here and abroad, Art Negro bought 300 acres of land on which to build his unique facility. He was determined to build the course “by any means necessary,” a popular phrase coined by Art Negro in 1963, but attributed to Malcolm X. Art Negro never took credit for even his most universal ideas. In fact, Martin Luther King’s original draft of his famous “I have a dream” speech was titled “I have an idea” until Art Negro did some rewriting the night prior to the historical March on Washington.
Among the many published texts, appearing under another name were, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope and the lyrics to the ground breaking 1989 Public Enemy album Fear of a Black Planet. He revealed his funny side when he penned the material for Richard Pryor’s third album, That Niggers Crazy.
In the mid-nineties he expanded on his ever growing ability to be in the right place at the right time by designing an 18-hole championship golf course dedicated solely to the post-activist lives of Former Black Militants – He called it Former Black Militant Golf and Country Club. Relying on all black-owned landscaping companies to build his vision, the club opened for play in late 1997.
Club Dues? I don’t think so.
The first few years were lean, but more and more former militants began taking up the game, primarily due to impact of Tiger Woods, or as PGA Tour player Fuzzy Zoeller described him “that little black boy,” As the game grew in popularity so too did the number of curious former militants looking for ways to spend their non-militant golden years. Word of the new club circulated and membership continues to grow at an astonishing rate.
Out of respect for those who lost their lives, a wall of names was installed in the clubhouse and stands in memory to their ultimate sacrifices. Today, there are 64 members. Their dues have been paid with the blood, sweat and tears of their dissident days. Art Negro does not accept or require any monetary dues from his members. As he said in late 1998, “These people have paid their dues. It would be an insult to their legacy to ask for even one dime.”
WHAT IT IS
The Former Black Militant Golf and Country Club imposes few rules on it’s members however one mandate that is strictly enforced and voluntarily observed (without descent) is Article 1.96 – 4 in the clubs’ bylaws: no baggy pants shall be worn below the waste so as to expose one’s buttocks and/ or undergarments of any kind. The consequences include an immediate forfeiture of ones rights to membership. There is 100% compliance with the rule. (The Reverend Jesse Jackson is said to have been seen in front of a full-length mirror within the men’s locker room ‘modeling’ a pair of baggy, low-worn jeans with exposed rainbow boxers in what appeared to be a moment of ‘serious consideration of real change’. The club considered revoking his membership but after a long session on the matter, elders determined that’ because Mr. Jackson was never seen outside of the men’s locker room in such attire, that the committee cannot say that a rule was broken’. The Reverend remains an active, if not overly cautious, member).
Lets tee it up.
Arthur Negro –” Playing Thru” 2000
Most of the clubs cash flow and operating expenses comes from donations. Among those contributors who have given permission to print their names are: Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, Charles Barkley, Emmett Smith, The Estate of the Late Richard Pryor, Orenthal James, J. Simpson, Dave Chappelle, Bryant Gumble and the late Tookie Williams.
And a setting such as this would not be complete without the contribution of the legendary former militant, Bobby Seale, whose barbecue recipes are proudly served at the club’s grill room and restaurant. Copies of the cookbook, Barbecuing with Bobby Seale are also sold in the clubs proshop. Mr. Seale in an honorary member – he doesn’t golf.
Arthur Negro, the clubs first and only Golf Brofessional, has fulfilled his dream of creating a secluded and tranquil place where former black militants can focus on things more personal to them; A place where the daily pressures of changing the world can be left to young people who have the energy, the eyesight and the time to televise the revolution.
Arthur Negro II as seen in a rare photograph during a 2001 rally for new members. Photographer is unknown.