When I began this research project poring through old newspapers dating from the 1700's and digging through the digital collections from the Library of Congress, I thought I knew how atrocious slavery was in the United States. But the level of horror took me to new depths of understanding. I'll give you an example. Consider the laws making it illegal for a slave to learn reading and writing. A slave caught violating what were called anti-literacy laws could legally be beaten; even a child could be whipped mercilessly.
In Louisiana, a slave could have been put to death for this crime if it were his/her second offense. Visualize it. A white person had the authority to walk through your home without permission and take away a family member if he or she were found with a writing instrument in hand to practice to drawing a letter of the alphabet. Or if one was caught simply holding a book, the person could be taken away never to be seen again. Of course, children of slaves could be taken by their masters and sold at any given time, as well as any family member. Slaves couldn't marry because they weren't recognized as humans. But to stay on point, the act of learning was against the law and punishable by beating or death. This was happening in the 1800's in America.
A slave had no rights as a "thinking and religious being" and was considered no more than a thing. Slaves were not considered sentient beings. The reason that concept is so hideous is that it meant we had a society where one human being was concluding that another human being was incapable of feeling. They could physically call out in pain, but were not deemed as having the capacity to mentally process that pain. It's the present day argument humans use when wanting to defend hurting an animal. Most animals are not considered sentient, therefore many humans claim they are incapable of understanding suffering.
Americans are not taught historical truth in school. For centuries there has been despicable white washing revisionist history in the public schools, and it has largely left out women and almost entirely left out people of all color. I believe learning America's factual history is more important now than any other time in our lives because we're seeing old mistakes repeated and ignorance is breeding more and more hatred.
We all must work to change that. But until such time as schools teach the truth, and the whole truth, this information has to come from self initiative. I hope you join in. I intend to do my part learning and sharing what I find, and keeping Black History going all year long, in addition to history about Native Americans and Indigenous people around the world. For instance, did you know that in 1900 there were estimated to be 10,000,000 Chinese slaves? But those are for future blogs.
What needs to be underscored here is this is not ancient history. These horrors were a blink of the eye ago in time. My grandmother, with whom I shared a bedroom growing up, was born in the 1800's. My dad was a year old when the Tulsa Oklahoma Riots destroyed entire neighborhoods and the large death toll is still uncertain. Blacks were fighting for access to a good education the year I was born. And today, in 2021, we are seeing black males murdered for looking like a suspect or looking like they had a gun and sometimes just because they aren't white.
There were times when I was reading through blurry eyes choking back tears as I envisioned the unimaginable. This stuff hits me in the gut. It's unconscionable that people today still wave the Confederate flag with a sense of pride and defend keeping statues of Confederate monuments knowing that they stand as none other than symbols that endorse kidnapping, rape, torture, humiliation, murder, and all that is immoral and unethical. These egregious acts perpetrated in the name of American slavery, nothing short of crimes against humanity, are inextricably connected to the present day racial divide and linked to the racial injustice that is alive and well in 2021.
According to Aristotle, “there are certain people who are free and certain who are slaves by nature, and it is both to their advantage, and just, for them to be slaves.” He believed there were inferior people suited only for “the menial duties of life,” so they should be treated as “animate article[s] of property,” no different than we would treat domesticated animals.
Aristotle, born 384 BC, was a Greek philosopher and scientist considered the "Father of Western Philosophy." Aristotle’s defense of slavery was based on the theory that some peoples were “congenitally incapable of reasoning” and so were intended by nature to be slaves. He provided the conceptual basis for much of the nineteenth-century Southern pro-slavery ideology with these theories of racial inferiority.
tHE aMERICAN sLAVE cODE - 1853
by William Goodell , Abolitionist and Reformer
born in Coventry, New York on October 3, 1792.
The American Slave Code is a book detailing the legal relationship of master and slave. It's like a slave owner's bible. You can download the entire book from this blog or read through the book (below) in a Kindle-type format without needing to download.
Below is Chapter 22 of the Slave Code.
The book in its entirety is below
I urge you to flip through this book. It's broken down into clearly labeled chapters on every single aspect of slavery and explains the slave-owner relationship with details that are utterly appalling. Christian churches and clergy strongly supported slavery and defended it.
Consider the effects pro-slavery people had on their families and on the entire society. Pro-slavery people taught generations of others to look at people of color as nothing more than things. How utterly ludicrous that one group of humans choose to use the amount of melanin another group of humans have as a measure of their worth. To put it another way, pigment determines a human's place in the world. Only the smallest of minds could possibly miss the sheer absurdity of that.
Scroll down to find a link to download your own copy.
Advertisements in the For Sale section of the paper for real estate with slaves.
Betts & Gregory Auctioneers actual receipt for the purchase of men and children.
Examples in the Table of Contents of the topics covered:
I had finished this blog and posted it when I came across this article from 1918, titled a Study of American Negro Slavery. (It's in its entirety below.) I decided to update and add it here. There will always be those who argue that in slavery there is a good side. It's a similar argument to the present day justification when companies defend paying slave labor wages around the world to import goods into America. "I'll pay them a dime where they might otherwise only get a nickel." In other words, in taking a little less advantage of them, makes it right.
Here's are three excerpts from the article:
There is much in the history to refute the idea that slaves were often kept in good health. There was a theory of good business practice to "use up" a gang of slaves . See below:
by Betsy Seeton
MONTH SHOULD BE
M O N T H
This is a blog covering and discovering injustice anywhere. It's about race, racism, hatred, love, tolerance, intolerance, ignorance and wisdom. It's about climate change, and all things earth, all things people, plants and animals. It's about change makers and light shiners. It will follow The North Star and report here.
I would like to think that, "One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings," as Franklin Thomas said.