Feeds:
Entradas
Comentarios

Archive for the ‘Esclavitud’ Category

A la hora de explicar el arraigo y popularidad de Donald J. Trump entre millones de estadounidense imperan dos factores: el económico y el racial. El primero hace alusión a los efectos de más de trienta años de neoliberalismo “reaganiano”  sobre las clases media y baja blanca estadounidenses. Su empobrecimiento y abandono por parte de los principales partidos políticos -y en especial los Democratas- las hizo muy receptivas a la demagogia de Trump.  Las fabricas se fueron a China o a México, los estadounidense de baja nivel educativo vieron sus opciones ecnómicas reducirse, los ricos se hicieron más ricos y  los pobres cayeron víctimas de opiáceos y de la avariacia de ciertas compañías farmaceuticas.  El esperado goteo (trickle-down) de la riqueza no llegó.

En cuanto al tema racial, es necesario reconocer que, contrario a lo que muchos pensaron, la victoria de Obama en 2008 no marcó el fin de los conflcitos raciales en Estados Unidos. Por el contrario, la presencoa de un negro en la Casa Blanca exacerbó los ánimos raciales y preparó el camino para el éxito del discurso racista de Trump.  Sitiéndose amenazados y preocupados por perder sus privelegios ante el crecimiento y avance de las minorías raciales, millones de estadounidense vieron en Trump el líder necesario para hacer a Estados Unidos blanco de nuevo. Con Trump en la presidencia, supremacistas blancos y otros grupos extremistas se sintieron el libertad de expresar abiertamente lo que pensaba o sentían en privado.

¿Cuál de estas explicaciones es la correcta? No creo en explicaciones simples, por lo que veo necesario recurrir a ambas para entender cómo llegamos a la toma del Capitolio el 6 de enero de 2021. Ese día, miles de estadounidenses, en su inmensa mayoría  blancos, llegaron a Washington D.C. covocados por el Presidente para cuestionar la certificación congresional de la victoria de Joe Biden. En lo que los medios identificaron erróneamente como algo inédito en la historia de Estados Unidos, los seguidores de Trump marcharon sobre el Congreso y con una facilidad pasmosa lo tomaron por la fuerza. Luego vino un despliegue de lo peor de la sociedad estadounidense.

Quienes participaron en el ataque al Congreso se hicieron parte de una tradición estadounidense, la de cuestionar los resultados electorales cuando no favorecen a un sector social o racial.

En este escrito, el periodista británico Toby Luckhurst reseña los eventos que ocurrieron en Wilmington, Carolina del Norte, cuando en 1898 una turba de hombres blancos derrocaron a una coalición racialmente mixta, que democráticamente habían ganado el control de la ciudad.


Wilmington 1898: When white supremacists overthrew a US government

Toby Luckhurst

BBC News

A mob stands outside the burnt offices of the Wilmington Daily Record

The mob burned down the offices of the Wilmington Daily Record a caption

Following state elections in 1898, white supremacists moved into the US port of Wilmington, North Carolina, then the largest city in the state. They destroyed black-owned businesses, murdered black residents, and forced the elected local government – a coalition of white and black politicians – to resign en masse.

 

Historians have described it as the only coup in US history. Its ringleaders took power the same day as the insurrection and swiftly brought in laws to strip voting and civil rights from the state’s black population. They faced no consequences.

 

Wilmington’s story has been thrust into the spotlight after a violent mob assaulted the US Capitol on 6 January, seeking to stop the certification of November’s presidential election result. More than 120 years after its insurrection, the city is still grappling with its violent past.

Short presentational grey line

After the end of the US Civil War in 1865 – which pitted the northern Unionist states against the southern Confederacy – slavery was abolished throughout the newly-reunified country. Politicians in Washington DC passed a number of constitutional amendments granting freedom and rights to former slaves, and sent the army to enforce their policies.

 

But many southerners resented these changes. In the decades that followed the civil war there were growing efforts to reverse many of the efforts aimed at integrating the freed black population into society.

 

Wilmington in 1898 was a large and prosperous port, with a growing and successful black middle class. Undoubtedly, African Americans still faced daily prejudice and discrimination – banks for instance would refuse to lend to black people or would impose punishing interest rates. But in the 30 years after the civil war, African Americans in former Confederate states like North Carolina were slowly setting up businesses, buying homes, and exercising their freedom. Wilmington was even home to what was thought to be the only black daily newspaper in the country at that time, the Wilmington Daily Record.

 

300+ Unfair politics ideas | african american history, black history,  history facts“African Americans were becoming quite successful,” Yale University history professor Glenda Gilmore told the BBC. “They were going to universities, had rising literacy rates, and had rising property ownership.”

 

This growing success was true across the state of North Carolina, not just socially but politically. In the 1890s a black and white political coalition known as the Fusionists – which sought free education, debt relief, and equal rights for African Americans – won every state-wide office in 1896, including the governorship. By 1898 a mix of black and white Fusionist politicians had been elected to lead the local city government in Wilmington.

 

But this sparked a huge backlash, including from the Democratic Party. In the 1890s the Democrats and Republicans were very different to what they are today. Republicans – the party of President Abraham Lincoln – favoured racial integration after the US Civil War, and strong government from Washington DC to unify the states.

 

But Democrats were against many of the changes to the US. They openly demanded racial segregation and stronger rights for individual states. “Think of the Democratic party of 1898 as the party of white supremacy,” LeRae Umfleet, state archivist and author of A Day of Blood, a book about the Wilmington insurrection, told the BBC.

 

Democratic politicians feared that the Fusionists – which included black Republicans as well as poor white farmers – would dominate the elections of 1898. Party leaders decided to launch an election campaign based explicitly on white supremacy, and to use everything in their power to defeat the Fusionists. “It was a concerted, co-ordinated effort to use the newspapers, speechmakers and intimidation tactics to make sure the white supremacy platform won election in November 1898,” Ms Umfleet said.

White militias – including a group known as the Red Shirts, so named for their un

iforms – rode around on horseback attacking black people and intimidating would-be voters. When black people in Wilmington tried to buy guns to protect their property, they were refused by white shopkeepers, who then kept a list of those who sought weapons and ammo.

Red Shirts pose at the polls in North Carolina

Enter a captioThe Red Shirts militia intimidated and attacked blacn

Newspapers meanwhile spread claims that African Americans wanted political power so they could sleep with white women, and made up lies about a rape epidemic. When Alexander Manly, owner and editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, published an editorial questioning the rape allegations and suggesting that white women slept with black men of their own free will, it enraged the Democratic party and made him the target of a hate campaign.

 

The day before the state-wide election in 1898, Democratic politician Alfred Moore Waddell gave a speech demanding that white men “do your duty” and look for black people voting.

 

And if you find one, he said, “tell him to leave the polls and if he refuses kill, shoot him down in his tracks. We shall win tomorrow if we have to do it with guns.”

 

The Democratic party swept to victory in the state elections. Many voters were forced away from polling stations at gunpoint or refused to even try to vote, for fear of violence.

But the Fusionist politicians remained in power in Wilmington, with the municipal election not due until the next year. Two days after the state election Waddell and hundreds of white men, armed with rifles and a Gatling gun, rode into the town and set the Wilmington Daily Record building alight. They then spread through the town killing black people and destroying their businesses. The mob swelled with more white people as the day went on.

 

Wilmington Coup 1898 | Downtown Wilmington, NC

 

As black residents fled into the woods outside the town, Waddell and his band marched to the city hall and forced the resignation of the local government at gunpoint. Waddell was declared mayor that same afternoon.

 

“It [was] a full-blown rebellion, a full-blown insurrection against the state government and the local government,” Prof Gilmore said.

Within two years, white supremacists in North Carolina imposed new segregation laws and effectively stripped black people of the vote through a combination of literacy tests and poll taxes. The number of registered African American voters reportedly dropped from 125,000 in 1896 to about 6,000 in 1902.

“Black people in Wilmington didn’t think that something like this would ever happen,” Prof Gilmore said. “There was a Republican governor in the state, their congressman was a black man. They thought that things were actually getting better. But part of the lesson about it was as things got better, white people fought harder.”

Deborah Dicks Maxwell is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] in Wilmington. Born and raised in the town, she didn’t learn about the attack until she was in her thirties.

“It was something that those who are here [in Wilmington] knew but it was not widely talked about,” she told the BBC. “It’s not in the school curriculum like it should be – no one wants to admit this happened.”

 

It was not until the 1990s that the city began to discuss its past. In 1998 local authorities commemorated the 100th anniversary of the attack, and two years later set up a commission to establish the facts. Since then the city has erected plaques at key points to commemorate the events, and has created the 1898 Monument and Memorial Park – something Ms Dicks Maxwell described as “small but significant”.

Given what the city has gone through, it’s no surprise that its residents and historians who have covered its past drew parallels between the 1898 insurrection and the attack on the US Capitol this month. Ms Dicks Maxwell and her NAACP branch had for months after the US election been highlighting what they saw as the similarities between what happened in Wilmington and how politicians today in the US were trying to undermine the election results.

“Earlier that day we had a press conference denouncing our local congressman for supporting Trump, [saying] that there would be a possible coup and that we did not want another coup to ever occur in this country,” she said. Just hours later the mob marched on the US Capitol.

 

Christopher Everett is a documentary maker who made a film about the 1898 insurrection, Wilmington on Fire. When Mr Everett saw the attack on the Capitol he thought of Wilmington.

 

“No one was held accountable for the 1898 insurrection. Therefore it opened up the floodgates, especially in the south, for them to… strip African Americans’ civil rights,” he told the BBC. “That’s the first thing that came to my mind after the DC insurrection – you’re opening the door for something else to happen, or even worse.”

 

The 1898 attack was not covered up. University buildings, schools and public buildings throughout the state were all named after the instigators of the insurrection. Men would later claim to have taken part in the attack to boost their stature in the Democratic Party. As the decades passed, history books started to claim the attack was in fact a race riot started by the black population and put down by white citizens.

“Even after the massacre, a lot of these folks who participated in and orchestrated the insurrection became immortalised – statues, buildings named after them, throughout the country, especially in North Carolina,” Mr Everett said.

 

CWilmington insurrection of 1898 - Wikiwandharles Aycock – one of the organisers of the white supremacy electoral campaign – became governor of North Carolina in 1901. His statue now stands in the US Capitol, which rioters entered on 6 January.

 

Mr Everett is now filming a sequel to his documentary to examine how Wilmington is grappling with its past. He said many local leaders are working to “bring the city of Wilmington back to the spirit of 1897, when you had this Fusion movement of white folks and black folks working together and making Wilmington an example of what the new south could have been after the civil war.”

 

“Wilmington was a model for the white supremacy movement with the insurrection,” he said. “But now Wilmington could also be a model to show how we can work together and overcome the stain of white supremacy as well.”

 

Read Full Post »

Como bien ha analizado la historiadora Joanne Freeman en su excelente libro Field of Blood: Congressional Violence in Antebellum America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), previo a la guerra civil el Capitolio era un lugar peligroso. Separados cada vez más por el tema de la esclavitud, los legisladores recurrieron a métodos más violentos para tratar de imponer su posición. En otras palabras, la guerra de secesión se comenzó a pelear en los hemiciclos del Congreso años antes de que la primera bomba confederada cayera sobre Fort Sumter el fatídico día 12 de abril de 1861.

En este nota que comparto con mis lectores, la escritora Livia Gershon comenta uno de los episodios más famosos de violencia ocurridos en el Capitolio. El 22 de mayo de 1856, el Representante Preston S. Brooks, un esclavista de Carolina del Sur, atacó con una bastón al senador por el estado de Massachussets y abolicionistas, Charles Sumner. El severo ataque fue en respuesta a un discurso de Sumner criticando a la esclavitud y a los senadores que la defendían.

En el contexto del asalto contra del Capitolio el pasado 6 de enero, creo conveniente continuar subrayando que la violencia es un elemento intrínseco en la historia política estadounidense.


A dramatic portrayal of the 1856 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina.

A dramatic portrayal of the 1856 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina
via LOC

Political Divisions Led to Violence in the U.S. Senate in 1856

The horrific caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856 marked one of the most divisive moments in U.S. political history.

As we prepare for a new term of government in the wake of the recent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we might wonder just how contentious federal politics can get. But let’s not forget that time when South Carolina congressman Preston Smith Brooks assaulted Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner with a cane in the Senate chamber, beating him so badly that his skull was exposed and he lost consciousness, was covered in blood, and nearly died. As historian Manisha Sinha writes, this 1856 attack highlighted and magnified the divisions that would cause the country to come apart less than five years later.

Charles Sumner | American Battlefield TrustWhen Sumner joined the Senate in 1851, Sinha writes, his anti-slavery beliefs quickly made him enemies. Opponents blocked him from committee appointments, denied him the floor, and heckled him when he spoke.

Brooks’s attack came after Sumner gave his May 1856 speech “The Crime Against Kansas,” in which he condemned the actions of pro-slavery forces. Brooks claimed that he was provoked by Sumner’s insulting words about another senator, who was a distant relation of his. But, Sinha points out, under the prevailing southern code of honor, the appropriate response to a personal insult from a social equal would be a challenge to duel. Instead, Brooks resorted to a form of violence reserved for social inferiors—notably including the enslaved. Many southerners praised Brooks specifically for using a demeaning form of physical force. As a public letter to Brooks from five Charleston residents put it, “You have put the Senator from Massachusetts where he should be. You have applied a blow to his back… His submission to your blows has now qualified him for the closest companionship with a degraded class.”

Charles Sumner

Senator Charles Sumner was beaten nearly to death by Representative Preston Brooks on the Senate floor in 1856
via Flickr/Boston Public Library

Sinha writes that abolitionists drew the same comparison, to different ends. The New York Tribune asked if Congress was “a slave plantation where Northern members act under the lash, the bowie-knife, and the pistol.” Robert Morris, a Black Boston lawyer, wrote to Sumner that “no persons felt more keenly and sympathized with you more deeply and sincerely than your colored constituents in Boston.”

The attack on Sumner also highlighted divisions in the nation when it came to ideas of masculinity. Some in the South reviled Sumner’s “unmanly submission.” This was in line with pro-slavery rhetoric that tied abolitionism to feminism and accused white male abolitionists of effeminate “sickly sentimentality.” Northerners, on the other hand, were more likely to embrace a bourgeois idea of masculinity rooted in self-control and to view Brooks’s attack on an unarmed man as cowardly.

For many in the North, Sinha writes, the incident called to mind the question of whether slavery was compatible with a republican form of government. The New England Anti-Slavery Convention warned that slaveholders were trying to “crush out” freedom of speech on the floor of Congress, as they had done on their plantations.

As we think about division in our own time, it’s worth considering the historical context of political anger and division in the past.

Read Full Post »

Una de las pocas cosas que podríamos denominar como “positivas” de la pandemia, es que el distanciamiento social nos obligó a buscar nuevos mecanismos para compartir y circular el conocimiento. Es así como las videoconferencias en la red -los famosos webinar­- se convirtieron en herramientas muy útiles para  acceder a conferencias, seminarios y presentaciones de las que en “tiempos normales” no habríamos podido participar. Gracias a Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Facebook Life y otras plataformas, he podido acceder conferencias de colegas en Estados Unidos, Puerto Rico, Inglaterra, Argentina, etc.

Una de esas actividades es la presentación del libro de la colega Valeria L. Carbone, Una historia del movimiento negro estadounidense en la era post derechos civiles (1968-1988) (Universidad de Valencia, 2020). Producto de su tesis doctoral “Racismo, Raza y clase en la lucha de base y resistencia de los afro-estaunidenses durante 1968-1988” (UBA, 2017), este libro examina el desarrollo de la lucha de los afro estadounidenses en el periodo posterior a aprobación de las históricas  Ley de Derechos Civiles (1964) y la Ley de Derecho al Voto (1865). Como no he leído esta obra, comparto la descripción que la acompaña:

La presente obra analiza la evolucion de la lucha y la resistencia de los afro-norteamericanos a lo largo de las décadas de 1970 y 1980 desde una perspectiva que incorp ora las categorías de racismo, raza y clase. Desde la centralidad de las elaboraciones discursivas e institucionales de las nociones de raza y racismo, así como desde el papel fundamental que ha adquirido la ideología de la supremacía de la raza blanca en el devenir historico estadounidense, la poblacion negra ha entendido su lucha desde la nocion de raza como lugar de resistencia, lo que ha delimitado sus acciones a la hora de perfilar estrategias de lucha colectiva. El estudio de determinados movimientos significativos de cada region del territorio (centro-oeste, el sur profundo, noreste, este) evidencia como estos permiten establecer conexiones y continuidades en cuanto a problemas, tácticas y estrategias, formas de organizacion, retoricas discursivas y tipos de participacion, que dieron forma a un complejo, heterogéneo y versátil proceso de incesante movilizacion nacional mediante el cual la comunidad negra desafio al racismo institucional estadounidense bajo las consignas de raza y clase.

Antes de finalizar debo destacar dos cosas. Primero, que la publicación de este libro coincidió con  la intensificación de los conflictos raciales provocada por el asesinato de George Floyd en mayo de 2020.  Segundo, que publicaciones académicas en castellano analizando la historia estadounidense son escazas o de difícil acceso dados los problemas de distribución que nos separan. Ambos factores hacen del libro de la Dra. Carbone una importante aportación que debe ser reconocida.

Invito a quienes estén interesados en estos temas a ver la presentación de este libro aquí.

Norberto Barreto Velazquez

Lima, 3 de enero de 2021

 

 

Read Full Post »

En 1865,  el Congreso estadounidense aprobó  una enmienda a la constitución de los Estados Unidos aboliendo la esclavitud. Esta enmienda, la número trece, fue ratificada por todos los estados de la Unión (los estados sureños rebeldes no participaron).  Aunque histórica, la enmienda 13  no acabó, realmente, con la esclavitud en Estados Unidos, sino que dejó las puertas abiertas a la injusticia y al abuso. En su primera sección, la enmienda establece que “ni en los Estados Unidos ni en ningún lugar sujeto a su jurisdicción habrá esclavitud ni trabajo forzado, excepto como castigo de un delito del que el responsable haya quedado debidamente convicto.” En los ciento cincuenta y cinco años de su existencia, esta sección ha sido utilizada para esclavizar a miles de personas, la mayoría de ellos negros. Acusados y convictos, en muchos casos por acusaciones frívolas o inventadas, negros, blancos pobres, latinos e imigrantes terminaron trabajando como esclavos en granjas estatales en el Sur, apagando fuegos forestales en el Oeste, etc.

En esta artículo publicado en The New York Times, el gran historiador estadounidense Eric Foner aborda este tema con la claridad que ha caracterizado su trabajo académico. Quienes estén intersados en este asunto podrían complementar la lectura del trabajo de Foner con el excelente documental 13th (2016) de la directora Ava DuVernay.


 We Are Not Done With Abolition

Eric Foner

New York Times     December 16, 2020

Convicts working on a prison farm in 1934.

Credit…Lomax Collection, via Library of Congress

Early this month, a group of Democratic members of Congress introduced an Abolition Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Why, in the year 2020, does the Constitution need an amendment dealing with the abolition of slavery? Wasn’t that accomplished over a century and a half ago?

The problem is that the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, which prohibits slavery throughout the country, allows for “involuntary servitude” as a “punishment for crime.” This loophole made possible the establishment of a giant, extremely profitable, system of convict labor, mainly affecting African-Americans, in the Jim Crow South. That system no longer exists but its legacy remains in the widespread forced labor of prisoners, who are paid far below the minimum wage. The Abolition Amendment would eliminate the Thirteenth Amendment’s “criminal exemption” by adding these words to the Constitution: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude may be imposed as a punishment for a crime.”

When enacted, the Thirteenth Amendment was recognized as a turning point in the history of the United States, indeed the entire world. When the House of Representatives approved it as the Civil War drew to a close, wild scenes of celebration followed. Members threw their hats in the air and embraced one another. Passage, wrote one newspaper, was “the crowning event of the war, indeed of the century.”

The Amendment’s wording, including the criminal exemption, was based on Thomas Jefferson’s proposed but never enacted Land Ordinance of 1784, which would have barred slavery in all the new nation’s territories. From there, it migrated to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in territories north of the Ohio River. Scholars have not explained why Jefferson devised this language. Perhaps he thought that labor was good for the character and would aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners. But the coupling of a ban on slavery with an exemption for convicted criminals quickly became embedded in American law. By the time of the Civil War, it could be found in the constitutions of a large majority of the free states. Such language survives in nearly half the state constitutions.

 

During the 1850s, Republicans, including Abraham Lincoln, popularized the claim that the Northwest Ordinance demonstrated that their new party was following the intentions of the founding fathers when it sought to bar slavery from the western territories. When it came time during the Civil War to write an amendment abolishing slavery, Charles Sumner, the abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts, proposed wording based on the 1791 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. His colleague Jacob Howard of Michigan rejected the idea of using a French model. “Good old Anglo-Saxon language” was adequate, he declared, and Congress gravitated to the wording of Jefferson’s ordinance.

Because of its very familiarity, the text of the Thirteenth Amendment did not undergo necessary scrutiny. The criminal exemption was almost never mentioned in congressional debates, contemporary newspapers or at antislavery conventions that endorsed the proposed amendment.

Petition · amend the 13th amendment · Change.org

But the clause did not go unnoticed by white Southerners. The all-white governments established in the South by President Andrew Johnson after the war’s end enacted laws known as the Black Codes, which sought to use the courts to consign African-Americans to involuntary labor. Black Americans who failed to sign a contract to work for a white employer could be convicted of vagrancy, fined and, if unable to pay, sold at public auction.

“Cunning rebels,” one congressman complained in 1866, were using “the exceptional clause” to reduce freed persons to slavery. In 1867, the National Anti-Slavery Standard, an abolitionist journal published in New York City, called for the passage of a new amendment eliminating the words “except as a punishment for crime.” Today’s abolition amendment seeks to accomplish the same result by other means.

Also in 1867, a Republican congressman from Iowa, John A. Kasson, introduced a resolution clarifying the “true intent” of the 13th Amendment. It was not meant, he insisted, to authorize the “sale or other disposition” of people convicted of crime. If prisoners were required to labor, this should be under the supervision of public authorities, not private individuals or companies. The resolution passed the House, but did not come to a vote in the Senate.

By this time, Congress had enacted, over Johnson’s veto, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which mandated racial equality in judicial punishments, and had approved the 14th Amendment, requiring states to provide to all people the “equal protection of the laws.” These, senators thought, would prevent the use of the courts to victimize African-Americans, rendering Kasson’s resolution unnecessary. Time would prove them tragically wrong.

During Radical Reconstruction, when hundreds of thousands of African-Americans voted for the first time and large numbers held public office, racial bias in the criminal justice system and the forced labor of those convicted of crime remained minor problems. There were hardly any prisons or prisoners in the South. But with the overthrow of Reconstruction and the imposition of the comprehensive system of white supremacy known as Jim Crow, the prison population expanded rapidly.

Southern states filled their jails with African-Americans, often former slaves convicted of minor crimes. They then rented them out as labor for the owners of railroads, plantations and factories, or required them to work on chain gangs building roads and other public projects, or inside prison walls for private businesses.

The labor of prisoners became a significant source of revenue for Southern states. The system also took hold, but in a much smaller way, in the North.

Without violating the 13th Amendment, Republicans in post-Reconstruction Texas complained, “the courts of law are employed to re-enslave the colored race.” Plantations, they added, “are worked, as of old, by slaves, under the name of convicts.”

Conditions were barbarous and the supply of convicts seemingly endless. “One dies, get another,” became a popular refrain among those who profited from the labor of prisoners.

Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times

To this day, many convicts are required to work while incarcerated. As janitors, plumbers and the like they help make prisons function. They produce goods like furniture for government offices. This year, prisoners have been making hand sanitizer to help combat the pandemic and fighting California wildfires.

 

With the expansion of private prisons, more and more inmates work for private contractors, sometimes in factory settings within prison walls. In recent years, many companies have used or benefited from the labor of prisoners.

As late as the 1980s, the Department of Justice concluded that the 13th Amendment attaches “some of the characteristics of slavery” to prisoners, including exemption from minimum-wage laws. Indeed, courts have ruled that inmates working in prisons have no constitutional right to payment at all.

A few years ago, the documentary film “13th” linked the origin of today’s racially biased mass incarceration to the criminal exemption clause. But the members of Congress who voted on the 13th Amendment did not anticipate the later emergence of a new system of involuntary servitude in the South.

We hear a great deal in judicial circles about the “original intent” or “original meaning” of constitutional provisions. But the 13th Amendment shows that unanticipated consequences can be as significant as intended ones. The amendment, which destroyed the largest slave system the modern world has known, was deservedly an occasion for celebration. Especially given our heightened awareness of the inequities of our criminal justice system, it is high time the criminal exemption was eliminated, as the abolition amendment proposes.

Like any change in the Constitution, the abolition amendment would need the approval of two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states, a daunting requirement. It is certain to encounter resistance from those who profit from prison labor, now a multibillion-dollar industry, as well as those who deem unpaid labor a just punishment.

But approval would recognize the basic human rights of those convicted of crime. Reinforcing the idea that all people who work should be paid for their labor, it would be a major step in bringing to fruition the “new birth of freedom” promised by the Civil War.


Eric Foner is an emeritus professor of history at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.

Read Full Post »

El Public Domain Review acaba de hacer disponible una versión digital de la primera edición del discurso pronunciado por Fredrick Douglas el 5 de julio de 1852, criticando la hipocrecia de celebrar la independencia de Estados Unidos cuando millones de negros seguían siendo esclavos.  Bajo el título First Edition Pamphlet of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?” (1852), este documento viene acompañado de un breve análisis de su importancia como una de las piezas de oratoria más significativas de la historia estadounidense, así como también una fuente invaluable para el estudio de la esclavitud en Estados Unidos.

Los interesados en este documento pueden ir aquí.

Para mis lectores hispano parlantes incluyo a continuación la traducción de las primeras dos páginas de este discurso producida por la página Mass Humanities.


Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July ...

El significado del cuatro de julio para el negro Frederick Douglass July 5, 1852

Nota: Por razones históricas, en esta traducción se han empleado las formas de vosotros para la segunda persona plural. Aunque vosotros ya no se usa en el español hispanoamericano, era común durante el siglo xix, y sobre todo en la oratoria; por consiguiente, ayuda a captar, por analogía, el estilo decimonónico del inglés de Douglass.

1 Sr. Presidente, Amigos, y Ciudadanos de Compañero: La tarea antes de mi es alguno lo que requiere mucho pensamiento anterior y estudio para su desempeño adecuado. No me recuerdo nunca haber a parecer como un altavoz en frente de alguna asamblea con nerviosismo, ni con más desconfianza en mi habilidad que hago este día. Los papeles y los carteles dicen que voy a entregar una oración sobre el cuatro de julio. El hecho es, señores y señoras, la distancia entre esta plataforma y la plantación de esclavos, desde que me escapé, es considerable-y los dificultades para superar para que mover del último al anterior, no son leves. Lo que estoy aquí es algo de asombro así como de agradecimiento.

2 Esto, para el propósito de esta celebración, es el cuatro de julio. Esto es el cumpleaños de tu Independencia Nacional, y de tu libertad política. Esto, para ti, tiene la significa de la Pascua para la gente emancipada de Dios. Se lleva a tus mentes al día, y al momento de tu gran liberación. También, esta celebración significa la empieza de otro año de tu vida nacional; y te recuerda que la República de América ahora tiene 76 años. Estoy feliz, ciudadanos de compañero, porque tu nación está muy joven. Eres, incluso ahora, sólo a la empieza de tu carrera nacional, todavía persistiendo en el período de infancia. Repito, me alegre que esto es verdad. Hay esperanza en el pensamiento, y la esperanza es muy necesaria, debajo de los nubes oscuros que se bajan sobre el horizonte.

3 Ciudadanos del compañero, hace 76 años, las personas de este país eran súbditas británicas. El estilo y el título de tu “gente soberana” (en el cual tu ahora gloria) no nació. Estabas debajo de La Corona Británica. Tus padres estimaron el Gobierno Inglés como el gobierno de tu casa. Inglaterra como la patria, aunque una distancia muy lejos de tu casa, les impone, por el ejercito de sus prerrogativas de los padres, a sus niños coloniales, tales restricciones, cargas, y limitaciones, como, en su juicio maduro, se considere sabio, correcto, y adecuada.

4 Pero tus padres, cuyos no adoptaron la idea que el gobierno es infalible, y el carácter absoluto de sus acciones, presumieron a ser diferente del gobierno local en respeto al sabio y la justicia de algunos de las cargas y restricciones. Ellos se fueron en lo que para pronunciar las medidas del gobierno que son injustas, irrazonables, opresivas, y en total medidas que no la gente no debe someter a silencio. No necesito decir, ciudadanos de compañero, que mi opinión sobre las medidas son completamente en conformidad con los opiniones de tus padres. Tus padres se sentían tratados duramente e injustamente por el gobierno local, entonces tus padres, como hombres de honestidad, y hombres de espíritu, buscaron la compensación. Ellos solicitaron y protestaron; lo hicieron con una manera decorosa, respetuosa, y leal. Esto, sin embargo, no respondió al propósito. Ellos fueron maltratados con indiferencia soberana, frialdad, y desdén. Aún perseveraron.

frederick douglass Corinthian Hall 1852 speech

5 La opresión hace enojado al hombre sabio. Tus padres estuvieron intranquilos debajo de este trato. Ellos sintieron como las víctimas de errores graves que son incurables en su capacidad colonial. Con hombres valientes siempre hay un remedio para la opresión. Aquí, ¡la idea de separación total de las colonias de la corona nació! Era una idea sorprendente, mucho más que lo consideramos a esta distancia del tiempo. La gente tímida y prudente de esa día, por supuesto, estaban sorprendidas por esta idea. Su oposición al pensamiento, lo que consideraba peligroso durante en ese tiempo, estaba serio y poderoso; pero, durante de su terror y vociferaciones asustados contra de la idea, la idea alarmante y revolucionaria continuaba, y el país continuaba también. 6 El dos de julio, 1776, el Congreso Continental, para la consternación de los amantes de la facilidad y de los adoradores de la propiedad, alarmante y revolucionaria. Lo hicieron por una forma de una resolución. Casi nunca concebimos resoluciones, las que creamos en nuestras días, que tienen significados mejores que la resolución del Congreso Continental: “Resuelto, que estas colonias unidas son correctos y deben ser estados independientes y libres; también son absueltos de la lealtad de la Corona Ingles en total. 7 Ciudadanos, la resolución cumplió por tus padres. Ellos triunfaron; y hoy cosechas las frutas del triunfo de tus padres. La libertad que ganaron es tuyo; y tú, por lo tanto, puedes celebrar este aniversario. El cuatro de julio es el primer gran hecho en la historia de tu nación-la parte tan importante que todo en tu destino subdesarrollado. 8 El orgullo y patriotismo, no menos que el agradecimiento, te inspiran a celebrar y recordarlo perpetuamente. Lo he dicho que la Declaración de la Independencia es anillo – perno de la cadena del destino de tu nación; entonces, de hecho, lo considero. Los principales que están en ese instrumento son principales de salvación. Adhiere a estos principales, sea leal a estos en todos las situaciones, en todos los lugares, contra de todos los enemigos, y a cualquier precio.

Para la traducción completa se puede ir aquí.

Read Full Post »

Comparto este intetesante artículo sobre la criminalización de la música y los músicos afroamericanos. Su autora es la escritora Harmony Holiday, quien nos muestra como el racismo institucional de la sociedad estadounidense abarca básicamente todas las esferas, incluyendo la cultura popular. Holiday analiza como grandes estrellas de la música afroamericana como Billie Holiday, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus,  y Miles Davis sufrieron persecucióny violencia policiaca por ser negros. La imagen de Billie Holliday muriendo esposada a su cama de hospital resulta demoledora.  A otros como Abbey Licoln  se les cerraron las puertas a clubs y casas disqueras.


A Brief History of the Policing
of Black Music

Harmony Holiday Dreams of a Black Sound Unfettered
by White Desire

Harmony Holiday


Literary Hub     June 19, 2020

Billie Holiday died handcuffed to her hospital bed because her drug addiction had been criminalized. A Black FBI informant posed as a suitor, hunted her, fell in love with her even, and turned her in for heroin possession, not for hurting anyone, or violence, or for singing too beautiful and true a song but because she was self-medicating against the siege of being a famous Black woman in America, a woman who carried the weight of the nation’s entire soul in her music.

For as long as Black music has been popular, crossover, coveted by white listeners and dissected by white critics, it has also been criminalized by white police at all levels of law enforcement. A micro-archive of the criminalization of Black music and police presence within the music, focused on jazz music and improvised forms, shows why we now cry and chant unapologetically for abolition. Even when our life’s work is to bring more beauty into the world, to create new forms, we are brutalized, policed, jailed, and die in contractual or physical bondage. Or both.

Thelonius Monk’s composition In Walked Bud is dedicated to his friend, fellow pianist Bud Powell, a memento to the night when Bud protected Monk from police during a raid of the Savoy Ballroom in 1945. The Savoy was targeted as one of Black music’s epicenters in Harlem. Bud stepped between an officer and Monk and was struck in the head, incurring injuries that damaged his cognition, causing him to be institutionalized on and off for the rest of his life.

In 1951, Monk and Bud were sitting in a parked car when the NYPD narcotics division approached. Unbeknownst to Monk, Bud had a small stash of heroin and attempted to toss it out the window. It landed on Monk’s shoe instead—Monk was blamed, did not snitch on his friend, and was sent to Rikers Island for 60 days, held on $1,500 dollars bail. When released, Monk’s Cabaret Card, which granted him legal license to play in New York clubs, had been revoked. It would take years for the charges to be dropped and the license reinstated, years the Monk family and innovation in Black music suffered at the whims of the police. And the policing of Monk didn’t stop there.

In 1957, on a drive with Charlie Rouse and Nica, his rich white baroness friend, in Nica’s Bently, Monk asked to stop for a glass of water. Denied this simple request by the white waitress at the cafe they found, Monk just stood and stared at her, agape with disgust. The waitress called the police; when they arrived Monk walked right past them back into the car with Nica and Charlie. He would not get out when the police approached. Get out of the car you fucking nigger. Monk’s window was down and the officer started smashing his hands with a night stick: our genius Black pianist who gave us the break the space between Black thoughts and Black notes, getting his hands bashed and broken by police because he wanted a glass of water. Monk was cuffed, humming, his bloodied hands behind his back in chains.

Monk’s window was down and the officer started smashing his hands with a night stick: our genius Black pianist who gave us the break the space between Black thoughts and Black notes, getting his hands bashed and broken by police.

In 1959 Miles Davis was standing on the sidewalk outside of his own gig at Manhattan’s Birdland. He was with a white woman, smoking a cigarette between sets. A police officer pulled up and asked him what he was doing loitering—at that time a Black man just standing was criminalized, but especially one standing with a white woman. Miles pointed out his name on the marquee, explaining that he was between performances. This cavalier deference to the matter-of-fact seems to trigger the racism always-already seething in some cops.

Miles was beaten over the head with a nightstick, bloodied, cuffed, taken to jail. The incident was a legal nuisance and also altered his disposition, made him both more brooding and more volatile. In Miles’s case being policed in public life led to a rage he would only display in private, that he took out on his wives. His intimate relationships with Black women were overwhelmed by violence, he victimized them and beat into them deflected confessions of his feelings of powerlessness in the face of state violence. He could not be the father of “Cool” and a blatantly dejected Black man, so Black women became the symbols of a trouble he didn’t want to admit stemmed from white men, their policing, their scrutiny, and their over-familiar criticism.

Miles Davis in a New York courtroom, 1959.

 

Later in his life, when he lived in Malibu and drove expensive sports cars on its canyon roads, police would stop Miles routinely when he was on his way home, to interrogate him on the true owner of his car, had he stolen it, was he some white man’s driver, what was he doing in this white neighborhood with this expensive machine. Money, fame, all levels of success, were no exemption. Miles’s presence as a Black man was as policed by the state as his changing sound was by white music critics. Everyone wanted him as they saw him, in return he became so original that he could take his tone into almost any form, from painting to boxing, to screaming back at their prejudice on his horn, hexing detractors back into their formless obsessions with his immaculate Blackness.

 

Abbey Lincoln - It's Magic (1958, Vinyl) | Discogs

 

In 1961, when the “Freedom Now!” Suite debuted, written by Max Roach and Oscar Brown, Jr., performed most visibly by Abbey Lincoln as she moaned and screamed its depiction of the path Black Americans took from slavery to citizenship, the result was the blacklisting of Max, Abbey, and Oscar from many performance venues in the US. The hushed accusations that they were controversial for making true music policed their ability to share that music with American audiences. Abbey screaming on stage like a fugitive slave found and being branded and beaten was a vision the country was not ready to allow without backlash.

Club owners and record companies helped marginalize their music, interrupted the course of star-making, and tamed some of the candid militancy in all of their spirits. The state can police Black music directly, but it can also deploy its tacit muzzle, which is almost worse for the anxiety and psychic distress it invites. These artists knew they were being surveilled and penalized for their expression but had no single name or entity to hold accountable, ensuring that some part of them blamed themselves and one another. Oscar Brown, Jr. even expressed resentment toward Max Roach for performing and releasing the suite at all, turning his reputation from benign griot to troublemaker in the eyes of the overseer owners of venues.

The fact that record companies and clubs and recording studios are owned primarily by white men adds another trapdoor to the labyrinth that polices Black music at every level. The boundaries between rehearsal and performance are skewed—with white men always watching and keeping time and signing the paychecks, the code switch isn’t flipped as often as it otherwise would be. There is always a stilted professionalism constraining the freest Black music when it’s recorded in white-owned studios or clubs—the music is not completely ours in those spaces. No matter how good we get at tuning out the white gaze its pressure is always immanent.

Hip hop’s most famous liberation chant is fuck the police. It’s been repeated so often it means almost nothing, it’s almost a call of endearment…

We feel this today in the music that jazz helped make way for. Hip hop, which began in Black neighborhoods as entirely ours, was colonized and coopted and policed into a popular form whose translation to white venues often reduces the music to sound and fury. What is the point of yelling about Black liberation to a bunch of white middle class college students, or at festivals where Black people aren’t even really comfortable or in attendance? What is the point of producing all this music to make white record executives richer and give them what they believe is a hood pass to obsess over and imitate Black forms.

Jazz begat hip hop, and we learned that our most militant sound was also our most commodifiable. The militancy was quickly overshadowed by criminalization, open-secret wars between Black rappers, public awareness of their rap sheets, of the personal business, all of that given to listeners who felt entitled, still do. Criminality became the vogue and Black criminality a fetish within hip hop, the parading of the rap sheet increasing desirability among white audiences who conflated crime with authenticity and realness, trouble glamorized and traded for clout. (When jazz musicians were criminalized it was more devastating, costing them their right to play.)

Prison and bondage have been effectively woven into Black acoustic consciousness. Policing and the police have become the most familiar chorus. Hip hop’s most famous liberation chant is fuck the police. It’s been repeated so often it means almost nothing, it’s almost a call of endearment, a calling forth of the police, a fuck you to them that implies they are omnipresent and within earshot all the time, ready to strike out against any Black song or singer who threatens their lurking fixation on Black life and Black sound.

As the musicians are policed and incriminated so too are their forms, so too is that thought that leads to new Black musical temperaments. Musicians who seek to remain true to themselves often self-marginalize, police their own public presence, reject fame and affiliation in order to keep from being ruined by it or policed into oblivion from the outside—and so fewer Black people hear them. Even still, the police ambush these private sects, asking why they’re at their gig or in response to a noise complaint, escalating to yet another incident, always haunting their music with some threat of captivity.

Presents Charles Mingus - Jazz Messengers

In the late 1960s jazz bassist Charles Mingus tried to open a jazz school in Harlem. He wanted a Black-owned and Black-run place, outside of the university, the studios, and clubs all owned by whites, to teach and develop the music. The city of New York kicked him out of the space, not for any real legal issues but because his wish was a threat to their embedded policing. They removed all of his belongings and arrested him, he cried in the back of the cop car as sheets of his music were left on the street to be swept away by the wind. No such school has been attempted since and Black music is developed and studied in heavily policed white westernized institutions or not at all.

My own father, a Black musician, was getting arrested the last time I saw him. He went to jail, he died. He had spent his life as a kind of warrior: he carried guns, he was the quickest draw anywhere, he mangled studio engineers or lawyers he felt were trying to rip him off, he could not read, had never been taught that skill, but he could kill if he had to. He was avenging something all the time, his vengeance was finally policed and criminalized, never rehabilitated in any more tender way, just returned as bondage. He sang songs in jail, entertained his jailers with stories and songs. I’m still avenging him. I’m still imagining his alter-destiny in a world where his very existence had not been criminalized.

In his story, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Henry Dumas, who himself was killed by police, invents a Blacks-only jazz club set in Harlem and an “afro-horn” that if heard by white people kills them. A group of white hipsters comes to the club one night, name drops, begs for entrance, and when they are denied repeatedly, they call on a police officer who forces the bouncer to let them in. They enter and start to absorb the music and before the first song is over they are dead, the frequency kills them. They were warned.

I dream of a Black music, a Black sound, free of the shackles of the white gaze, impossible for police to attack or scrutinize, ineffable to those forces, free even of white desire. Unbroken, lethal to detractors, wherein we can hear our unobstructed selves and get closer to them in other spheres of life, where the pleasure we derive from our music isn’t always fugitive, in escape from those forces that police it, and escaping us to reach or appease white audiences and white modes of consumption. I dream of the notes that only we can hear recovered, the ones multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk called the missing Black notes that have been stolen and captured for years and years and years.

Harmony Holiday is a poet, dancer, archivist, mythscientist and the author of Negro League Baseball (Fence, 2011), Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues (Ricochet 2014) and Hollywood Forever (Fence, 2015). She was the winner of the 2013 Ruth Lily Fellowship and she curates the Afrosonics archive, a collection of rare and out-of print-lps highlighting work that joins jazz and literature through collective improvisation.

Read Full Post »

BlackLivesMatter: El racismo es histórico, es cultural y todos ...En este corto ensayo, el profesor Pedro J. Rodríguez Martin (Universidad Pontificia Comillas-ICADE), identifica seis elementos claves para entender las reacciones al asesinato del George Floyd por la policía de Mianneapolis.  Estos son: la esclavitud, la desigualdad, las condiciones socioeconomicos de los negros en Estados Unidos, la brutalidad policíaca, Donald J. Trump y lo que Rodríguez Martin llama el regreso a 1968, en relación al año más violento en la segunda mitad del siglo XX estadounidense.

Comparto con mi lectores este interesante escrito.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez


Black Lives Matter

Seis claves para entender el peor estallido racial de Estados Unidos en cincuenta años

Pedro J. Rodríguez Martin

Diálogo Atlántico     4 de junio de 2020

Los disturbios raciales registrados en más de un centenar de ciudades de EE. UU. no se explican únicamente por la muerte del afroamericano George Floyd después de que un agente blanco, al detenerle el pasado 25 de mayo en Minneapolis por supuestamente utilizar un billete falso de 20 dólares para comprar cigarrillos, le aplastase el cuello durante 8 minutos y 46 segundos. El peor estallido racial sufrido por el gigante americano en 50 años debe entenderse también como la consecuencia inevitable de una profunda y dolorosa crisis de desigualdad.

  1. El pecado original

La esclavitud es conocida como el pecado original de EE. UU. en una saga de sufrimiento que comenzó hace 400 años. En agosto de 1619, un barco holandés desembarcó en la colonia inglesa de Virginia a más de veinte africanos cautivos y esclavizados. América todavía no era América pero no se puede entender a EE. UU. sin los 250 años de esclavitud que siguieron a ese primer desembarco en Jamestown.

El profesor Eric Foner, en su elocuente manual de historia americana Give me Liberty, explica que entre 1492 y 1820 más de diez millones de hombres, mujeres y niños procedentes de África cruzaron el Atlántico con destino al Nuevo Mundo, la gran mayoría como esclavos. En EE. UU. donde la esclavitud marcaría las diferencias entre el norte y el sur, esta mano de obra cautiva fue empleada sobre todo en el especulativo cultivo de algodón. Para 1860, en vísperas de la guerra civil americana, el valor de todos los esclavos era superior al valor combinado de todos los ferrocarriles, factorías y bancos de la joven nación.

  1. La dolorosa desigualdad americana

Una de las imágenes más sobrecogedoras de la pandemia se registró el pasado mes de abril en la ciudad de Nueva York. Se trataba de una fosa común excavada en la isla de Hart, un enclave del Bronx, para dar sepultura a los cuerpos que nadie reclamaba en las desbordadas morgues de la Gran Manzana. Estas tareas son tradicionalmente realizan presos de la cercana prisión de Rikers. Y estadísticamente, los afroamericanos tienen muchas más probabilidades terminar como enterradores o enterrados.

El estallido racial en EE. UU. debe entenderse como parte de la corrosiva crisis de desigualdad agravada por la pandemia de coronavirus. Los afroamericanos –y también los hispanos– son los que de forma desproporcionada están sufriendo la pandemia de la COVID-19. Ya sea en su condición de víctimas del virus o damnificados de la subsecuente crisis económica. De acuerdo a The Economistaunque los guetos contra los que luchaba Martin Luther King en los sesenta ya no existen como tales, EE. UU. se mantiene profundamente segregada tanto por la clase como por la raza a pesar de ser un país fundado con las mejores intenciones igualitarias.

apple-mlk-2019-800x499

  1. La peor parte

No hay indicador social –desde fracaso escolar hasta desempleo– en el que los negros de EE. UU. no salgan claramente perdiendo. De todos los enfrentes de esta desigualdad, el económico es el más doloroso y fácil de cuantificar. Según ha recalculado The Financial Timesen la era posterior a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, los niveles de desempleo de los afroamericanos han sido típicamente el doble de los niveles de los americanos blancos. Con todo, en los últimos 10 años se han hecho algunos progresos en la reducción de la brecha gracias al casi pleno empleo que precedió al estallido del coronavirus.

El gran problema de los afroamericanos es que la crisis del coronavirus ha fraccionado la fuerza laboral de EE. UU. y de otras economías avanzadas tres grupos: los que han perdido sus trabajos o al menos alguna parte de sus ingresos; los que son considerados trabajadores “esenciales” que deben seguir trabajando durante la crisis –con riesgo para su propia salud–; o los que son teletrabajadores del conocimiento virtual cuyas vidas apenas se han visto afectadas. Los afroamericanos han caído desproporcionadamente entre los dos primeros grupos.

  1. Brutalidad policial

Durante los disturbios contagiados a más de un centenar de ciudades americanas, además del grito “I can’t breathe”, la otra consigna más repetida es “Hands up, don’t shoot”. De esta forma se intenta llamar la atención sobre el número anormalmente elevado de asesinatos cometidos por la policía en EE. UU. (1099 personas el año pasado), en particular de afroamericanos, que tienen tres veces más probabilidades que los blancos de morir a causa de acciones policiales. Cuando se consiguen formalizar cargos contra los agentes implicados en estos casos, los procesamientos que terminan en veredictos de culpabilidad y condenas son excepcionales.

En el capítulo de las muertes por disparos de policías, información que el Washington Post rastrea cuidadosamente desde 2015, 235 personas negras fueron disparadas hasta la muerte el año pasado por agentes de la autoridad en EE. UU. Cifra que representa un 23,5 por ciento de todas las muertes a manos de policías, o casi el doble del porcentaje de la población estadounidense que es negra.How The Civil Rights Movement Was Covered In Birmingham : Code ...

  1. La gran diferencia: Trump

En sus tres años como presidente, Donald Trump ha confirmado con creces su vocación de agitador-en-jefe. Dentro de esa interesada espiral de tensiones, Trump ha jugado con fuego apelando a los peores instintos e instrumentalizando de forma implícita y explicita el problema racial americano. Al demostrar que no hacía falta ser inclusivo para ganar la Casa Blanca, su ganadora estrategia del Make America White Again que tanto sintoniza con el “nacionalismo blanco” ha terminado por contar con la silenciosa complicidad del Partido Republicano.

En política, el caos suele llevar al fracaso. Sin embargo, en la Casa Blanca de Trump la anarquía ha formado parte desde el primer minuto de su forma de hacer política. Dentro de un tono permanente de tensión, y con la excusa del ajuste de cuentas contra las élites del nacional-populismo, Trump ha alimentado constantemente provocaciones más propias de un pirómano político que del presidente de una de las naciones más diversas del mundo.

  1. El retorno a 1968

Descrédito internacional, violencia extrema, sobredosis de miedo e incertidumbre, retroceso económico, polarización política, protestas raciales y populismo desatado. Por el principio de que la historia no se repite pero a veces rima bastante, la misma descripción a brocha gorda de EE. UU. en 2020 se puede aplicar a 1968, el año que realmente nunca ha terminado para el gigante americano y que se ha convertido en la última fuente de inspiración electoral para Donald Trump. En su último paroxismo populista, ante la intensidad del estallido racial sin comparación desde el asesinato de Martin Luther King, no ha dudado en autoproclamarse como el candidato de la ley y el orden, amenazando literalmente con la Biblia y el despliegue de tropas federales.

Para disimular su demencial gestión de la pandemia, el Trump pirómano-y-bombero-a-la-vez ha copiado a Richard Nixon en su victoriosa campaña de 1968. Durante aquel memorable pulso presidencial, que transformó y fracturó para siempre la política americana, Nixon entendió que cuanto más violentos fueran los enfrentamientos raciales en EE. UU., y peores las noticias provenientes de Vietnam, mayores serían sus posibilidades de llegar a la Casa Blanca.

Además de inventarse y jugar con “mayorías silenciosas” y “estrategias sureñas”, Richard Nixon también contó con la maléfica perspicacia de un joven asesor llamado Kevin Philipps que le hizo saber que “el gran secreto” de la política americana no era otro que identificar quién odia a quién. Con toda la zafiedad de la que es capaz para cortejar una minoría más bien vociferante pero suficiente para ganar un segundo mandato, Trump también intenta utilizar el mismo secreto odioso que hizo posible Nixonlandia.

Read Full Post »

Andrew Johnson · 1868 Una batalla política por la reunificación del país

El fin de la guerra civil estadounidense dio paso a un nuevo problema: ¿qué hacer con los derrotados estados sureños? Esta pregunta llevó a una crisis constitucional que abrió la puerta al primer juicio de residenciamiento en la historia estadounidense.

Tras el asesinato de Abraham Lincoln asumió la presidencia el Vicepresidente Andrew Johnson, un sureño que no sólo había sido miembro del Partido Demócrata, sino que también había poseído esclavos. Johnson era hijo de la tradición de Andrew Jackson y, por ende, se consideraba un defensor del hombre común frente a la aristocracia corrupta de noreste. El nuevo presidente simpatizaba con los blancos pobres y no tenía mucha empatía para los esclavos. Cuando estalló la guerra civil, Johnson era Senador por el estado de Tennesse, pero se mantuvo fiel a la Unión. Los Republicanos lo eligieron candidato a la vicepresidencia para promover la unidad y cortejar el apoyo de los sureños unionistas. En su gestión como Presidente, Johnson dejó claro que era un creyente en la supremacía de los blancos y, por ende, se opuso a la concesión de derechos políticos a los negros. Su simpatía para con los estados sureños fue más que evidente y le   llevó a una colisión con el Congreso.

En mayo de 1865, Johnson hizo público su plan para readmitir a los estados sureños en la Unión. El plan presidencial ofrecía amnistía a todo sureño que hiciera un juramento de lealtad a la constitución de los Estados Unidos. Sólo quedaban fuera los altos dirigentes civiles y militares de la Confederación, quienes sólo podían ser perdonados por el Presidente mismo. Para que los estados fuesen reintegrados a la unión, los sureños debían también ratificar la Enmienda 13, aboliendo la esclavitud. Rápidamente, los estados confederados aceptaron el plan de Johnson y pudieron elegir gobiernos propios. Para el otoño de 1865 diez de los once estados confederados habían cumplido con los requisitos del plan de Johnson

White League and Ku Klux Klan alliance, in illustration, by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874La primera reacción de los congresistas Republicanos al plan del presidente fue favorable. Tanto moderados como radicales decidieron darle una oportunidad a Johnson y a su plan. Éstos esperaban que los nuevos gobiernos sureños aprovecharan la gran oportunidad que el plan Johnson significaba y actuaran de buena fe. Desafortunadamente, esto no ocurrió porque los nuevos gobiernos sureños buscaron resucitar la esclavitud a través de una serie de leyes, conocidas como los códigos negros. Estas leyes buscaban obligar a los negros libres a regresar a trabajar a las plantaciones.  Además, Johnson le otorgó un perdón a básicamente a todo antiguo líder de la Confederación que se lo solicitó. Envalentonados, los sureños eligieron antiguos funcionarios confederados para representarles en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos. Antiguos generales y coroneles, legisladores y hasta el vicepresidente de la Confederación fueron electos al Congreso federal en representación de los estados sureños.

La actitud y las acciones de los sureños enfurecieron a los congresistas Republicanos, quienes decidieron no reconocer a los nuevos legisladores sureños. Para ello, aplicaron una cláusula de la constitución que le reconoce al Congreso el poder de aceptar o rechazar legisladores. De esta forma, todos los congresistas sureños electos bajo el plan de Johnson fueron rechazados por el Congreso.  En respuesta, los estados sureños eliminaron las alusiones raciales en los códigos negros, pero en la práctica sólo aplicaban las leyes a los negros libres.  Para complicar aún más las cosas, se desató una ola de violencia y terror contra los negros libres en diversos estados del sur.  Todo ello llevó a los congresistas republicanos a concluir que el Sur estaba deliberadamente evadiendo la Enmienda 13, y que era necesaria la intervención del Congreso.

En marzo de 1865 el Congreso creó la Oficina de  Libertos  (Freedmen Bureau) para brindar ayuda de emergencia a los antiguos esclavos.  Esta oficina había tenido un éxito limitado.  La Oficina de Libertos operó escuelas ayudando a crear las bases para un sistema de educación pública en el sur. También ayudó a los negros a denunciar los abusos de que eran víctimas. A principios de 1866, el Congreso aprobó extender la vida de esta oficina asignándoles fondos de forma directa y autorizando a sus agentes a investigar casos de maltrato de libertos. Además, el Congreso aprobó una ley de derechos civiles, confiriéndole la ciudadanía norteamericana a los negros. Esta ley definía como ciudadano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos, aunque dejaba fuera a los amerindios. De acuerdo con esta ley, los negros estarían cubiertos por todas las leyes norteamericanas que garantizaban la seguridad y la propiedad de los ciudadanos estadounidenses.

The Freedman´s BureauEn febrero de 1866, el presidente Johnson vetó la nueva ley de la Oficina de Libertos y la Ley de derechos civiles. Además, lanzó un fuerte ataque contra los radicales, acusándoles de traidores que no querían restaurar la Unión.

Los radicales toman control

¿Quiénes eran estos congresistas radicales que provocaron la ira del presidente Johnson?  La mayoría de los unionadicales eran individuos formados al calor de los debates en torno a la esclavitud. Éstos procedían, principalmente, de la zona de Nueva Inglaterra o del medio oeste. Les unía la creencia en la igualdad de derechos políticos y de oportunidades económicas, por lo que creían necesario un gobierno central fuerte. Según ellos, el establecimiento del trabajo libre, la educación universal pública y la igualdad de derechos llevarían al sur a disfrutar del mismo nivel de riqueza, progreso y movilidad social que poseía el norte. Su opinión del Sur no era la mejor, pues le consideraban una región en donde reinaba la ignorancia, se practicaba una agricultura de despilfarro, se rechazaba la manufactura, se despreciaba el trabajo honesto y estaba controlada por una oligarquía majadera. Los radicales querían transformar al Sur desarrollando la pequeña propiedad agraria, fomentando la manufactura, promoviendo la educación, cultivando el respeto al trabajo honesto y extendiendo la igualdad de derechos políticos entres sus habitantes.  Para los radicales, la prioridad no era reestablecer la Unión, sino rehacer al sur.

Charles Sumner

Para los radicales, el gobierno federal debía jugar un papel protagónico en la reconstrucción del sur, sobre todo, garantizando los derechos civiles y el voto de los libertos. Republicanos radicales como Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania) y Charles Sumner (Massachussets) abogaban por una intervención federal directa que protegiera a  los negros y les brindara oportunidades educativas, sociales y económicas.

 

Los vetos de Johnson unificaron a los legisladores republicanos bajo el liderato de los republicanos radicales, quienes decidieron retar el poder del presidente. En abril de 1866, los radicales obtuvieron el respaldo de las dos terceras parte de los legisladores necesarios para aprobar las leyes vetadas por Johnson. Este fue un momento histórico porque por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos el Congreso fue por encima de un veto presidencial.  En junio de 1866, el Congreso aprobó la enmienda la Enmienda 14 declarando ciudadano norteamericano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos. Según la enmienda ningún estado “aprobará o hará cumplir ninguna ley que restrinja los privilegios o inmunidades de los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos; ni ningún estado privará a persona alguna de su vida, de su libertad, sin el debido procedimiento de ley, ni negará a nadie, dentro de su jurisdicción, al igual protección de las leyes”. Esta enmienda histórica buscaba proteger los derechos de los libertos frente los abusos y atropellos de los sureños garantizando la constitucionalidad de la Ley de Derechos Civiles vetada por Johnson y aprobada por el Congreso.

En las elecciones de 1866, los Republicanos aumentaron su mayoría tanto en la Cámara como en el Senado, y ganaron control de todos los estados del norte. Los Republicanos entendieron su contundente victoria como un mandato, como una muestra de aprobación popular de sus posiciones, como una especie de referéndum que Johnson perdió. La victoria electoral unificó a los congresistas republicanos en su propósito de tomar control de la reconstrucción. Con ello quedó definido el escenario de un choque histórico y peligroso entre las ramas legislativa y ejecutiva del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Los Republicanos tomaron la iniciativa rápido aprobando una serie de leyes a comienzos del año 1867. En marzo, los republicanos aprobaron la Ley de la Reconstrucción que fue vetada por Johnson y vuelta a probara por el Congreso por encima del veto presidencial. Esta ley organizaba al sur como un territorio conquistado y ocupado, pues le dividía en cinco distritos militares, cada uno comandado por un general del ejército de la Unión. Para que se retirasen las tropas federales y los estados se reintegrasen a la Unión, era necesario que éstos le concediera en el derecho al voto a los libertos y privara de ese mismo derecho a los confederados que participaron en la rebelión. Cada comandante militar debía registrar a todos los votantes de su distrito, blancos y negros, y supervisar que se llevaran a cabo elecciones para escoger una convención estatal. Ésta debería redactar nuevas constituciones que garantizaran el derecho al voto de los negros en cada estado. Además, los estados sureños debían ratificar la Enmienda 14. Cuando todo ello ocurriese, los estados sureños serían readmitidos a la Unión.

Resultado de imagen para Edwin M. Stanton"

Edwin M. Stanton

Los republicanos también aprobaron la Ley de Tenencia de un Cargo Público que hacía obligatorio el consentimiento del Senado para remover de su cargo a todo funcionario cuyo nombramiento tuvo que ser confirmado por el Senado. En otras palabras, obligaba a Johnson a solicitar el consentimiento senatorial para poder destituir funcionarios públicos que aunque pudieron haber sido nombrados por el presidente, debieron ser confirmados por el Senado. Con ello, el Senado quería proteger al Secretario de Guerra Edwin M. Stanton, quien había sido nombrado por Lincoln y favorecía la reconstrucción radical del sur. Como Secretario de Guerra, podía hacer mucho para favorecer a los republicanos radicales y bloquear las acciones del presidente. Esta ley atentaba contra los poderes reconocidos por la constitución al presidente de los Estados Unidos, pues exigía que Johnson trasmitiera sus órdenes al ejército a través de su oficial de mayor rango el General Ulises S. Grant.

Johnson no pudo evitar que se aprobaran ambas leyes y hasta pareció dar señales de aceptar el control congresional de la reconstrucción, pues nombró los generales recomendados por Stanton y Grant para comandar los cincos distritos militares creados por la Ley de Reconstrucción. Sin embargo, esto era una maniobra de Johnson para ganar tiempo, pues tan pronto acabó la sesión del Congreso destituyó a Stanton y le sustituyó por Grant, pues creía que el general sería mucho más fácil de controlar. Además, el presidente sustituyó a cuatro de los comandantes de distritos militares del sur. Grant sorprendió a Johnson al objetar públicamente las movidas del presidente. Cuando el Congreso volvió a reunirse anuló la destitución de Stanton. Resultado de imagen para johnson impeachment"

El 21 de febrero de 1868, Johnson oficialmente despidió a Stanton y el secretario se atrincheró en su oficina y se negó a obedecer al presidente. El 24 de febrero de 1868 por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos, el Congreso inició un proceso de residenciamiento para destituir al presidente. Siguiendo el mandato establecido por la constitución, la Cámara de Representantes inició el proceso de residenciamiento contra Johnson acusándole de once cargos de mala conducta presidencial, siete de ellos por haber violado la Ley de tenencia de un cargo público.  Una vez establecidas las acusaciones en la Cámara, el Senado pasó a enjuiciar al presidente. Tras un juicio de once semanas de duración, Johnson se salvó de ser el primer presidente en ser destituido por un voto, pues se requería que dos terceras partes de los senadores le condenaran (36) y sólo 35 senadores lo encontraron culpable de los cargos de que se le acusaba.  Siete republicanos moderados votaron a favor de Johnson porque no estaban seguros de la constitucionalidad de la Ley  de tenencia de un cargo público, que en efecto fue más tarde declarada inconstitucional por el Tribunal Supremo. Para este grupo de legisladores, destituir a Johnson hubiera sido un acto muy extremo, pues habría establecido un antecedente muy peligroso. En otras palabras, para ellos era más importante salvaguardar el sistema político estadounidense que castigar a Johnson.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 15 de noviembre de 2019

 

Read Full Post »

Eric Foner es uno de los más importantes historiadores estadounidenses. Profesor de Columbia University y ganador de premios tan prestigiosos como el Lincoln, Bancroft y  Pulitzer, Foner ha dedicado su  carrera al estudio del Partido Republicano,  la esclavitud, la guerra civil y, sobre todo, la Reconstrucción. Es a este periodo posterior a la guerra civil que Foner dedica su último libro, Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (Norton, 2019). Enfocado en el significado de las tres enmiendas constitucionales aprobadas entre 1865 y 1870 (XIII, XIV y XV), Foner plantea que la Reconstrucción cambió radicalmente el ordenamiento político estadounidense. Al acabar con la esclavitud, definir la ciudadanía y garantizar el derecho al voto, tales enmiendas, propone Foner, conllevaron un renacer de la nación estadounidense.

Comparto con mis lectores la transcripción de una entrevista que el  historiador Ed Ayers, del podcasts Backstory, le hiciera a Foner sobre su último libro y otros temas. La entrevista se puede escuchar aquí

February 18, 1865 Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicting celebration in the House of Representatives after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Source: Internet Archive.

HOW RECONSTRUCTION TRANSFORMED THE CONSTITUTION

A FEATURE CONVERSATION WITH PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING HISTORIAN ERIC FONER

If you turn on the news, you’re likely to find a heated debate about big issues, from citizenship to voting rights. For Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner, these issues are at the heart of what are often called the “Reconstruction Amendments”: the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the US Constitution. They were passed in 1865, 1868 and 1870, respectively. And if you ask Eric, they’ve been misinterpreted and overlooked for generations.

On this episode, Ed sits down with Eric Foner, a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, to talk about public perceptions of Reconstruction, the landmark amendments to the Constitution and how they have the power to change the country today. Foner’s new book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Download a pdf of the full transcript here.

Speaker 1: Major funding for Backstory is provided by an anonymous donor, the National Endowment for The Humanities and the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial foundation.

Ed Ayers: From Virginia Humanities, this is Backstory. This is Backstory, the show that explains the history behind today’s headlines. I’m Ed Ayers. If you’re new to the podcast, my colleagues, Joanne Freeman, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly, and myself are all historians and each week we explore the history of one topic that’s been in the news.

Speaker 3: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime shall exist within the United States or any place subject to [crosstalk 00:00:48]-

Speaker 4: All persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein [crosstalk 00:00:58]-

Ed Ayers: What you’re hearing are portions of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US constitution.

Speaker 4: Which shall outweigh the privileges or [crosstalk 00:01:02]-

Speaker 3: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

Speaker 5: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Ed Ayers: They’re known as the Reconstruction Amendments passed in 1865, 1868 and 1870 respectively. And if you ask Pulitzer Prize winning historian Eric Foner, they make up a second founding of the United States of America. The amendments are so important, Eric has made them the subject of his brand new book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. He says they have the power to bring progressive change on deep seated issues from citizenship to voting rights if only we’d give them their due. So today on Backstory, we’re bringing you a feature interview I did with Eric about his new book. It joins a host of others he’s written including Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, and The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. We talked about many things from public perceptions of Reconstruction to what Eric and I learned about the period when we were in elementary school. But I started our conversation by asking Eric why he felt we needed a book about the Reconstruction Amendments right now.

Foner

Eric Foner

Eric Foner: Two things; one the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, I argue and I think many scholars would agree, really transformed the constitution and are essential to understanding the Civil War era and indeed our current situation today, and yet they are not widely known or understood. Even though they really are central documents of American history, they don’t occupy the same place in our historical imagination as other key documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation. Your man or woman in the street has probably never heard of the people who wrote these amendments, people like John Bingham and James Ashley and Henry Wilson. They’re not part of the Pantheon of key figures in American history. I just wanted to draw attention to why they’re important, why those people are important, why the amendments are important.

Eric Foner: But secondly, as I said, I lecture a lot, as you do, to all sorts of audiences within the university, outside, or people who are just interested in history and I’ve found that there’s very little understanding of what these amendments were attempting to accomplish. Even in law schools, I hate to say it, I’m not a lawyer or a law scholar, I find that there’s a lot of misconception and even, dare I say it, on the halls of the Supreme Court. One of my arguments is that there’s a long history of what I can think of as misconceived Supreme Court decisions that are still embedded in our jurisprudence. If my book can help nudge the nine members of the Supreme Court toward a more expansive vision of these amendments, then I think that would be all to the good.

Ed Ayers: Yeah, that would be quite a return on your investment here. So you talk about being out in the world talking about Reconstruction, and I find that people don’t even claim to know anything about Reconstruction. My joke is that Reconstruction happens over the winter break and between volume one and volume two, and that it-

Eric Foner: They don’t reach it in the first semester if you’re teaching the survey of American history or if it’s the beginning of the second. They scoot right through it because there’s a heck of a lot of history coming along afterwards, but that’s a step forward Ed. You and I know that not that long ago when you mentioned Reconstruction, people knew “about it.” What they knew was that it was a period of misgovernment, corruption, the lowest point in the saga of American democracy. And that the reason for that was one, vindictive Northern radicals who wanted to fasten their power on the South, but also the former slaves who were just incapable of exercising democratic rights. They were manipulated by whites. They were childlike, and that giving them the right to vote was a disastrous mistake.

71DfIQ9brpL._SY741_Eric Foner: That played an important part in the ideological edifice of the Jim Crow era. The supposed horrors of Reconstruction were part of the justification for taking the right to vote away from black men in the late 19th, early 20th Century. That people no longer generally hold that view and actually know little is better. That at least now if people are interested, they can go at it with a fresh, a clean slate rather than having to disabuse themselves of a lot of mythologies.

Ed Ayers: That’s a very optimistic interpretation. I like that. Now it’s my sense that a lot of people still take their general idea about Reconstruction from Gone with the Wind, in which we have this great saga of that in which the victim is a slave holding white woman from the South. We’re sympathetic with her and it creates the impression that Reconstruction began immediately after the end of the war and the devastation there. Is this your experience? Do you think that people are still filtering this through … What do they think they know about Reconstruction? Where does it come from?

Eric Foner: Yeah. Well certainly Gone with the Wind or if you want to push back further Birth of a Nation, which of course is even much more pernicious because it’s a direct defense and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, Gone with the Wind is probably the most popular American movie ever made and it’s constantly being shown on Turner movie channels. Look, people don’t watch Gone with the Wind for a history lesson on Reconstruction. They watch so they can trace out Scarlet O’Hara’s ups and downs. But yes, the Klan is in there, the whole idea that black people were just ignorant and incapable of taking part of democracy is in there. Whether it’s that or just what you learned in school.

Eric Foner: I’m old enough to have learned in high school, and this was in Long Island, the suburbs of New York. I learned the old Dunning School view that Reconstruction was the worst period in all of American history. I think today most scholars see Reconstruction, or at least I’ve tried to argue, as a important moment in the history of democracy, the first effort to really make the United States an interracial democracy, which it had never been before the Civil War and then would not be again that until our own era. The tragedy of Reconstruction is not that it was attempted, but that it failed, and that left to subsequent generations, including our own, this question of racial justice in America.

Ed Ayers: Yeah. I should say in full disclosure, you learned about Reconstruction on Long Island in New York. I learned about it at Andrew Johnson Elementary School in East Tennessee, and I’m not kidding. There’s only two in the United States, and I was at one of them, but I had my students and for a class here at the University of Richmond go online and say, “What do we think about Reconstruction? What’s the general sense that you get?” And they came back with one word; failure. That’s a word that you used, a description right now. And so what’s the consequences of thinking of Reconstruction as failure? It’s been a great continuity, as you’re saying that people who hated Reconstruction defined it as a failure and people who admire it defined it as a failure. Does that have any cost?

9781912128228Eric Foner: I think that’s a great question and I will withdraw my word failure. You’re absolutely right. It is so embedded. That idea is so embedded that it’s just impossible to avoid. The problem with declaring Reconstruction a failure is that then it makes the question at hand why did it fail, rather than what it seek to accomplish and how much of that was accomplished? If you define Reconstruction as the effort to create a utopian society, it failed. We haven’t had one yet, and certainly if you go a little less expansive than that and just say the effort to put into the laws and constitution and to enforce them, the basic rights of citizens for all Americans, including African-Americans, well it’s not exactly that it failed, but it didn’t become secure enough that later on these rights couldn’t be taken away.

Eric Foner: But of course Reconstruction was many, many things and not all of them were a failure. Reconstruction saw the creation of the black church as really a major, major institution throughout the country. That’s still here and as you well know, the black church has been the springboard for all sorts of activism among African Americans. Schooling, which was denied to almost all black people before the Civil War, this is when the public school systems of the South were created. This was when the black colleges were created. Those survived and so the black family, which had been it really disrupted in many ways by slavery now is consolidated and becomes the foundation of black communities. That didn’t go away when Reconstruction ended.

Eric Foner: So yeah, we should amend failure at least to say, well, in what realms did it fail and in what realms did it succeed? Because my definition of Reconstruction is not a specific time period, let’s say 1865 to 1877 or other people have other dates, but as a historical process. How does the United States deal with the end of slavery?

Ed Ayers: As we’re thinking really about the place of Reconstruction in the current American imagination, we have seen signs of awakened acknowledgement and interest in it. You and I both were fortunate to be in the Henry Louis Gates series on the Reconstruction on PBS, and people seem to really engage with that. So where do you think this interest is coming from?

Eric Foner: Well, I, like your students, I look around and say, “Well, how is …” I look particularly at how Reconstruction is referred to in the press by journalists almost offhandedly. It’s not that long ago. I remember in the 1990s, a distinguished, I’m not going to name any names, but a pretty distinguished journalist for the New York Times wrote a little article about the Bosnian Civil War. And he said, “Well, I hope that after the Bosnian Civil War is over that the victorious side just doesn’t wreak vengeance on the losers as happened in the United States in Reconstruction.” And I, as a complainer, I send him a note. And I said, “You’re not writing about Reconstruction really, but I think it’s important to know that that’s not how historians view it anymore. You’re reinforcing the idea that giving rights to black people is an act of vengeance against white people, which is a really dangerous idea.”

920x920Eric Foner: He wrote back and said, “You’re absolutely right. I shouldn’t have said that, but my wife is from South Carolina,” and I’ve heard this all the time. And I said to myself, “That’s a funny way of running journalism.” You put in your article what your wife told you over breakfast. But be that as it may, you don’t see that anymore. I think what now, if Reconstruction pops up is Tim Scott is the first black Senator from South Carolina and the first ones were in Reconstruction. I think Reconstruction is being seen as a time when positive things happened even though negative things happened as well. So I think it’s good. And of course the Gates series was very important as you well know, that there’s now a national park site being developed in Beaufort, South Carolina to highlight the history of Reconstruction. So I think Reconstruction is, people are encountering it in all sorts of venues and I think in a more modern form than the old what we call Dunning School approach.

Ed Ayers: Well you were modest before in walking away from the word failure, but in many ways you came up with the right word back in 1988 with your great book on Reconstruction; unfinished revolution. Are you willing to stand by that phrase still?

Eric Foner: Yeah, I am. That was the very last words of the Gates series, if you may remember. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw got the very last word in Reconstruction was an Unfinished Revolution. So I said, “Oh, look at that. That’s nice. My phrase still reverberating out there.” The funny thing is that that wasn’t the title of the book. The title of book was just Reconstruction, and the day before it finally went to the printer, my editor called me and said, “People here don’t think anyone’s going to buy that book. It needs a good subtitle. By tomorrow morning, give us a subtitle.” And I thought, “Gee whiz.” And I thought and thought and thought and suddenly this popped into my head, The Unfinished Revolution and I told it to him. So it wasn’t something that had shaped the way I wrote the book or anything like that.

Eric Foner: But anyway, yeah, it’s unfinished, and particularly, when you talk about the legal and constitutional aspects, yes. The Reconstruction put forward a whole set of ideals, a whole set of principles for our society and they weren’t fully accomplished, certainly. I want to give the impression of something that’s still ongoing, that Reconstruction is not just the dead past. It’s still happening in the sense that the issues of Reconstruction; who should be a citizen? Who should have the right to vote? How do we deal with terrorism and others? These are on our agenda today. So that debate is still unfinished.

Ed Ayers: Your new book, let’s talk about the title of it. The Second Founding. So why did United States need a second founding? What was it about the first founding that was inadequate?

Eric Foner: Well, as you well know, there’s a lot of debate among historians about exactly what the relationship between the constitution and slavery was. I don’t want to get into that right here. The abolitionist movement debated that forever, but I think we would all have to say that slavery in some form was embedded in the original constitution. We had the Fugitive Slave Clause, which required the return of those who managed to escape to freedom. We had the Three-Fifths Clause, which gave the slave South added representation in the House of Representatives by counting part of their slave population. So we needed a second founding to cleanse the constitution of slavery and to clarify issues which the constitution had left undecided.

Eric Foner: Number one, who is a citizen of the United States? One of the funny things is the constitution refers to citizens all over the place, but it never defines who is a citizen. What do you need to be to be a citizen? My view of Reconstruction, I use this phrase, a modern phrase, I didn’t use it back then, is this is regime change that’s going on. A pro-slavery regime is being replaced with what? With some kind of antislavery regime and you’ve got to rewrite the constitution in order to cleanse it of the remnants of the pro-slavery regime.

Ed Ayers: And that regime wasn’t just in the South. The whole nation was a regime based on slavery.

Eric Foner: Absolutely. That’s why Lincoln in his second inaugural address referred to it as American slavery, not Southern slavery. Lincoln always said that, that we are complicitous in the North. We don’t own slaves right now, but we are complicitous. We profit from slavery.

Ed Ayers: So as you know from out giving talks, people think that the Civil War itself ended slavery and that the 13th Amendment was just a codification of something that had already happened with the Emancipation Proclamation and so forth. So I thought that was one thing that was interesting about the Lincoln movie focusing on the 13th Amendment. So why did we need the 13th Amendment if the Civil War ended slavery?

GatewayEric Foner: Well there were still slaves on the ground when the Civil War ended, quite a few of them. People who had gotten to Union lines or where the Union Army had come and established control, yeah. Part of their job, part of the Union Army’s job once the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, was to protect the freedom that Lincoln had announced. But legally speaking, emancipation and abolition are not quite the same thing. Slavery is created by state law, not federal law, state law. States can abolish slavery as the Northern states did soon after the American Revolution, but freeing individuals does not abrogate the state laws that create slavery. That’s why Lincoln’s, even though you wouldn’t quite see this in the movie. That’s fine. It’s not a historical treatise. Lincoln’s preferred route to the end of slavery during the war was state by state abolition.

Eric Foner: Even after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he was pressing Southern states. If any of them wanted to come back in the union, they would have to abolish slavery. That’s how you get rid of slavery on the ground, by having the state laws abrogated. But that couldn’t really happen in the Civil War very much, and so by 1864, many people particularly abolitionists are saying the simpler way is just to have this constitutional amendment. That will completely abrogate slavery everywhere in the country. We won’t have to go state by state and let’s do it that way. Lincoln got onboard of course, and as the movie shows, twisted a lot of arms in January, 1865 to get some people in the House of Representatives to vote for the 13th Amendment, so to completely get rid of slavery. It’s certainly true. The war disrupted slavery. Many people fled. Some states like Maryland, a border state and Louisiana where Lincoln was trying to push a Reconstruction plan, they abolished slavery on the state level, but there were plenty of places slavery was still existing when the Civil War ended.

Ed Ayers: Well, why would Lincoln have to twist so many arms if the United States awakened to the great injustice of slavery during the war and mobilized 200000 African American men to be soldiers and sailors? Why was there still resistance to it as late as 1864 and early 1865?

Eric Foner: Yeah, well, of course the first time they tried, the 13th Amendment failed in the House of Representatives. Remember, it needs two-thirds vote in the Congress, which is often not that easy to get. The Democratic Party was still there. It was still, if not pro-slavery, it was still resistant to abolition. The border slave states, the people there were quite adamant that they didn’t, Kentucky, Maryland said they didn’t want this constitutional amendment. They were still in the union, but it took arm twisting because the 13th Amendment gets lost in the shuffle in a way. We talk about the 14th and 15th much more for complicated reasons, but the 13th Amendment was really a constitutional revolution in and of itself.

Eric Foner: Never before had the constitution been written or amended to just abrogate a whole type of property. Some of the people in Congress said, “Wait a minute. If we’re going to say this kind of property is gone, next year there’ll be demanding that we confiscate the factories of New England.” It also completely reversed the position and that was traditional, but from the constitution arm, with the ratification of the constitution arm, that this was a state matter. Now it’s a, “Forget it. I don’t care what the states want. No slavery anymore in this country, do supersede.” That is a fundamental shift of power from the states to the federal government. And then the second clause. The first clause, abolition of slavery. The second clause, Congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment. A lot of southerners, once the war is over and Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan is moving along, a lot of white Southerners say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Yeah, slavery is dead. We understand that. We’re not going to have slavery back, but this second clause seems to give Congress the right to legislate about anything they want.”

Eric Foner: How do you enforce the abolition of slavery? Do you give black people the right to vote? Yeah. People said that’s what they need if they’re going to be free. Do you give them land? That’s what African Americans wanted. In other words, it’s very open-ended. Enforcing the abolition of slavery is a very complicated idea. Unfortunately, for very complex legal reasons, it has never really been implemented. The Supreme court has barely ever used the 13th Amendment as a weapon against the racial inequality that is, of course, tied up in slavery.

Ed Ayers: Yeah, so the 13th Amendment, it’s a breakthrough in thinking about what the nation is as well as ending slavery right?

Eric Foner: Right.

Ed Ayers: Does that help explain why the 14th Amendment comes so quickly after the 13th after there have been decades, really, without constitutional change?

WhoEric Foner: Yeah. The 14th Amendment, I would say, is working out the consequences of the 13th Amendment as well as the consequences of the Civil War. I see the 14th Amendment as putting the Northern Republicans understanding of what they had achieved in the Civil War into the constitution. Some of it has something to do with race or slavery, for example, that Confederate bonds are never going to be repaid. If you patriotically loaned money to the Confederacy, forget it. You’re never getting that back. It has to do with various other things related to the war. But the first section, which is the key one, is really henceforth because of the abolition of slavery, everybody born in the United States is a citizen of the United States.

Eric Foner: You needed that because the status of citizenship was still very uncertain and then more important, all those citizens are going to enjoy the equal protection of the law. The original constitution said nothing about equality among Americans, nothing. It’s the 14th Amendment that makes the constitution as it has been in our own time, a vehicle through which all sorts of people can claim greater equality. The gay marriage decision a few years ago was a 14th Amendment decision. They weren’t thinking of gay marriage when they were writing the 14th Amendment, but they were thinking of how do you make people equal before the law?

Ed Ayers: The last amendment you talk about of course, is the 15th, which I think often tends to be seen as a footnote to the 14th but was that also a hard fought battle to create that?

Eric Foner: That was very hard fought because the principle that the states controlled the right to vote was deeply embedded North and South. There were plenty of Northern states that were nervous. In Congress, they were those who said, “We want an amendment that just says every male citizen age 21 has the right to vote.” If they had gotten that through, just think of all the trouble that would have been avoided. Even today when we’re debating voter IDs and all that, a positive statement. Now they weren’t willing to give women the right to vote and the women’s movement was very outraged by that. But Northern states, the Chinese couldn’t vote in California. Immigrants couldn’t vote on the same basis as a native born in Rhode Island. Massachusetts had a literacy test for voting. They didn’t want to give up their control of the rights. So instead of a positive amendment, it’s what you might call a negative amendment; that no state can deny anyone the right to vote because of race.

Ed Ayers: Well, it’s a work-around in a way, right? It’s-

Eric Foner: It’s a work-around and it has a serious flaw, which is any other limit on the right to vote is not prohibited right? You can have a literacy test. You can have a poll tax. When the Southern states, as you well know, took away the right to vote, they didn’t do it by saying, “Hey, black people can’t vote anymore,” because that would’ve violated the 15th Amendment. What they did was put all these other qualifications and then understanding clauses. You’ve got to prove to the registrar that you understand the state constitution, but the Supreme Court allowed this to happen. They said, “Well, look, they’re not talking about race actually. This law says nothing about race so it doesn’t violate the 15th Amendment.”

Ed Ayers: Well and there’s other parts of these amendments that have come back to haunt us in some ways. Perhaps you could talk a little bit about the clause about involuntary servitude and the 13th Amendment?

Eric Foner: That’s been highlighted a few years ago by the documentary of, the Hollywood documentary, 13th. 13th Amendment, the language is taken just about directly from the Northwest Ordinance of Thomas Jefferson, and it says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, can exist in the United States.” That criminal exemption. Now this is not a conspiracy as some people think, “Oh look. They were looking ahead to mass incarceration, to convict labor, to the exploitation of the labor.” They were hardly any prisons in 1865. There was a little bit of a history of convict labor to help pay the cost of prisons, but it wasn’t a mass system. But this little, this exemption, which was not even debated in Congress, nobody even mentioned it except Charles Sumner, the abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts. It wasn’t debated in the press. I looked through the newspapers. Nobody mentions it.

Eric Foner: It’s just boilerplate language really. But nonetheless, inadvertently, it created this loophole through which the Southern states particularly drove this Mack truck in the late 19th century of massive convict labor, either within prisons or leasing out of convicts to work in mines and plantations and on roadwork and stuff like this, under terribly oppressive conditions. The courts have persistently ruled that the 13th Amendment allows the requirement, the involuntary labor of people convicted of a crime. And then after Reconstruction, Southern states began making almost anything a felony. You steal a chicken, it’s a felony, and you’re eight years in jail and you are sent out pretty soon to labor on some guy’s plantation who has rented the labor of the prisoners from the federal government. So it’s disastrous really in Southern history later on, but it was inadvertent almost. What it shows you is people talk a lot about the original intention. Sometimes unintended consequences can be just as important as the intended consequences of an amendment.

Ed Ayers: You talked before, Eric, about the way that even though women played such a crucial role in bringing about these amendments; petitioning Congress during the war and afterwards, that they were excluded from this. How about the place of American Indians in all this? Who’s been born in this country more than American Indians? So why is that a blind spot in these laws of the post Civil War era?

Eric Foner: The legal status of Native Americans was murky, to say the least. You still had the remnants of the idea that they were not Americans. They were members of their own tribal sovereignties. People talked about the Cherokee Nation, the Choctaw Nation. You are not a citizen of the United States. You were a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Now, of course, by this time, the power of the Indian nations in most places had been broken, and it wasn’t as if you had the United States government dealing with equal nations on the other side. But the people who wrote the [inaudible 00:29:15] did not, their aim was not to make Native Americans citizens. The exemption in the 14th Amendment says, “Anybody born in the United States or naturalized coming from abroad except and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” And the idea, well Native Americans are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. They’re subject to the laws of their own national sovereignties.

ForeverEric Foner: So Indians were not citizens and it’s not until 1924 that Congress enacts a law making all Native Americans, regardless of where they are living, regardless of what tribe they in, citizens of the United States. So yeah. These amendments had exemptions, they had loopholes, they had serious flaws. Women, as you said, certainly objected to the 15th Amendment, which didn’t give them the right to vote, and the second clause of the 14th Amendment, which introduces the word male for the first time into the constitution. These measures were compromises. They were worked out after long debate and amendments and ups and downs in Congress. There’s no single mind behind the 13th, 14th or 15th Amendments. They were the result of all sorts of negotiation and controversy. Nonetheless, the basic principles are pretty clear. The abolition of slavery, the establishment of a universal notion of citizenship, despite without the native Americans and of equality among those citizens and the vast expansion of the right to vote.

Ed Ayers: And they are alive in today’s political and legal culture. What do you see as the issues that are most salient right now on either being contested or helping drive forward some kind of change?

Eric Foner: Well, sadly, yeah. Many of these issues are still unresolved and I’d have to say sadly, our Supreme Court has adopted an increasingly narrow definition of the implications of these amendments. The most notable was a few years ago in the Shelby County decision, which overturned a very important part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That’s a law passed under the 15th Amendment. It was passed with virtual unanimity in Congress, forcing jurisdictions in the South that had a long history of discrimination and voting to get prior approval from the federal government before they changed the voting rules. Supreme Court a few years ago said, “Well that’s a violation of federalism. It treats some states more harshly than other states.” Well, these are states that had slavery and not every state did. And also these are states that had consciously removed the right to vote over many years.

Eric Foner: But anyway, so their narrowing the 15th Amendment. Who should have the right to vote is a hot issue in our politics as you well know, with gerrymandering, with various ID and other voter suppression laws. Citizenship, how relevant can you be on our border today? This is being debated all the time. Who has the right to be an American citizen? For example, does the child born in the United States of a undocumented immigrant, is that child automatically an American citizen? Well, language of the 14th Amendment is pretty clear. Yes. Any person born in the United States. Your parents can be bank robbers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be a citizen of the United States. But President Trump, among other things, has said that he feels he has the right as president to abrogate the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, the birthright citizenship sentence for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Eric Foner: I don’t personally think the president can all by himself eradicate part of the constitution, but some people have tried to do that. So these issues are certainly on our political agenda today and I think an understanding of how the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were enacted, what they were intended to accomplish, can help us think through the implications of that today.

Ed Ayers: Eric Foner is professor emeritus of history at Columbia University. His latest book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. That’s going to do it for us today, but you can keep the conversation going online. Let us know what you thought of the episode or ask us your questions about history. You’ll find this at backstoryradio.org or send an email to backstory@Virginia.edu. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter at Backstory Radio. Special thanks this week to Jerry [inaudible 00:34:10] and Katie Gary.

Ed Ayers: Backstory is produced at Virginia Humanities. Major support is provided by an anonymous donor, the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial foundation, the Johns Hopkins University and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast do not necessarily represent those that the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the Tomato Fund, cultivating fresh ideas in the arts, the humanities, and the environment.

Speaker 6: Brian Balogh is professor of history at the University of Virginia. Ed Ayers is professor of the humanities and president emeritus of the University of Richmond. Joanne Freeman is professor of history and American studies at Yale University. Nathan Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams associate professor of history at the Johns Hopkins University. Backstory was created by Andrew Wyndham for Virginia Humanities.

Read Full Post »

red-summer-chicago

Chicago, 1919

Este año conmemoramos el centenario de uno de los episodios de violencia racial más vergonzosos de la historia estadounidense, el llamado Red Summer. En 1919,  se registraron en Estados Unidos 89 linchamientos y 25 motines raciales en un periodo de siete meses.  El peor de estos motines duró trece días en la ciudad de  Chicago y causó 38 muertes y 537 heridos, dejando a mil familias sin casa. El regreso de miles de veteranos negros de Europa fue visto por muchos blancos como una amenaza contra el orden racial predominante. Los veteranos negros regresaron pensando que sus sacrificios en defensa de la nación serían recompensados con un trato más justo de parte de su sociedad. Desafortunadamente, sus expectativas no se cumplieron, pues a su regreso continuaron siendo víctimas del racismo y la discriminación. Sus justos reclamos fueron respondidos con violencia.

A-white-mob-attempts-to-abduct-a-black-man

Turba de hombres blancos tratando de secuestrar a un negro.

Se desconoce el número exacto de afro-americanos que fueron asesinados durante los siete meses que se extendió la violencia en su contra. Se sospecha que fueron cientos. Tal nivel de violencia inspiró al poeta afroamericano Claude McKay su famoso poema “If We Must Die”.

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »