The Distinction Between Slavery and Race in U.S. History

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-11-30 21:04Z by Steven

The Distinction Between Slavery and Race in U.S. History

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
2016-11-27

Patrick Rael, Professor of History
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine

The history of the Electoral College is receiving a lot of attention. Pieces like this one, which explores “the electoral college and its racist roots,” remind us how deeply race is woven into the very fabric of our government. A deeper examination, however, reveals an important distinction between the political interests of slaveholders and the broader category of the thing we call “race.”

“Race” was indeed a critical factor in the establishment of the Constitution. At the time of the founding, slavery was legal in every state in the Union. People of African descent were as important in building northern cities such as New York as they were in producing the cash crops on which the southern economy depended. So we should make no mistake about the pervasive role of race in the conflicts and compromises that went into the drafting of the Constitution.

Yet, the political conflicts surrounding race at the time of the founding had little to do with debating African-descended peoples’ claim to humanity, let alone equality. It is true that many of the Founders worried about the persistence of slavery in a nation supposedly dedicated to universal human liberty.  After all, it was difficult to argue that natural rights justified treason against a king without acknowledging slaves’ even stronger claim to freedom. Thomas Jefferson himself famously worried that in the event of slave rebellion, a just deity would side with the enslaved…

Read the entire article here.

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Pink and the Fancy Gal: White Slavery, the Abolitionists’ Crusade, and the Painter’s Canvas

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Slavery, United States on 2016-11-29 01:35Z by Steven

Pink and the Fancy Gal: White Slavery, the Abolitionists’ Crusade, and the Painter’s Canvas

Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: a journal of nineteenth-century visual culture
Volume 15, Issue 3, Autumn 2016

Naurice Frank Woods Jr., Assistant Professor of African American Art History; Director of Undergraduate Studies in the African American and African Diaspora Studies Program
University of North Carolina, Greensboro


Fig. 1, George Fuller, The Quadroon, 1880. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of George A. Hearn, 1910.

This article examines two paintings from the antebellum period, The Slave Market (ca. 1859) by an unidentified artist and The Freedom Ring (1860) by Eastman Johnson, which involve the purchase of nearly white slaves, and attempts to delineate the motivation for presenting these images before the public. These paintings functioned much as slave narratives, and abolitionists used them to provide visual evidence of an insidious, often sexually depraved side of “the peculiar institution.”

In late 1849, Massachusetts native George Fuller (1822–84) traveled throughout the Deep South in pursuit of portrait commissions.[1] Like many of his northern contemporaries, Fuller sought a receptive and less competitive climate below the Mason-Dixon Line. The artist’s journey placed him directly in the midst of a region addicted to the institution of slavery, and while it may not have been his intention to observe astutely the lives of human chattel, Fuller was increasingly aware of their plight and recorded his observations in a sketch diary. Fuller’s drawings and subsequent commentary revealed neither his political inclinations about the “great divide” that was gripping the nation nor his moral position on the subject. This was, however, his third trip to the region, and while his sketches remained dignified depictions of black plantation life, his words reflected growing concern over certain “rituals” conducted in the South.

One of these rituals, a slave auction involving a beautiful quadroon, affected him profoundly. Fuller had witnessed slave auctions before, but the sight of men bidding over a nearly white slave like a farm animal caused him to write:

Who is this girl with eyes large and black? The blood of the white and dark races is at enmity in her veins—the former predominated. About ¾ white says one dealer. Three fourths blessed, a fraction accursed. She is under thy feet, white man. . . . Is she not your sister? . . . She impresses me with sadness! The pensive expression of her finely formed mouth and her drooping eyes seemed to ask for sympathy. . . . Now she looks up, now her eyes fall before the gaze of those who are but calculating her charms or serviceable qualities. . . . Oh, is beauty so cheap?…

Read the entire article here.

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David Olusoga: ‘There’s a dark side to British history, and we saw a flash of it this summer’

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2016-11-23 21:48Z by Steven

David Olusoga: ‘There’s a dark side to British history, and we saw a flash of it this summer’

The Guardian
2016-11-04

Arifa Akbar


‘People used to shout “Go back to Africa” at us’ … David Olusoga. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The writer and broadcaster on reassessing black history and the fallout from the Brexit vote

For as long as David Olusoga has been writing and broadcasting on black British history (almost two decades), he has received infuriated letters from the public. Nowadays, there are tweets too, which employ the same fulminating tone.

“The number of people who say, ‘I’m sick of hearing about slavery’, or ‘black people are always talking about slavery’. My response to them is ‘Name a British plantation. Name a slave trader. Name a British slave ship.’ Normally they can’t, because we don’t know that much about slavery. It’s not a central part of our national story.”

Olusoga’s new book, Black and British: A Forgotten History, is not about slavery as such, but it is a radical reappraisal of the parameters of history, exposing lacunae in the nation’s version of its past. Domestic history cannot be separated from the vast former empire building, he argues, which was inextricably bound to the economics of global slavery. Joining up history at home and abroad makes it harder to gloss over Britain’s part in the slave trade…

…Olusoga was born in Lagos to a white British mother and a Nigerian father who met in Newcastle as students. His parents separated when he was two years old and his mother returned with him and his three siblings to her home town in the north-east, to work as a linguist. A mixed-race family was a rarity in Newcastle in the early 80s, and Olusoga felt under attack every day, at school, on the streets: “People used to shout ‘National Front’ at us. And ‘wogs out’. It was routine, ubiquitous. There were men who would spit and shout. When we came out of school, we’d go to the bus stop and if there wasn’t a white person waiting, we’d walk to the next one because we knew the buses wouldn’t stop for black people. Sometimes we’d end up walking all the way home.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself, Critical Edition

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2016-11-14 20:38Z by Steven

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself, Critical Edition

Yale University Press
2016-10-25
264 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
7 b/w illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9780300204711

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895)

Edited by:

John R. McKivigan, Mary O’Brien Gibson Professor of History
Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis

Peter P. Hinks

Heather L. Kaufman, Research Associate
The Douglass Papers

A new edition of one of the most influential literary documents in American and African American history

Ideal for coursework in American and African American history, this revised edition of Frederick Douglass’s memoir of his life as a slave in pre-Civil War Maryland incorporates a wide range of supplemental materials to enhance students’ understanding of slavery, abolitionism, and the role of race in American society. Offering readers a new appreciation of Douglass’s world, it includes documents relating to the slave narrative genre and to the later career of an essential figure in the nineteenth-century abolition movement.

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How America Bought and Sold Racism, and Why It Still Matters

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-10-25 20:06Z by Steven

How America Bought and Sold Racism, and Why It Still Matters

Collectors Weekly
2015-11-10

Lisa Hix, Associated Editor

Today, very few white Americans openly celebrate the horrors of black enslavement—most refuse to recognize the brutal nature of the institution or actively seek to distance themselves from it. “The modern American sees slavery as a regrettable period when blacks worked without wages,” writes Dr. David Pilgrim, the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and a sociology professor at Ferris State University and the author of Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice, who has spent his life studying the artifacts that have perpetuated racist stereotypes.

The urge to forget this stain on our nation’s history is everywhere. In Texas, McGraw-Hill recently distributed a high-school geography textbook that refers to American slaves as immigrant workers. At Southern plantation museums that romanticize the idea of genteel antebellum culture, the bleak and violent reality of enslaved plantation life is whitewashed and glossed over. Discussions about how slavery led to modern-day racism are often met with white defensiveness. How many times have black people heard this line? “Slavery happened a long time ago. You need to get over it.”

The truth is when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, the economic subjugation of African Americans, and the terrorism used to maintain it, did not come to a grinding halt. The Jim Crow racial caste system that emerged 12 years after the Civil War ended in 1865 was just as violent and oppressive as slavery—and it lasted nearly a century. Up through Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, black people across the country, in Northern states as well as Southern ones, were routinely humiliated, menaced, tortured and beaten to death, and blocked from participating in business and public life. Thanks to smartphone and social-media technology, we’re seeing how such violence continues in 2015, 50 years after the height of the Civil Rights Movement


Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno played the “tragic mulatto” in the 1960 film “This Rebel Breed.”(From Understanding Jim Crow)

…Another caricature was inflicted upon mixed-race women: the “tragic mulatto,” which is based on the “one-drop rule” that says any African American blood in your lineage makes you a black person. In this story, the mixed-race woman grows up living as a privileged white person. When her white father dies, her black heritage is revealed, and she’s enslaved and subjected to violence by white men. Rejected by both racial groups, she’s often suicidal and alcoholic, and she in particular loathes her black side.

Reality, of course, tells a different story. In Understanding Jim Crow, Pilgrim says it’s true that in the days of slavery, mixed-race slaves (usually the illegitimate sons and daughters of their owners), sometimes sold for higher prices, and masters saw these women as particularly sexually desirable, claiming their beauty drove them to rape. Enslaved mixed-race women were also frequently sold into prostitution, and freeborn mixed-race women sometimes became the mistresses of white men under the “plaçage system.” Some people with “Negro blood” worked to “pass” as whites, which helped them get better education, pay, and homes. But throughout history, mixed-race people—who had the slur “mongrels” hurled at them by whites—have been well accepted in the black community: Take for example, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Mary Church Terrell, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Langston Hughes, and Billie Holiday

Read the entire article here.

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One man’s quest to preserve the haunting black history of Pocahontas Island

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2016-10-14 19:12Z by Steven

One man’s quest to preserve the haunting black history of Pocahontas Island

The Washington Post
2016-09-26

Gregory S. Schneider

POCAHONTAS ISLAND, Va. — He roams from house to house along the quiet streets of this little neighborhood, giving voice to its history and spirits. The collection of modest homes, tucked between an empty lumber factory and an abandoned rail yard, doesn’t look like a rare and haunted place.

But in Richard Stewart’s eyes, Pocahontas Island is alive with an unexpectedly dramatic past. Using a black magic marker, Stewart scrawls the words of 12 generations of ancestors on old porch rails, doorways and window frames.

“Ain’t no looking back master I’m at the promised land.”…

…Outside, Stewart has bought the small house next door, which he said was built in the early 1800s by a mixed-race man whose white mother sold him into slavery as a child because she couldn’t be seen with him. Stewart painted it pink and yellow and covered it with words and pictures related to Nat Turner.

At least one man who helped Turner’s bloody slave rebellion in 1831 in nearby Southampton County hid, for a time, in the woods on Pocahontas Island, Stewart said…

…Stewart talks about slavery in an offhand way that can seem jarring. He credits his stature and strong build to what many regard as the myth of selective breeding. In colorful terms, he tells how mixed-race children were sent to live on the island: “We had a lot of out-of-wedlock mulattos over here. You might have seen a child walking along over here white as snow, and [the] mama walking along dark as a bag of coal.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Britain’s Black Past

Posted in Audio, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2016-10-08 02:11Z by Steven

Britain’s Black Past

BBC Radio 4
2016-10-03

The Invisible Presence

Professor Gretchen Gerzina explores a largely unknown past – the lives of black people who settled in Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

She reveals a startling paradox – although Britain was at the heart of a thriving slave trade, it was still possible for many black people to live here in freedom and prosperity. A few even made it to the very top of fashionable society.

But there were others who were brought over by slave-owners from the West Indies and who were never free, despite living for the rest of their lives in Glasgow or Bristol or London. Some took the law into their own hands, and managed to free themselves, others went further and advocated violent revolution. Free or unfree, they all saw Britain as a place of opportunity that could become a home.

Over two weeks, Professor Gerzina travels across Britain and talks to historians, unearthing new evidence about Britain’s black past. From a country estate in Chepstow, via the docks of Liverpool, to grand houses in London and Bristol, she evokes the daily texture of black people’s lives.

In the first programme in the series, Professor Gerzina travels to Sunderland Point to discover a remote grave in the corner of a windswept field – a memorial to a young black cabin boy, abandoned on the coast by his slave-owning master. This poignant story sparks questions about how we remember black figures from the past.

Listen to the episode (00:13:15) here.

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The “Birther” Movement: Whites Defining Black

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2016-10-08 01:36Z by Steven

The “Birther” Movement: Whites Defining Black

Racism Review
2016-09-18

Dr. Terence Fitzgerald, Clinical Associate Professor
University of Southern California

Hallelujah I say, Hallelujah! Did you hear the news? Did ya? After sending a team of investigators to Hawaii, drawing the attention of the national and international media, and leading an almost six year charge of infesting the mind of those already under the influence of the white racial frame into a catnip type psychological and emotional frenzy; the “benevolent one,” Donald J. Trump, has publically and emphatically acknowledged that our President of the United States of America is—get this, “an American!” Yes it is true. Republican presidential nominee and town jester, Trump on Friday, September 16, 2016 recognized in a public forum for the first time in eight years that President Obama was indeed born in the U.S. After not only leading, but becoming synonymous with what many have described as the “birther movement,” Trump has conceded and given up on furthering the conspiracy theory that our President is not an American citizen.

…One cannot forget the history behind the 1662 Virginia law that in particular focused on the behavior directed toward mixed-race people. The notion of the ‘one drop rule’ was consequently constructed. This legal means for identifying who was Black was judicially upheld as recent as 1985 “when a Louisiana court ruled that a woman with a black great-great-great-great-grandmother could not identify herself as ‘white’ on her passport.” …

Read the entire article here.

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Slavery’s legacies

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science on 2016-10-04 00:30Z by Steven

Slavery’s legacies

The Economist
2016-09-10

SÃO PAULO

American thinking about race is starting to influence Brazil, the country whose population was shaped more than any other’s by the Atlantic slave trade

ALEXANDRA LORAS has lived in eight countries and visited 50-odd more. In most, any racism she might have experienced because of her black skin was deflected by her status as a diplomat’s wife. Not in Brazil, where her white husband acted as French consul in São Paulo for four years. At consular events, Ms Loras would be handed coats by guests who mistook her for a maid. She was often taken for a nanny to her fair-haired son. “Brazil is the most racist country I know,” she says.

Many Brazilians would bristle at this characterisation—and not just whites. Plenty of preto (black) and pardo (mixed-race) Brazilians, who together make up just over half of the country’s 208m people, proudly contrast its cordial race relations with America’s interracial strife. They see Brazil as a “racial democracy”, following the ideas of Gilberto Freyre, a Brazilian sociologist who argued in the 1930s that race did not divide Brazil as it did other post-slavery societies. Yet the gulf between white Brazilians and their black and mixed-race compatriots is huge…

…Of the 12.5m Africans trafficked across the Atlantic between 1501 and 1866, only 300,000-400,000 disembarked in what is now the United States. They were quickly outnumbered by European settlers. Most whites arrived in families, so interracial relationships were rare. Though white masters fathered many slave children, miscegenation was frowned upon, and later criminalised in most American states.

As black Americans entered the labour market after emancipation, they threatened white incomes, says Avidit Acharya of Stanford University. “One drop” of black blood came to be seen as polluting; laws were passed defining mixed-race children as black and cutting them out of inheritance (though the palest sometimes “passed” as white). Racial resentment, as measured by negative feelings towards blacks, is still greater in areas where slavery was more common. After abolition, violence and racist legislation, such as segregation laws and literacy tests for voters, kept black Americans down.

But these also fostered solidarity among blacks, and mobilisation during the civil-rights era. The black middle class is now quite large. Ms Loras would not seem anomalous in any American city, as she did in São Paulo…

…Both black and white Brazilians have long considered “whiteness” something that can be striven towards. In 1912 João Baptista de Lacerda, a medic and advocate of “whitening” Brazil by encouraging European immigration, predicted that by 2012 the country would be 80% white, 3% mixed and 17% Amerindian; there would be no blacks. As Luciana Alves, who has researched race at the University of São Paulo, explains, an individual could “whiten his soul” by working hard or getting rich. Tomás Santa Rosa, a successful mid-20th-century painter, consoled a dark-skinned peer griping about discrimination, saying that he too “used to be black”.

Though only a few black and mixed-race Brazilians ever succeeded in “becoming white”, their existence, and the non-binary conception of race, allowed politicians to hold up Brazil as an exemplar of post-colonial harmony. It also made it harder to rally black Brazilians round a hyphenated identity of the sort that unites African-Americans. Brazil’s Unified Black Movement, founded in 1978 and inspired by militant American outfits such as the Black Panthers, failed to gain traction. Racism was left not only unchallenged but largely unarticulated.

Now Brazil’s racial boundaries are shifting—and in the opposite direction to that predicted by Baptista de Lacerda. After falling from 20% to 5% between 1872 and 1990, the share of self-described pretos edged up in the past quarter-century, to 8%. The share of pardos jumped from 39% in 2000 to 43% in 2010. These increases are bigger than can be explained by births, deaths and immigration, suggesting that some Brazilians who used to see themselves as white or pardo are shifting to pardo or preto. This “chromatographic convergence”, as Marcelo Paixão of the University of Texas, in Austin, dubs it, owes a lot to policy choices…

Read the entire article here.

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This Historian Wants You To Know The Real Story Of Southern Food

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Audio, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2016-10-02 20:01Z by Steven

This Historian Wants You To Know The Real Story Of Southern Food

The Salt: What’s On Your Plate
Weekend Edition Saturday
National Public Radio
2016-10-01

Erika Beras


Michael Twitty wants credit given to the enslaved African-Americans who were part of Southern cuisine’s creation. Here he is in period costume at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate.
Erika Beras for NPR

Michael Twitty wants you to know where Southern food really comes from. And he wants the enslaved African-Americans who were part of its creation to get credit. That’s why Twitty goes to places like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s grand estate in Charlottesville, Va. — to cook meals that slaves would have eaten and put their stories back into American history.

On a recent September morning, Twitty is standing behind a wooden table at Monticello’s Mulberry Row, which was once a sort of main street just below the plantation. It’s where hundreds of Jefferson’s slaves once lived and worked. Dozens of people watch as Twitty prepares to grill a rabbit over an open fire.

“Look – it’s better than chicken,” he tells the audience…

…Twitty is black, Jewish and gay. He writes about all those things on his blog Afroculinaria and increasingly, in mainstream media publications. His mission is to explain where American food traditions come from, and to shed light on African-Americans’ contributions to those traditions – which most historical accounts have long ignored. He says little is documented about what slaves ate. It’s just a line here and a line there.

“There was no sense of their personal stories, no sense of their familial ties, no sense of their personal likes or dislikes,” he says. “It was just straight up a very bland, neutral version of history.”…

Read the entire story here. Download the story here.

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