The Urban Legend That is The Willie Lynch Letter

| 11/16/2010 | Comments (11)

I continue to be shocked when I hear Black folks refer to the Willie Lynch letter as if it were an actual document of merit. I’ve often told the story of how I came to believe it is nothing but a college prank perpetuated upon gullible Black Americans. I will share this theory one more time and I hope those of you that know people that believe in that nonsense spread the word.

Sometime in 1991 I became a CompuServe client, a user of the very first email system for consumers. CompuServe predates AOL for those that don’t know. Email addresses were still computer based, so to send an email to someone you had to know their “number” which was like

This was our first access and use of what we now call The Internet or world wide web. Prior to the CompuServe era, the internet had been used exclusively by scientists and educators. Keep that in mind now – no one but weird space scientists and PhD types.

So here comes this Willie Lynch letter.

I got it in my IN-box the first time shortly after I opened my CompuServe account, so this had to be late-1991 or so.  I actually laughed when I read it, recognizing it as a hoax immediately.  Majoring in communications, it was very easy to see that the phraseology and terminology, cadence and sentence structure were decidedly 21st century.

Yet, for some reason Black people like to think this letter is a real document, with historical references and everything though not one of them can say that they did any research to verify its authenticity. This is when that magical word “faith” comes into play.

This letter can be nothing but a prank, a sick joke perpetuated by students from some unknown University or scientific research facility. They put it together and sent it out on CompuServe. That thing has been forwarded and re-forwarded ad naseum ever since – almost 20 years later its still floating around.

Interestingly, every few years a new generation of Black Americans sees it for the first time and falls prey to the nonsense. However, there is no such thing as a Willie Lynch letter. There is no such person as Willie Lynch the slave trainer.

At best this “letter” chronicles the mentality and behavior of SOME African Americans towards each other. I have to say that I see a lot of that nit picking and self-hatred conversation taking place between Blacks that are from the Southern United States – Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Arkansas. The conversations I’ve heard about skin color and grade of hair from residents of that region does nothing but keep Blacks locked in a slave-master mentality.

Black Americans would do best to forget they ever heard of this nonsense and turn their heads around to deal with what is coming at us in the here and now! Black America, please stop focusing on and worrying about ancient history that cannot be changed.

Deborrah Cooper
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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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Comments (11)

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  1. heyweezie says:

    @Deborrah Cooper Damn skippy!

  2. Nvcarter says:

    Just like old wives tales there is some truth/lesson in the story. How can you know where you are going unless you know where you have been. I think this is a real problem for this new generation of young blacks. My grandparents use to say if its something they don’t want you to know they will put it in a book so I myself make it my business to let my children know what our race has been through as a whole. I have given this letter to my son along with the autobiography of Malcolm X and the Miseducation of Negroes. I use this as a teaching tool so that he can be fully aware of his responsibility to his race and culture. I personally think it is arrogant and ignorant to believe that closed door meetings between slave masters where things like this letter were discussed did not happen. Look at how the constitution was drafted. Now everyone has a right to their opinion but mine is to use a myth or urban legend as a method to get these young people hungry for knowledge just because they come from an ancestry of people who were hungry for freedom despite all of the closed door meetings/letters the slave master’s had. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it is true or false sometimes you have to read between the lines.

    • Deborrah says:

      Your reading comprehension is very low. I never said “closed door meetings never happened.” What I said is the Willie Lynch letter is an urban legend. That no such person named Willie Lynch ever existed. And that Black people that believe in a falsehood such as this are most likely the same Black people that believe in a Great White Father in the Sky.

      We can teach Black children about our history and racism, colorism, sexism, and slavery without resorting to fantasies and tripe. Showing the child actual real life examples of negative behaviors is what is true. Why would you willingly and knowingly use LIES, unfettered falsehoods and a document created as a sick joke upon guillble Black Americans as an example of “knowledge.”

      That sounds like some really bad parenting to me.

  3. SilentBro says:

    Thanks so much for this article. I have also heard this letter referenced hundreds of times by politicians and speakers and thought it had some merit until I found out in the late 90’s that it is fabricated. Suprisingly besides that one time I have never heard anyone else challenge the authenticity of the letter although the meaning has some substance. I don’t know why we hold on to the accuracy of the letter but refuse to change to embrace the message.

  4. carol andrews says:

    Deborrah I agree with you about this being urban legend/ hoax, but I do not agree that we should ignore it.I think it has very valid points and issues to help explain some of the persistent ills of slavery that we as a people just cant seem to shake- even in the 12st century.Surely, you will agree that their must have existed some slave owners/trainers with a Willie Lynch mentality.Some people need parables and allegories to help them understand very complex issues. The questions is what are we going to do about our sorry ass state of existence where black on black crime is killing especially our youth in ever increasing numbers !!!
    You enlighten us about a lot of issues Deborrah that profoundly affect our community but you wastin your time on the Willie Lynch urban myth….

    • I referred to this letter because there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of Black Americans that use that letter as an excuse. I refuse to support or encourage or validate a hoax in any way. Rather than read nonsense of some imaginary White man, pick up BREAKING THE CHAINS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SLAVERY by Dr. Na’im Akbar, a prominent Black sociologist. This book will do more to explain our past, present and future than reading any fake letter ever could.

      Reading and believing in nonsense is one of the biggest problems African Americans have! It starts with the Bible and ends with Willie Lynch. It’s ALL BULLSHIT people. And its all doing nothing but keeping Black people’s minds all twisted up and stuck on stupid.

      The Willie Lynch letter nor its content is in any way responsible for the choices Black people make in 2010… they themselves and only themselves are responsible. That is the take away lesson here – “stop believing stupid shit and stop applying stupid shit to your life and using stupid shit as an excuse to continue to DO stupid shit.” Get butt in gear and make it happen!

      • eLLe85 says:

        Standing O to this comment/article.

      • carol andrews says:

        You make a lot of valid points Deborrah but let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater.Unfortunately the contents of the Willie Lynch Letter exist in our communities. Even Spike Lee in School Daze hit on some of the issues, for example light skin versus dark skin.We still dealin with this ish.

        Relationship between black males and women …
        hey, I aint givin up but we got a long long way to go to heal all the hurt and mistrust that was probably there before slavery but was greatly exacerbated by the trauma of slavery. I am very familiar with Dr Akbar, he is on the frontline tryin to heal our soul and mind with true knowledge. No matter if Willie Lynch is a hoax probably written by a white person, sadly those conditions are very real and exist…. As such we should use it as a WAKE UP CALL.

        • See that is where we differ.

          I give no credence to anything fake – never have and never will. I don’t waste my time looking for a perceived value in a total lie. Nor do I adhere to the belief that what is going on with Black men and women today is the result of slavery. Instead, we are being impacted by poor choices.

          What is going on today is the result of low self esteem and self-hatred which results in negative attitudes towards anyone that looks like us, or who we feel is “better” than we are because they are what we want to become. That’s it!

          Small minds continue to poison other small minds with tales of jealousy, cheating, lying, fear-mongering, how to “game on” and “get over on” women. Irresponsibility and immaturity demonstrated by Black men are not the result of slavery! Such behaviors are strictly attributable to men that care only about their more base physical needs and not what impact their behavior will have on their women, their families, nor their communities.

          The wake up alarm was rung more than 50 years ago when MLK and The Black Panthers along with James Brown started the Black pride movement, evoking acceptance of dark skin and kinky hair.

          But what has happened since then?

          Black women dyeing their hair blonde and wearing blue contacts?! Black women burning their scalps and poisoning their bodies with chemical relaxers… Black men looking down on women that don’t have their hair in a long weave and hanging straight like a White girl?

          No, it is past that time… wayyyyyy past. What we have now is a nation of confused, unaware, misdirected Black men and women that really need to get their shit together.

          My advice to readers: Stop blaming the fool things you do and the dumb ass attitudes you have about yourself and other African Americans on some fable like Willie Lynch. Such instructions include the allowing yourself to be limited and controlled by Christian religions and its fairy tale God.

          Once those things are accomplished and nonsense is abandoned, we can move forward as a people and rule the world.

        • curiousone8706 says:

          Ok, so what “HAS” happened since then? How did the ‘black is beautiful’ ‘black power’ era of the 60s and 70s come to a dripping stop by the early-mid 90s? As a young person, it has personally baffled me. Was it the desire that ‘now we have our equality, we should strive to become part of the mainstream’? Or is it the fact that every time I take pride in my skin and hair, I immediately get shot down by a ‘white’ person telling me that my history isn’t special, that white people (along with Asians and Hispanics) were oppressed and to just ‘shut up and fit in’. Or is it something else entirely? Perhaps it was the return of Vietnam veterans without treatment for PTSD that caused the breakdown of community. Or perhaps the generational thinking of pre-civil rights got passed down to the subsequent generations unnoticed by those growing up in the civil rights/ black power era.

  5. Mel says:

    Thank you. People will believe what they want to believe. Why the choose to believe the worse is mind-boggling.

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