When I began this research project pouring 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 found with a writing instrument in hand practicing to draw a letter of the alphabet or if one was caught simply holding a book suggesting one might have looked at it. The culprit 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 POTENTIALLY PUNISHED BY A 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 2019, 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 the tears as I envisioned the unimaginable. This stuff hits me in the gut too. 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 2019.
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 owners 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:
Some of the type print is missing toward the bottom of these clips, but most of it is readable. The article is from 1934. The author, James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938), was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, civil rights activist. He was married to civil rights activist Grace Nail Johnson.
THE KIND AND SCOPE OF EDUCATION NEEDED FOR THE COLORED RACE : A PAPER READ BEFORE THE MISSISSIPPI STATE TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION (WHITE) IN DECEMBER, 1892
by Dara Kalima
"I am currently reading this book after seeing the New Yorker article about it a few weeks ago. And it is having a profound impact on me though the book is for a white audience written by a white author.
I live in NY and I only read on the train and I much prefer printed books. So this means in all my brownness sit on the train reading this provocative book. As anticipated, just like when I read White Rage by Carol Anderson last year, I can't help but notice how people look at me when they see the book cover. No one has said anything this time, but if they read the title, their body language immediately shifts. WP grimace and stiffen up, disgust seems to be on their face and POC seem to look more intrigued. I feel both empowered and terrified. I worry about the reaction people will have whether it's to be angry or to complain to my job if they see my work ID. Holding this/these book/s are dangerous for me. In fact this post is dangerous for me.
But it also just makes me sad as I read it. In part because of the 9 day long conversation that happened on my wall when I shared the article saying I'd soon be reading it. People, my friends, some I've know for more than a decade, were so quick to dismiss it, feeling it didn't apply to them, judged them, or that it wasn't helpful enough, creating a huge amount of emotional labor for others and for myself.
It also makes me sad because it validates much of my experience as a black person, as the person made to speak and sound in socially acceptable ways. (Do you know how much it hurts to be told thank you for being eloquent and not angry, as if I'm an acceptable bw? If I expressed my anger will my status be diminished? The well-intentioned tone policing is still tone policing.) It makes me sad to see all the ways in which I am isolated, indoctrinated, and trained to be black in a society hostile to me. It also makes me sad as I read statements my friends have said in my presence listed. They think because we are friends they aren't perpetuating supremacy, but they are, I know they are but they still don't get it. And can't really hear me when I try to say it. I'm sad because though not intended for me, it's written in a way that hits home and is too personal and still challenges me to do better in my use of codes used to my and many POC's detriment.
What makes me saddest still is that though I have tons of friends who are not POC so very few take my suggestions to read these books to learn American history and to learn how deeply engrained racism and it's impact is on all of us. I want to just hand out copies of these two books and beg people to really consider them, because my life, my sanity, the sanity and existence of my loved ones are at stake. I shouldn't have to spend my nights counseling a friend or mentees who are POC on how to exist in this world without losing their mind.
This book gives me hope that some will engage in this conversation but it also makes me incredibly sad to see my life on paper and to know how many people are not going to read it.
Please help. Do the work, keep doing the unlearning. Please.
Massive insect decline
A study that was published in 2018, but recently revised is making news in February 2019 and warns that insect populations are drastically declining around the earth due to pesticide use and other factors.
I'm trying to access the actual study, but the cost was over $50, so I've written to see if I can access it for education purposes to post here. Meanwhile, other news outlets all over are discussing the study.
Rockwell is famous for his sentimental portraits of American life. Words like wholesome and traditional readily come to mind. What many would not associate with Rockwell are poignant paintings of America's struggle with racism and civil rights. Due to the rules of the Saturday Evening Post, where black people could only be included in his paintings if they were depicted in service industry jobs, we think of "Rockwell’s America" as almost exclusively white.
The Servant depiction
of color to be included in a Rockwell painting.
"On July 14, 1964, "The New York Times" ran a story titled, “A 2nd Body is Found in the Mississippi.” Norman Rockwell tore this page from his newspaper and saved it. The story of a racial killing in southwest Mississippi and the arson of two Negro churches mentioned another unsolved case, that of three civil rights workers missing since June 21st. The brief reference caught Rockwell’s attention and laid the foundation for one of his most stirring works. A few months earlier, "Look" ran Rockwell’s powerful message on school desegregation, "The Problem We All Live With." Rockwell received many letters criticizing his choice of subject, but irate opinions didn’t silence him. President Obama requested it for the White House in 2011.
In March 1965, Rockwell began "Murder in Mississippi," illustrating the June 21st slaying of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. " Here for all of Rockwell's images and this story in full.
posted Sep 08, 2017
Here’s the post of the FB friend asking for understanding about white privilege:
To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).
So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.
Hi, Jason. First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding. Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime—in fact I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday—because I realized many of my friends—especially the white ones—have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened. There are two reasons for this: 1) because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ’70s and ’80s—it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which, sadly, it often does); 2) fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.
1. When I was 3, my family moved into an upper-middle-class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big backyard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother, and, fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that. Then mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.
2. When my older sister was 5, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant, but in her gut she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it, it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant—that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement. If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.
I remember some white male classmates were pissed that a black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t.
3. Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Some time within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So, I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester. The point here is, if you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation, you have white privilege.
4. When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates were pissed that a black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off. The point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it,” you have white privilege.
5. When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow AP student, you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser:
Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”
Doctor: “Where are you going?”
Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”
The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list.
Store employee: “Where are you going?”
Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”
The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever.
Woman to the boy: “What college are you going to?” Boy: “Princeton.”
Woman to me: “Where are you sending your boxes?” Me: “Harvard.”
Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”
I think: “No, bitch, the one downtown next to the liquor store.” But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes: “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.”
Then she says congratulations, but it’s too fucking late. The point here is, if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, you have white privilege. CONTINUE TO ORIGINAL POST
Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James "Cowboy" Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.
As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the "lightning" of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.
Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables―most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.
Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.
By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory―along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release―Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.
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.
A POEM ABOUT SLAVERY
Black Children Sold At Auction
COMMENTARY ON READING WHITE FRAGILITY BY ROBIN DEANGELO
Dark History Of American Penitentiaries
HE CALLS ME BY LIGHTNING
Massive Insect Decline
Norman Rockwell In The Age Of The Civil Rights Movement
Old Chip Schools
Re-Launching The North Star
Shaun King On NPR
THE AMERICAN SLAVE CODE
The Kind And Scope Of Education Needed For The Colored Race
THE SLAVE IS A THING
WHITE FRAGILITY = The Book