Joseph Ward has dedicated himself to studying the history and the culture of the African diaspora. His studies have led to founding On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc., and authoring of the On the Shoulders of Giants book series. The Florida A&M University graduate is also the host of The Fix Sports Podcast, co-host of The Freedom Train Podcast Series, and co-founder of the Freedom Train Network.
In a time where we are fighting to keep Black history in the school curriculum, while discovering what some have passed off as Black history, Joseph’s work is very important. On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc.’s vision is to increase access to the history of the African diaspora globally.
I secretly refer to Joseph and those similar to him as “keepers or preservers of history”, and I’m so happy to present him to you all during Black History Month. Get better acquainted with Joseph below.
Fancy: How would you describe your swagger? What makes Joseph, Joseph?
Joseph: My swagger is that of a man who has been here before, an old soul in modern times who plays by my own rules. I’m confident in myself and my abilities. I have a great personality, I think I’m one of the coolest people ever, and I'm serious about achieving my goals. I’m a man from a small town who understands the world is mine, all I have to do is take it.
What makes me is the way I was raised and the positive influences in my life. From an early age, my parents made it understood that life will give you back what you give it. I never thought being Black was a bad thing, I actually thought we could do anything, so limitations didn't exist. Now as an adult with a full understanding of who I am and the history of my people, I know I'm made of greatness, and no one can stop me.
Fancy: What sparked your interest in Black history?
Joseph: To be honest, I don’t really remember how I became interested in Black history, from what I do remember, it was just something we were supposed to know. Now looking back, my father was a Black history professor at Florida A&M University, so his interest in history most likely rubbed off on me. But the subject of history was always my favorite subject in school. I can remember in our home, there would always be pictures of Black people, and I can remember always reading the Budweiser poster with the African kings and Queens. As a child, Black history month was one of my favorite times of the year because we got a chance to learn more about Harriet Tubman. She is one of my top five favorite heroes from our history. I believe my overall interest in history and my idea that learning Black history is what we were supposed to do, laid the foundation for my interest in Black history to grow over the years. I just always wanted to learn more. I knew our history didn’t start with slavery because people were taken from Africa. My question was, what was going on in Africa before Columbus? I also wanted to know who else contributed to our history in America besides Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Frederick Douglas? I say that because they were the four people I was routinely taught about every year as a child.
Fancy: Why are you so passionate about it?
Joseph: I am passionate about Black history because of the amount of work that was put into hiding our history over the centuries. When I learned how much of our history that was hidden I became very upset. We have a glorious history. Our ancestors literally gave the world civilization. We are global people, we didn’t just civilize Africa, our ancestors traveled to every continent and either founded or contributed to the founding of the civilizations. Just looking at our history here in America, this country literally would not exist without Black people. Our scholars and historians have definitive evidence to prove that African people were the first people to reach the Americas, and some of our ancestors were brought over during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. This information disproves false narratives implying African people were uncivilized people running around in the jungles of Africa waiting on white men to civilize them. Our ancestors were routinely depicted as incompetent people who needed to be enslaved to save us from ourselves. I’m on a mission to make sure none of our people are miseducated about who we are and what our ancestors have contributed to the world. The Greeks and Romans needed African people to build their empires, the Moors came into Spain and brought Europe out of the dark ages, and labor from the slave trade helped Europe and the Americas become world powers. Without African people the world as we know it would not exist. As long as I am able to do this work, my people will know that we are great and our history is even greater.
Fancy: So tell us how your On the Shoulders of Giants book series was started.
Joseph: On the Shoulders of Giants began in 2012, after I became upset at a whole school full of young Black girls. Let me explain. On this particular day at this school, I was conducting an ice breaker activity where one student gives clues about the name of the person on the card they were holding. I gave out a card with Harriet Tubamns name on the card and none of the young ladies in any of the classes knew who she was. That blew my mind and made me angry at the same time. I went home and had a conversation with a friend and he asked me what was going to do. He said; “well, you have all that Black history information you know why not create a platform and teach it”? I thought about it for a while then created a platform called Live Skilled Live Fulfilled at the time. On the Shoulders of Giants was a section of the blog. As I learned more and more information, I knew On the Shoulders of Giants needed to become its own platform so I could teach as much Black history as I wanted to. After blogging for two years, I decided I wanted to create a book series to show that African people have greatly contributed to humanity on every continent. I wanted to make sure my people could have easy access to learning our history. The On the Shoulders of Giants Book series in total will be 9 volumes telling the stories of sung and unsung heroes of the African diaspora. I started writing my books because I was angry and wanted to solve the problem of young Black children having limited access or no access to Black history.
Fancy: What are your research and writing processes like?
Joseph: When conducting research, I do my best to find original sources or the most accurate sources. I pride myself on presenting accurate information. I use books, research papers, internet sources, videos with leads to their sources, and I spend a lot of time reading the sources of the sources I found. Sometimes it can feel as if you have fallen into a historical rabbit hole because you are diving so deep into the information. I can spend hours or even days reading my sources, and cross-referencing my sources for accuracy and consistency. I learn the stories of a number of people by reading historical events, or I will look for writers, teachers, scholars, inventors, scientists, kings, queens, military leaders, freedom fighters, etc. I am intentional about finding stories about the freedom fighters who lead the numerous revolts throughout the diaspora, which disproves the idea that our ancestors didn't fight back. I intentionally find information about incredible Black women throughout the world. Many of the people I profile are people who I found looking to tell a specific kind of story. I want to show African people as humans from various parts of the globe, to highlight our greatness, similarities, and differences.
Fancy: I’m currently reading The 1619 Project and learning more about how our pre-dates what’s been initially pushed on us. Do any of your history facts pre-date that time and if so, what?
Joseph: Yes. I have a good number of historical information I have collected over time that pre-dates 1619. As stated earlier, I have proof of African people in the Americas before 1492. The book They Came Before Columbus, by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, is one of the books that pioneered the research to prove that African people were in America thousands of years ago. The Olmec heads that were found in Mexico are proof of African people before 1619. Mansa Abu Bakar II, the ruler who predated Mansa Musa gave his throne to Mansa Musa to sail West to see what was on the other side of the Atlantic. He never retired to Mali. Now we don’t know if he actually reached the Americas, but we do find evidence of various West African cultures interacting with the indigenous Americans. I have information that shows the first three migrations of people to the Americas were African people. The Australian Africans, the Koi San Africans, and the Twa Africans, are the groups of African people to travel to, settle, and civilized the Americas before 1619, or any other groups of people who arrived in the Americas. There is evidence to show various groups of Native Americas were people of African descent, not all of the native tribes were considered Red Man. There is also evidence of the Taino and Kalinago people, the original people to inhabit the Caribbean, inhabiting Florida thousands of years before 1619. There are mountains of historical facts to prove the accomplishments of African people in America and around the world before 1619.
Fancy: Piggybacking off that, I’m learning that history is now being whitewashed in schools. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Joseph: I don’t like that our history is being suppressed in the school systems, but after being a product of the public school system, I don’t expect the school system to educate our children about our history. I believe that it is our job as adults to learn our history and teach our children our history. I think it’s foolish to expect s system that has always done a poor job of educating us about our history, to all of a sudden be interested in making sure we know who we are. We should be teaching our history in our homes, our communities, our organizations, or wherever we gather. If we don’t teach our children about our history we can’t complain about other people not teaching our history. We have to be tougher and more self-sufficient when it comes to our education. I live in Florida, so our governor is doing all he can to make sure true Black history is not taught. But he does not have the power to stop me from teaching my information, and he can’t stop any of us from teaching our own history. We have to do it for ourselves. No one is coming to save us.
Fancy: What’s one of your favorite Black history stories and which volume is in it?
Joseph: That is a tough question because I like too many of the stories. Lol. The first story to pop up in my head is the story of Zumbi Dos Palmares in volume 3 of South America. He escaped slavery at the age of 15 and became the king of the free settlement Dos Palmares, which he was able to keep free of enslavement for over 10 years. I like that story because as a young man he was kidnapped and enslaved by the Portuguese. The Portuguese tried to convert him to Catholicism, but he never forgot who he was and was set on living his life as a free man. When he ran away from enslavement and became a great warrior in Dos Palmares, he was also accompanied by his wife Dandara. They both fought side by side to defend their freedom and the freedom of their people. I love to write about Black love, especially Black love during some of humanity's most horrific times. Our ancestors found the will to consistently fight for their freedom and build loving black families. If they could build with their families under those conditions, we can build in today’s times.
Fancy: I see that you recently added Volume IV, which focuses on Caribbean history. Tell us more about that.
Joseph: On the Shoulders of Giants Volume 4 The Caribbean is covering 18 sung and unsung heroes of the African diaspora representing the various Caribbean islands. I am also introducing my readers to two indigenous Caribbean cultures, the Tiano and the Kalinago. On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 4 The Caribbean features Caribbean women who fought in the various revolts, and the woman who trained the Haitian leader Jean Jacques Dessalines to fight. Writer, thinkers, authors, and poets, who sparked an intellectual revolution in the Caribbean, contributed to the Harlem Renaissance and founded the 1st Pan-African Conference. An Afro-Latino musician and her musical friends created Salsa music while promoting Afro-Latino culture. Stories of the first inhabitants of the Caribbean to encounter and fight Christopher Columbus and other colonizers. You are guaranteed to learn something new about history from reading this Black history book. You are guaranteed to understand that enslaved Africans and indigenous Americans always fought for their freedom and a better future for their people.
Fancy: You do so much for the Black community. What keeps you motivated?
Joseph: I love my people and I want my people to be able to have the best quality of life. Being inspired by someone like Harriet Tubman in my opinion means I have a duty to fight for my people. I have always held the idea that because our ancestors fought for us, we have the duty to fight for our future. If we don’t fight no one will, and we will never improve our conditions. Imagine if no one fought against slavery, we would literally still be enslaved. I could not imagine being treated less than an animal. But because our ancestors fought to change their conditions and the conditions of their children, I believe we can change our conditions as well. We can’t wish or pray away our enemies, we have to fight. We have to put in the work every day to see change. Nothing will change until we change it. I believe in my abilities and I believe in my people. I believe we are worth the investment.
Fancy: What does it mean to you to be a Black man in business?
Joseph: Being a black man in business means owning and controlling what I create so I can generate wealth to pass down to future generations. I look at Black people before integration and what we were able to build and maintain for ourselves. Being in business to me means building up my business and supporting other Black businesses so we are true owners, not workers who look like owners. Being a Black man in business means setting an example of excellence for those around me. Other people can see me excelling and it looks realistic, it looks like something they can become. I believe in building up the Black community and conducting great business is a way we can build our community. Becoming successful and showing others they can become successful is one of the most important things about being a Black businessman. I have to build myself up and become successful, but once I do, I now show others how to become successful.
Fancy: What do you have planned for 2022?
Joseph: In 2022, I will be releasing my new book On the Shoulders of Giants Volume 4 The Caribbean. The release date is February 28th, 2022. I will be releasing a new series on my YouTube channel called Glorious Gumbo. I will include Black history, Black culture, food, and traveling. I can’t give all of the details now but more information is coming soon. I will also release a series that will be following me as I document myself learning more about the history of my family. I will do more traveling to conduct field research for my platforms. I’m continuing to grow my YouTube channel and website, while also building more relationships so I can teach more Black history to homeschools, organizations, groups, and anyone who wants to learn Black history. This year will be a great year for the growth of On the Shoulders of Giants.
Connect with Joseph below.
Francheska “Fancy” Felder is a quiet Southern, media mogul in the making. In 2010, she launched SwagHer Magazine, an empowerment and lifestyle publication for the progressive Black community.
Fancy’s passion for all things creative combined with her love for writing, Black culture, and business guided her to also offer her public relations, creative, and branding services, making the magazine more of a media boutique having its own subscription clients as well as advertisers, hence why the name changed to SwagHer Magazine & Media.
SwagHer Magazine uses positive media and storytelling to create new narratives and mindsets around Black people, their communities, and the businesses and organizations they lead. Fancy executes campaigns for Black women-led businesses, coaches, authors, and girl bosses so that they receive more visibility and establish themselves as an authority.
The Mississippi native is also one half of Theories & Thoughts Podcast, a discussion-driven show that tackles Black issues and taboo subjects with a kitchen table talk feel, which she hosts with Arnya T.M. Davis. The two also co-produce and host Theories & Thoughts Deep Dive, a millennial talk show.
The former teen mom graduated from Southwest Mississippi Community College with her associate’s in marketing management and studied mass communications with a focus in public relations from Southern University A&M College.