Black On The Old Plantation | Civil Rights Organizations Enslave Themselves to Corporate Funding

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Metro Atlanta is now the second largest concentration of African-descended people in North America. But with civil rights organizations firmly in corporate pockets, it’s still a spot where the racist corporations like Southern Companies feel free and unashamed to celebrate their history of theft and plunder and future prospects of the same. What does that say about the state of black leadership, about all of us?

by Bruce A. Dixon
Black Agenda Report


Southern Companies purchased its very own civil rights organization…”

There was a time when the master class of the American South would gather under the shade of carefully pruned magnolia trees to gamble, sip mint juleps, tell tales and celebrate themselves in the midst of stolen wealth trampled from the hides of mother nature, Native Americans and African-descended slaves. In the 21st century South, where as Faulkner said, the past ain’t even past, not much has changed.

Southern Companies is a greedy rapacious corporation that owns power generation and delivery networks throughout the southeast. They own coal, gas and nuclear plants. They endow college and university chairs and scholarships, community organizations and local churches. In whole or in part, they own hundreds of judges and politicians across the region including many black ones, right up to a piece of the White House itself. Their influence is a big reason why Obama called himself the president of “clean coal and safe nuclear power.” One of Barack Obama’s first acts as president was to grant $800 million in free loan guarantees to build the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in 30 years right next to an existing pair of leaky nukes believed responsible for a cancer epidemic in mostly black Burke County GA, one of the poorest places in the South. Southern Companies-owned politicians have also allowed it to charge millions of ratepayers $15 and $20 monthly to cover advance construction costs of the new nukes so it need not invest any of its vast cash reserves.

To insulate themselves against charges of environmental racism for poisoning poor blacks in Burke County, Southern Companies doesn’t just make wild claims about how many Homer Simpson jobs new its nuclear plants will produce. Southern Companies purchased its very own civil rights organization, the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Council, originally founded by Dr. Martin Luther King himself. A Southern Companies CEO headed up SCLC’s building fund and raised over $3 million to pay for its new office buildings on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue.

Our black political class and civil rights organizations have been purchased by our foes….”

So it is that on July 16, 2012, despite its robbery of mostly poor ratepayers, its massive theft of formerly black land, its fouling of air, earth, water across the South, and its ongoing radioactive poisoning of poor black residents in Burke County, the masters of Sou thern Companies feel comfortable enough in downtown Atlanta to celebrate their history of plunder. On July 16, Southern Companies will rent Atlanta’s famous downtown Fox Theater for an invitation-only showing of Big Bets, a twisted movie based on a twisted book of the same name portraying the company’s bribing, double-dealing, land-stealing founders as titans of civic virtue.

Black America used to be where the left lived. But that was before our civil rights organizations enslaved themselves to corporate funding. Ole massa’s July 16 party in downtown Atlanta will be a kind of test. Our black political class and civil rights organizations have been purchased by our foes. Are we ready to man up, to woman up? Are we ready to put our people before our personal career prospects? Are we ready to throw up new organizations, new formations, new voices that speak for us and our communities, rather than for our current and prospective funders? Only time will tell.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)


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