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Archive for the ‘Esclavitud’ Category

imagesPaco Ignacio Taibo II es un prolifero escritor mexicano que combina muy bien la ficción (especialmente, la novela negra) y la narrativa histórica. Creador del genial investigador Belascoarán Shayne, Taibo II es autor  de un número impresionante de libros donde aborda temas de historia mexicana y latinoamericana en general. Destacan dos obras biográficas monumentales: Ernesto Guevara, también conocido como el Che (1996) y  Pancho Villa: una biografía narrativa (2006), donde enfoca dos figuras claves de la historia latinoamericana del siglo XX. Con una fuerte tendencia antisistema, no debe sorprender que Taibo II haya dedicado tiempo al rescate y análisis del movimiento anarco sindicalismo español con obras como Asturias 1934 (1980), Arcángeles: doce historias de revolucionarios herejes del siglo XX (1998) y Que sean fuego las estrellas (2015).

Me acabo de leer una de sus obras de narrativa histórica: El Álamo: una historia no apta para

Taibo

Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Hollywood ( 2011) y comparto aquí mis impresiones con mis lectores. En este corto y muy bien escrito libro, Taibo II desarrolla un efectivo trabajo  de desmitificación de la batalla del Álamo. Esta enfrentamiento entre fuerzas rebeldes texanas y efectivos del ejército mexicano fue uno de los principales episodios de la llamada revolución texana de 1836. Como bien documenta Taibo II, la  derrota de los rebeldes en el Álamo se convirtió en uno de los principales mitos fundacionales estadounidenses. A los que murieron en el Álamo se les ha convertido en símbolos del excepcionalismo estadounidense; en mártires de la libertad y la democracia. Taibo deja claro que uno de los elementos claves de la rebelión texana era la defensa de la esclavitud, no de la democracia. La especulación de tierras también jugó una papel importante en la rebelión texana. El autor baja del Olimpo al que han sido ensalzados, especialmente por Hollywood y Disney, los principales personajes estadounidenses de la batalla del Álamo: William Barret Travis, Dadid Crockett y James Bowie. Los presenta tal como lo que eran: aventureros, esclavistas, malos padres, borrachos, mentirosos, etc. Taibo  II no es menos duro con sus compatriotas, describiendo la  falta de visión y de liderato que reinó entre las tropas mexicanas, especialmente, las deficiencias de su máximo líder el General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

Aquellos interesados en la rebelión texana y en especial de la batalla del Álamo, encontrarán en este libro una visión crítica y profundamente desmitificadora de tales eventos. Quienes estén interesados en investigar estos temas, encontrarán una impresionante bibliografía que incluye fuentes tanto estadounidenses como mexicanas.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 13 de abril de 2018

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La década de 1960 fue testigo de la lucha de los afro-estadounidenses  por la igualdad social y política. Tras el fin de la guerra civil, los afro-estadounidenses  disfrutaron de un corto periodo de libertad e igualdad. Durante este periodo, ciudadanos negros llegaron ser electos alcaldes, gobernadores y representantes. Sin embargo, a finales de la década de 1870, éstos habían perdido sus derechos políticos gracias al desarrollo de un sistema de segregación racial. Este sistema conocido como “Jim Crow”  creó formas para negar  o limitar el derecho al voto de los afro-estadounidenses,  además de marginarles social y económicamente. Con el fin de separar las razas, se aprobaron leyes segregando racialmente las escuelas, los parques, y hasta las fuentes de agua. Los matrimonios entre blancos y negros fueron declarados ilegales en varios estados de la Unión.

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Los afro-estadounidenses  no sólo fueron arrebatados de sus derechos políticos, segregados y marginados, sino también fueron víctimas de la violencia racial. Entre 1880 y 1920, miles de afro-estadounidenses  fueron linchados por el mero hecho de ser negros.  Durante este largo periodo, el gobierno federal dejó abandonados y sin protección a miles de sus ciudadanos negros.

En los años 1960 se dio un renacer en la lucha de los afro-estadounidenses  por el reconocimiento de sus derechos políticos y por el fin de la segregación racial. Bajo el liderato de personas como Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Rosa Parks, Huey P. Newton y Bobby Seale, los afro-estadounidenses  usaron diversos tipos de medios para luchar contra quienes les oprimían y maltrataban (boicots, marchas, resistencia pacífica, resistencia armada, etc.). El resultado de esta lucha fue el desarrollo de un vasto movimiento a favor de los derechos civiles que logró la aprobación de leyes federales protegiendo los derechos de los ciudadanos afro-estadounidenses . Sin embargo, esta lucha constituyó una verdadera revolución, pues cambió considerablemente las relaciones y actitudes raciales en los Estados Unidos.

 Martin Luther King

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Rosa Parks

Una de las figuras claves de la lucha por los derechos civiles fue un joven pastor negro llamado Martin Luther King. Nacido en Atlanta en 1929, era hijo y hermano de pastores y vivió desde muy niño la segregación racial.  En 1954,   King se convirtió, a los veinticinco años de edad, en pastor de una iglesia bautista de la ciudad Montgomery. Un año más tarde, una mujer afroamericana llamada Rosa Parks se negó a cederle su asiento en un autobús público a una persona blanca, por lo que fue arrestada por violar las leyes segregacionistas vigentes en el estado de Alabama. En respuesta, el reverendo King encabezó un boicot contra el sistema de transportación pública de Montgomery que duró más de trescientos días. En 1956, el Tribunal Supremo declaró ilegal la segregación en los autobuses, restaurantes, escuelas y otros lugares públicos, lo que marcó el fin del famoso boicot de Montgomery.

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Martin Luther King y Lyndon B. Johnson

King le dedicará los próximos trece años de su vida a la lucha por la igualdad racial por medio de marchas, boicots, bloqueos, toma de edificios, etc. Creyente en la resistencia pacífica promulgada por Henry David Thoreau y Gandhi, King rechazó el uso de la violencia y se opuso a la intervención de los Estados Unidos en la guerra de Vietnam, por lo que ganó el Premio Nobel de la Paz en 1964.

King no sólo defendió el pacifismo, sino que también optó por aliarse con los sectores liberales en busca de reformas. Para él, la integración racial era posible y necesaria. King creía que sólo el cambio pacífico a través de la colaboración con los blancos traería el cambio que los afro-estadounidenses  estaban esperando y del que eran merecedores.

Este gran líder estadounidense fue asesinado el 4 de abril de 1968 en Memphis.  Su muerte provocó fuerte disturbios raciales, pero no frenó la lucha de los afro-estadounidenses  por sus derechos civiles.

La Ley de Derechos Civiles

El asesinato de  John F. Kennedy en noviembre de 1963 ocurrió en un momento que la lucha por los derechos civiles había ganado fuerza y contaba con el apoyo del presidente asesinado. La actitud que asumiría el nuevo residente de la Casa  Blanca preocupaba a los líderes negros, pues Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) no se había caracterizado por sus simpatías hacia la lucha de los afro-estadounidenses . Por el contrario, como Senador Johnson había bloqueado legislación a favor de los derechos civiles.

Afortunadamente para los afro-estadounidenses ,  LBJ entendió que la lucha por los derechos había cambiado el panorama político estadounidense. Además, éste quería unir a los Demócratas y demostrar que era un líder nacional por lo que adoptó el tema de los derechos civiles. Johnson hizo claro que estaba dispuesta a transar y uso todo su poder e influencia para conseguir que el Congreso aprobara  una ley de derechos civiles en 1964.

La aprobación de la Ley de Derechos Civiles  es uno de los episodios más importantes en la lucha de los afro-estadounidenses  por la igualdad.  Ésta es, además, la legislación más importante aprobada en los Estados Unidos con relación al tema de los derechos civiles desde el periodo de la Reconstrucción. La ley prohíbe la discriminación en los espacios públicos, ilegaliza la discriminación en el trabajo por sexo, raza u origen nacional, prohíbe la discriminación en programas federales y  autorizaba al Departamento de Justicia a iniciar casos legales para integrar escuelas y otras dependencias públicas.

El “Black Power”

No todos los afro-estadounidenses  adoptaron el pacifismo reformista predicado por Martin Luther King. Otros reclamaron cambios sociales inmediatos y optaron por la confrontación.  Éstos manifestaron su rencor hacia la sociedad blanca que restringía y limitaba sus aspiraciones, así como también  rechazaron la resistencia pacífica, la integración  y las alianzas de King.   Cansados, frustrados y sin fe en la justicia de los blancos, estos afro-estadounidenses  demandaron la creación de un poder negro o “Black Power”,  es decir, la creación de instituciones y movimientos políticos propios que dieran forma a una agenda propia de la comunidad afroamericana. En otras palabras, los defensores del “Black Power” querían definir su destino, no depender de los blancos para ello.

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Muhamad Ali y Malcom X

El movimiento “Black Power” estuvo fuertemente influenciada por las ideas de uno de los más importantes líderes afro-estadounidenses  de la historia, Malcom X.  Nacido como Malcom Little,  éste cambió su apellido a X como un acto simbólico de repudio al pasado esclavista. Tras una temporada en la cárcel por venta de drogas, Malcom fue liberado en 1952 y se convirtió al Islam.  Malcom se unió a una agrupación musulmana afroamericana llamada la Nación del Islam que era dirigida por Elijah Muhammad.  La inteligencia y oratorio de Malcom X le convirtieron muy pronto en una de las figuras más importantes de la comunidad musulmana afroamericana.

El pensamiento de Malcom tenía una fuerte tendencia separatista y nacionalista. Éste insistía en que los negros tomaran conciencia  y se levantaran en defensa de sus derechos para así alcanzar la independencia verdadera.  Según Malcom, los negros debían estar orgullosos de su negritud y de sus raíces africanas.  Crítico acérrimo de King, Malcom insistía que los afro-estadounidenses  debían conseguir su libertad usando cualquier medio posible, incluyendo la violencia.  En 1965, Malcom abandonó la Nación del Islam y fue asesinado por tres hombres vinculados a ese movimiento.

En 1966, Huey P. Newton y Bobby Seale fundaron el Partido de las Panteras Negras, el grupo más famoso en defensa de la autodeterminación de los afro-estadounidenses . Las Panteras Negras recurrieron a la violencia y se enfrentaron a la policía y el FBI en diversas ocasiones, pero fueron encarcelados o resultaron muertos, lo que terminó destruyendo al partido.

Bobby Seale, Huey Newton

Huey P. Newton y Bobby Seale

El movimiento “Black Power” tuvo un efecto importante para los afro-estadounidenses , pues fomentó el desarrollo de organizaciones comunitarias negras independientes de los blancos, ayudó a la creación de programas universitarios dedicados al estudio de los negros estadounidenses y sirvió para movilizar política y electoralmente a los afro-estadounidenses .  Además, sirvió para promover el orgullo racial  y la autoestima de los negros.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, PhD

Lima, Perú

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download-1El 2018 Lincoln Prize ha sido sido concedido al trabajo de Edward Ayers,  The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America (W.W. Norton and Company). Este premio, que consiste de $50,000, es otorgado anualmente por  el Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History para reconocer el mejor trabajo investigativo sobre Lincoln y el periodo de la guerra civil. Ayers es un historiador estadounidense, ex Presidente de la Universidad de Richmond y miembro fundador de unos de los mejores podcast de historia estadounidense: Backstory. Ha sido merecedor tanto del Bancroft Prize como  del Beveridge Prize.

Vale mencionar a los finalistas de tan prestigioso premio:

  • Ron Chernow, Grant (Penguin Press).
  • Gordon Rhea, On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-14, 1864 (LSU Press).
  • Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock:  Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century(Harvard University Press).
  • Cate Lineberry, Be Free or Die (St. Martin’s Press).
  • Graham Peck, Making an Antislavery Nation(University of Illinois Press).
  • Adam I.P. Smith, The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics: 1846—1865 (University of North Carolina Press).

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Slavery in America: Back in the Headlines

Daina Ramey Berry

HNN  November 23, 1014

 

People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don’t. They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn’t. They talk about 400 hundred years of slavery, but it wasn’t. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn’t. Some argue it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t.

Slavery has been in the news a lot lately. Perhaps it’s because of the increase in human trafficking on American soil or the headlines about income inequality, the mass incarceration of African Americans or discussions about reparations to the descendants of slaves. Several publications have fueled these conversations: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations in The Atlantic Monthly, French economist Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century, historian Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism, and law professor Bryan A. Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

As a scholar of slavery at the University of Texas at Austin, I welcome the public debates and connections the American people are making with history. However, there are still many misconceptions about slavery.

I’ve spent my career dispelling myths about “the peculiar institution.” The goal in my courses is not to victimize one group and celebrate another. Instead, we trace the history of slavery in all its forms to make sense of the origins of wealth inequality and the roots of discrimination today. The history of slavery provides deep context to contemporary conversations and counters the distorted facts, internet hoaxes and poor scholarship I caution my students against.

Four myths about slavery

Myth One: The majority of African captives came to what became the United States.

Truth: Only 380,000 or 4-6% came to the United States. The majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean. A significant number of enslaved Africans arrived in the American colonies by way of the Caribbean where they were “seasoned” and mentored into slave life. They spent months or years recovering from the harsh realities of the Middle Passage. Once they were forcibly accustomed to slave labor, many were then brought to plantations on American soil.

Myth Two: Slavery lasted for 400 years.

Popular culture is rich with references to 400 years of oppression. There seems to be confusion between the Transatlantic Slave Trade (1440-1888) and the institution of slavery, confusion only reinforced by the Bible, Genesis 15:13:

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

Listen to Lupe Fiasco – just one Hip Hop artist to refer to the 400 years – in his 2011 imagining of America without slavery, “All Black Everything”:

[Hook]

You would never know

If you could ever be

If you never try

You would never see

Stayed in Africa

We ain’t never leave

So there were no slaves in our history

Were no slave ships, were no misery, call me crazy, or isn’t he

See I fell asleep and I had a dream, it was all black everything

[Verse 1]

Uh, and we ain’t get exploited

White man ain’t feared so he did not destroy it

We ain’t work for free, see they had to employ it

Built it up together so we equally appointed

First 400 years, see we actually enjoyed it

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A plantation owner with his slaves. (National Media Museum from UK)

Truth: Slavery was not unique to the United States; it is a part of almost every nation’s history from Greek and Roman civilizations to contemporary forms of human trafficking. The American part of the story lasted fewer than 400 years.

How do we calculate it? Most historians use 1619 as a starting point: 20 Africans referred to as ”servants” arrived in Jamestown, VA on a Dutch ship. It’s important to note, however, that they were not the first Africans on American soil. Africans first arrived in America in the late 16th century not as slaves but as explorers together with Spanish and Portuguese explorers. One of the best known of these African “conquistadors” was Estevancio who traveled throughout the southeast from present day Florida to Texas. As far as the institution of chattel slavery – the treatment of slaves as property – in the United States, if we use 1619 as the beginning and the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment as its end then it lasted 246 years, not 400.

Myth Three: All Southerners owned slaves.

Truth: Roughly 25% of all southerners owned slaves. The fact that one quarter of the Southern population were slaveholders is still shocking to many. This truth brings historical insight to modern conversations about the Occupy Movement, its challenge to the inequality gap and its slogan “we are the 99%.”

Take the case of Texas. When it established statehood, the Lone Star State had a shorter period of Anglo-American chattel slavery than other Southern states – only 1845 to 1865 – because Spain and Mexico had occupied the region for almost one half of the 19th century with policies that either abolished or limited slavery. Still, the number of people impacted by wealth and income inequality is staggering. By 1860, the Texas enslaved population was 182,566, but slaveholders represented 27% of the population, controlled 68% of the government positions and 73% of the wealth. Shocking figures but today’s income gap in Texas is arguably more stark with 10% of tax filers taking home 50% of the income.

Myth Four: Slavery was a long time ago.

Truth: African-Americans have been free in this country for less time than they were enslaved. Do the math: Blacks have been free for 149 years which means that most Americans are two to three generations removed from slavery. However, former slaveholding families have built their legacies on the institution and generated wealth that African-Americans have not been privy to because enslaved labor was forced; segregation maintained wealth disparities; and overt and covert discrimination limited African-American recovery efforts.

The value of slaves

Economists and historians have examined detailed aspects of the enslaved experience for as long as slavery existed. Recent publications related to slavery and capitalism explore economic aspects of cotton production and offer commentary on the amount of wealth generated from enslaved labor.

My own work enters this conversation looking at the value of individual slaves and the ways enslaved people responded to being treated as a commodity. They were bought and sold just like we sell cars and cattle today. They were gifted, deeded and mortgaged the same way we sell houses today. They were itemized and insured the same way we manage our assets and protect our valuables.

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Extensive Sale of Choice Slaves, New Orleans 1859, Girardey, C.E. (Natchez Trace Collection, Broadside Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History)

Extensive Sale of Choice Slaves, New Orleans 1859, Girardey, C.E.

(Natchez Trace Collection, Broadside Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History)

Enslaved people were valued at every stage of their lives, from before birth until after death. Slaveholders examined women for their fertility and projected the value of their “future increase.” As they grew up, enslavers assessed their value through a rating system that quantified their work. An “A1 Prime hand” represented one term used for a “first rate” slave who could do the most work in a given day. Their values decreased on a quarter scale from three-fourths hands to one-fourth hands, to a rate of zero, which was typically reserved for elderly or differently abled bondpeople (another term for slaves.)

Guy and Andrew, two prime males sold at the largest auction in US History in 1859, commanded different prices. Although similar in “all marketable points in size, age, and skill,” Guy commanded $1240 while Andrew sold for $1040 because “he had lost his right eye.” A reporter from the New York Tribune noted “that the market value of the right eye in the Southern country is $240.” Enslaved bodies were reduced to monetary values assessed from year to year and sometimes from month to month for their entire lifespan and beyond. By today’s standards, Andrew and Guy would be worth about $33,000-$40,000.

Slavery was an extremely diverse economic institution; one that extrapolated unpaid labor out of people in a variety of settings from small single crop farms and plantations to urban universities. This diversity is also reflected in their prices. Enslaved people understood they were treated as commodities.

“I was sold away from mammy at three years old,” recalled Harriett Hill of Georgia. “I remembers it! It lack selling a calf from the cow,” she shared in a 1930s interview with the Works Progress Administration. “We are human beings” she told her interviewer. Those in bondage understood their status. Even though Harriet Hill “was too little to remember her price when she was three, she recalled being sold for $1400 at age 9 or 10, “I never could forget it.”

Slavery in popular culture

Slavery is part and parcel of American popular culture but for more than 30 years the television mini-series Roots was the primary visual representation of the institution except for a handful of independent (and not widely known) films such as Haile Gerima’s Sankofa or the Brazilian Quilombo. Today Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is a box office success, actress Azia Mira Dungey has a popular web series called Ask a Slave, and in Cash Crop sculptor Stephen Hayes compares the slave ships of the 18th century with third world sweatshops.

From the serious – PBS’s award-winning Many Rivers to Cross – and the interactive Slave Dwelling Project- whereby school aged children spend the night in slave cabins – to the comic at Saturday Night Live, slavery is today front and center.

The elephant that sits at the center of our history is coming into focus. American slavery happened — we are still living with its consequences.

Daina Ramey Berry, Ph.D. is an associate professor of history and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a Public Voices Fellow, author and award–winning editor of three books, currently at work on book about slave prices in the United States funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Follow her on Twitter: @lbofflesh. This articles was first published by Not Even Past.

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A Forgotten Stage of the Atlantic Slave Trade

by Gregory E. O’Malley 

HNN September 21, 2014

156926-FPJOn January 9, 1786, thirty-five “Men, Women, boys and Girls” from Angola climbed aboard a small brig in Kingston’s busy harbor and returned to sea. They had recently survived an Atlantic crossing to Jamaica with hundreds of other captives, but the vagaries of the Atlantic slave market split them off for another voyage. Embarking on this second ocean passage, the smaller group of captives climbed aboard a much smaller vessel, called Mars. The crew also packed the hold with goods, so the Angolans maneuvered around barrels of rum, sugar, and pimento.

The observant among them gleaned from the sun or stars that this new voyage carried them north, instead of west. They surely noticed a change in the weather. Winter gripped North America, and even in Georgia that January, locals remarked at “the severity of it.” The Mars rocked and thrashed in violent waves whipped up by storms out of the northeast. Frigid rains and high seas drenched the deck with water that dripped and sloshed into the hold. Contrary winds caused an unexpectedly “long passage.” Provisions ran low.

The crew headed for the nearest harbor, but one of the Angolan women succumbed to cold or hunger and “died two days before [the Mars] got into port.” Mercifully, the other thirty-four prisoners survived to reach Savannah, Georgia—probably unaware that their intended destination had been a place called Charleston, farther up the coast. The merchant in charge of selling the survivors perceived them as “a very slight made People,” probably because their passage from Jamaica on short rations made them appear so. One man died “a few days after they arrived.” The others recovered enough for sale into American slavery, but it would eight months after sailing from Jamaica before the last of them sold.

As typically told, the story of the Atlantic slave trade ends after the ocean crossing. A transatlantic slave ship glides into an American port, planters flock to an auction on the pier, and enslaved people presumably march with new owners to nearby plantations. Slave trade histories usually end with such a sale, but for hundreds of thousands of enslaved African people the journey did not end there. Labor-hungry plantation owners were not the only buyers of weary survivors of the Middle Passage; merchant speculators sought human commodities as well.

Port records, merchant papers, and imperial correspondence all suggest that a thriving intercolonial slave trade dispersed as many as a quarter of the African people who arrived in the New World, extending their dangerous journeys to American plantations. Such “final passages,” after the Atlantic crossing, occurred for a variety of reasons. Some colonial markets were too small to attract vessels directly from Africa with hundreds of slaves, but could be profitably targeted by intercolonial traders with a few enslaved people and an assortment of goods; some European empires enjoyed stronger trading positions in Africa than others, creating supply and price discrepancies across imperial borders in the Americas, setting the stage for smuggling; some important sites of American slavery were inland, requiring overland distribution after the Middle Passage. Whatever the reasons, colonial port records document more than seven thousand such shipments originating in British American colonies alone. Thousands more ventures surely occurred—in other regions and in periods not covered by surviving records.

Despite the vast scale of such intercolonial trafficking, historians have been slow to recognize and examine it, a blind spot especially pronounced for the British Atlantic. The oversight may stem partly from the long shadow that Philip Curtin cast on the field. His path-breaking book, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (1969), was framed by a simple and straightforward question: Just how many African people crossed the Atlantic in the slave trade? That question (and his attempt to answer it by synthesizing regional estimates from the extant secondary scholarship) was an essential starting point for slave trade studies. But in some ways, Curtin’s focus on quantifying the transatlantic migration circumscribed the field—in ways both obvious and more surprising. – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/156926#sthash.K6rDShzB.dpuf

Most straightforward, for decades after Curtin’s book appeared, slave trade scholars focused on the so-called “numbers game,” with one scholar after another revising Curtin’s estimates. Some used census records and demographic modeling; others counted the captives in port records and shipping returns. Such efforts culminated in Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database (www.slavevoyages.org), spearheaded by David Eltis, which seeks to document each individual voyage that carried Africans across the Atlantic. It is a prodigious work that documents more than 35,000 slave-trading ventures. The database improves our knowledge of the trade’s scale, organization, and mortality, and it stands as a monument to scholarly collaboration, with dozens of researchers contributing data. Despite these virtues, however, the database is limited to voyages that crossed the Atlantic—omitting the intercolonial trade—perhaps because that is how Curtin framed the question that launched the field.

More surprising perhaps, critics of such quantitative study have also focused on the Atlantic crossing at the expense of other phases of the trade. In recent years, a rich historiography has called for moving beyond the counting of enslaved people crossing the Atlantic to achieve a more humanizing portrayal—one that reckons more with what enslaved migrants endured, how they understood their journeys, and what cultures they carried with them. Marcus Rediker’s The Slave Ship: A Human History (2008) and Stephanie Smallwood’s Saltwater Slavery (2009), for example, focus explicitly on lived experiences aboard slave ships, on putting a human face on the millions of people who had been counted by other slave trade scholars. Yet these works, too, stop after the Atlantic crossing. They describe the infamous Middle Passage, but do not examine the networks of dispersal that forced beleaguered men and women onward—from Barbados to Savannah, from Jamaica to Panama, or from Charleston to the North American backcountry.

Yet hundreds of thousands of enslaved people did move on. Weary, often ill, angry, and often terrified, they arrived in a first American port only to be purchased by intercolonial speculators. American traders bought enslaved people in one port for transshipment to another, adding additional weeks and new dangers to the voyages of captives. Mortality in this intercolonial trade was devastating for people already debilitated by the Middle Passage. Furthermore, dispersal after the Atlantic crossing often separated transatlantic shipmates who shared language, culture, or even ties of kinship. And the importance of such intra-American trafficking extends beyond the devastating experiences of captives. The intercolonial slave trade spread the institution of slavery to new colonies and helped colonial merchants elaborate their trade networks. Many general traders in the Americas (and imperial policymakers) saw such slave trading as vital to opening a broader business with new customers, entangling the profits of slave trading with all manner of other commerce.

There is a certain irony to slave trade scholars focusing only on the Atlantic crossing—an irony captured in the phrase used to describe that journey. For most twenty-first-century readers, “Middle Passage” conjures thoughts of the horrific experiences of African captives in their forced Atlantic crossings, but the voyage was termed “middle” to reflect European, not African, experience. For European traders the transatlantic voyage typically formed the second leg of a three-part journey: a first passage, from Europe to Africa with trade goods; a “middle” passage, from Africa to America with slaves; and a third voyage, from America back to Europe with colonial staples. This “triangle” trade gave the Middle Passage its name. Despite these Eurocentric origins, scholars have claimed the term for the slave trade’s victims. But ironically, “Middle Passage” actually fits the experiences of African migrants better than most scholars have realized. The journeys of enslaved Africans did not begin at their ports of embarkation for the ocean crossing, nor did they end when transatlantic vessels reached the Americas. Instead, people often fell into slavery deep in the African interior, facing a first passage to the Atlantic coast; likewise, many enslaved people spread outward after the Middle Passage, often settling hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their first American landfall. Understanding the African migration experience—and the full profits of slave trading—requires reckoning with these final passages after the Atlantic crossing.

Gregory E. O’Malley is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the author of “Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807” (2014

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La Universidad de Columbia acaba de dar acceso gratuito a los cursos “online” (MOOC) del historiador norteamericano Eric Foner. Autor de obras imprescindibles como Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877  (1988) y The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2011), Foner es uno de los grandes analistas de la guerra civil norteamericana y del periodo de la Reconstrucción.

Columbia University Releases Eric Foner’s Civil War MOOCs. It’s Free! 

HNN  September 17, 2014

Free history courses to reach educators and students worldwide, expanding Columbia’s online teaching initiatives

NEW YORK, New York, September 11, 2014 — Columbia University’s Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) today announced the release of three new online courses on edX: The Civil War and Reconstruction. Eric Foner, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian and Columbia University’s DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, teaches this three-part massive open online course (MOOC). On Wednesday, September 17, the first course launches – the series is free and accessible to anyone anywhere with an Internet connection, including K-12 educators and students.

The new history series, the first humanities course offering by Columbia on edX, is an open learning experience spread out over weeks of stimulating lectures, interactive assignments, and community discussions. The entire series is 27 weeks long and challenges students to examine the politics of history and investigate themes that are still very present in our national dialogue – the balance of power between local and national authority, the boundaries of citizenship, and the meaning of freedom and equality.

“We are delighted that Eric Foner is kicking off Columbia’s involvement with the edX platform,” said Columbia University Provost John H. Coatsworth. “His course series on the Civil War will highlight one of our finest teachers while providing students around the world with a window on to the outstanding humanities instruction for which Columbia is known.”

The three online courses are:

1. A House Divided: The Road to Civil War, 1850-1861 – 10 weeks, beginning September 17

2. A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865 – 8 weeks, beginning December 1

3. The Unfinished Revolution: Reconstruction and After, 1865-1890 – 9 weeks, beginning February 25

The series trailer is online here:

“Recent events have underscored the fact that our society is still grappling with the long-term legacies of slavery and the failure of Reconstruction, so this history is especially pertinent today” said Professor Foner.

“If you want to know where the world you’re living in came from,” Foner tells us in the trailer, “you need to know about the Civil War era.”

“The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning is thrilled to see Eric Foner‘s work published this way,” said CCNMTL director Maurice Matiz. “Besides having a great interest in getting those connected to Columbia during Foner’s long career —our alumni— access to the course, we are also hoping that the course will have broad appeal given the public interest in this key period of our history.”

“We are honored to work with Eric Foner on his first MOOC, “The Civil War and Reconstruction,” and to help history-lovers everywhere connect with this prominent historian to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of our shared past and society today,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

This MOOC series is also registered as an XSeries on edX, giving learners the opportunity to sign up and receive a verified certificate of achievement that authenticates their successful completion of each course.

Visit ColumbiaX here.

In addition, the lecture videos from the entire course will be published on CCNMTL’s YouTube channel.

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We still lie about slavery: Here’s the truth about how the American economy and power were built on forced migration and torture

Edward E. Baptist

Salon.com  September 7, 2014

We still lie about slavery: Here's the truth about how the American economy and power were built on forced migration and torture

The Shores family, near Westerville, Neb., in 1887. Jerry Shores was one of a number of former slaves to settle in Custer County. (Credit: AP/Solomon D. Butcher)

1937

A beautiful late April day, seventy-two years after slavery ended in the United States. Claude Anderson parks his car on the side of Holbrook Street in Danville. On the porch of number 513, he rearranges the notepads under his arm. Releasing his breath in a rush of decision, he steps up to the door of the handmade house and knocks.

Danville is on the western edge of the Virginia Piedmont. Back in 1865, it had been the last capital of the Confederacy. Or so Jefferson Davis had proclaimed on April 3, after he fled Richmond. Davis stayed a week, but then he had to keep running. The blue-coated soldiers of the Army of the Potomac were hot on his trail. When they got to Danville, they didn’t find the fugitive rebel. But they did discover hundreds of Union prisoners of war locked in the tobacco warehouses downtown. The bluecoats, rescuers and rescued, formed up and paraded through town. Pouring into the streets around them, dancing and singing, came thousands of African Americans. They had been prisoners for far longer.

In the decades after the jubilee year of 1865, Danville, like many other southern villages, had become a cotton factory town. Anderson, an African-American master’s student from Hampton University, would not have been able to work at the segregated mill. But the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a bureau of the federal government created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, would hire him. To put people back to work after they had lost their jobs in the Great Depression, the WPA organized thousands of projects, hiring construction workers to build schools and artists to paint murals. And many writers and students were hired to interview older Americans—like Lorenzo Ivy, the man painfully shuffling across the pine board floor to answer Anderson’s knock.

Anderson had found Ivy’s name in the Hampton University archives, two hundred miles east of Danville. Back in 1850, when Lorenzo had been born in Danville, there was neither a university nor a city called Hampton—just an American fort named after a slaveholder president. Fortress Monroe stood on Old Point Comfort, a narrow triangle of land that divided the Chesapeake Bay from the James River. Long before the fort was built, in April 1607, the Susan Constant had sailed past the point with a boatload of English settlers. Anchoring a few miles upriver, they had founded Jamestown, the first permanent English- speaking settlement in North America. Twelve years later, the crews of two storm-damaged English privateers also passed, seeking shelter and a place to sell the twenty- odd enslaved Africans (captured from a Portuguese slaver) lying shackled in their holds.

After that first 1619 shipload, some 100,000 more enslaved Africans would sail upriver past Old Point Comfort. Lying in chains in the holds of slave ships, they could not see the land until they were brought up on deck to be sold. After the legal Atlantic slave trade to the United States ended in 1807, hundreds of thousands more enslaved people passed the point. Now they were going the other way, boarding ships at Richmond, the biggest eastern center of the internal slave trade, to go by sea to the Mississippi Valley.

By the time a dark night came in late May 1861, the moon had waxed and waned three thousand times over slavery in the South. To protect slavery, Virginia had just seceded from the United States, choosing a side at last after six months of indecision in the wake of South Carolina’s rude exit from the Union. Fortress Monroe, built to protect the James River from ocean- borne invaders, became the Union’s last toehold in eastern Virginia. Rebel troops entrenched themselves athwart the fort’s landward approaches. Local planters, including one Charles Mallory, detailed enslaved men to build berms to shelter the besiegers’ cannon. But late this night, Union sentries on the fort’s seaward side saw a small skiff emerging slowly from the darkness. Frank Baker and Townshend rowed with muffled oars. Sheppard Mallory held the tiller. They were setting themselves free.

A few days later, Charles Mallory showed up at the gates of the Union fort. He demanded that the commanding federal officer, Benjamin Butler, return his property. Butler, a politician from Massachusetts, was an incompetent battlefield commander, but a clever lawyer. He replied that if the men were Mallory’s property, and he was using them to wage war against the US government, then logically the men were therefore contraband of war.

Those first three “contrabands” struck a crack in slavery’s centuries-old wall. Over the next four years, hundreds of thousands more enslaved people widened the crack into a gaping breach by escaping to Union lines. Their movement weakened the Confederate war effort and made it easier for the United States and its president to avow mass emancipation as a tool of war. Eventually the Union Army began to welcome formerly enslaved men into its ranks, turning refugee camps into recruiting stations—and those African-American soldiers would make the difference between victory and defeat for the North, which by late 1863 was exhausted and uncertain.

After the war, Union officer Samuel Armstrong organized literacy programs that had sprung up in the refugee camp at Old Point Comfort to form Hampton Institute. In 1875, Lorenzo Ivy traveled down to study there, on the ground zero of African- American history. At Hampton, he acquired an education that enabled him to return to Danville as a trained schoolteacher. He educated generations of African-American children. He built the house on Holbrook Street with his own Hampton-trained hands, and there he sheltered his father, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his nieces and nephews. In April 1937, Ivy opened the door he’d made with hands and saw and plane, and it swung clear for Claude Anderson without rubbing the frame.

Anderson’s notepads, however, were accumulating evidence of two very different stories of the American past—halves that did not fit together neatly. And he was about to hear more. Somewhere in the midst of the notepads was a typed list of questions supplied by the WPA. Questions often reveal the desired answer. By the 1930s, most white Americans had been demanding for decades that they hear only a sanitized version of the past into which Lorenzo Ivy had been born. This might seem strange. In the middle of the nineteenth century, white Americans had gone to war with each other over the future of slavery in their country, and slavery had lost. Indeed, for a few years after 1865, many white northerners celebrated emancipation as one of their collective triumphs. Yet whites’ belief in the emancipation made permanent by the Thirteenth Amendment, much less in the race- neutral citizenship that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments had written into the Constitution, was never that deep. Many northerners had only supported Benjamin Butler and Abraham Lincoln’s moves against slavery because they hated the arrogance of slaveholders like Charles Mallory. And after 1876, northern allies abandoned southern black voters.

Within half a century after Butler sent Charles Mallory away from Fortress Monroe empty-handed, the children of white Union and Confederate soldiers united against African-American political and civil equality. This compact of white supremacy enabled southern whites to impose Jim Crow segregation on public space, disfranchise African- American citizens by barring them from the polls, and use the lynch- mob noose to enforce black compliance. White Americans imposed increased white supremacy outside the South, too. In non- Confederate states, many restaurants wouldn’t serve black customers. Stores and factories refused to hire African Americans. Hundreds of midwestern communities forcibly evicted African-American residents and became “sundown towns” (“Don’t let the sun set on you in this town”). Most whites, meanwhile, believed that science proved that there were biologically distinct human races, and that Europeans were members of the superior one. Anglo- Americans even believed that they were distinct from and superior to the Jews from Russia, Italians, Greeks, Slavs, and others who flooded Ellis Island and changed the culture of northern urban centers.

By the early twentieth century, America’s first generation of professional historians were justifying the exclusions of Jim Crow and disfranchisement by telling a story about the nation’s past of slavery and civil war that seemed to confirm, for many white Americans, that white supremacy was just and necessary. Above all, the historians of a reunified white nation insisted that slavery was a premodern institution that was not committed to profit-seeking. In so doing, historians were to some extent only repeating pre–Civil War debates: abolitionists had depicted slavery not only as a psychopathic realm of whipping, rape, and family separation, but also as a flawed economic system that was inherently less efficient than the free- labor capitalism developing in the North. Proslavery writers disagreed about the psychopathy, but by the 1850s they agreed that enslavers were first and foremost not profit-seekers. For them, planters were caring masters who considered their slaves to be inferior family members. So although anti- and proslavery conclusions about slavery’s morality were different, their premises about slavery-as- a-business model matched. Both agreed that slavery was inherently unprofitable. It was an old, static system that belonged to an earlier time. Slave labor was inefficient to begin with, slave productivity did not increase to keep pace with industrialization, and enslavers did not act like modern profit- seeking businessmen. As a system, slavery had never adapted or changed to thrive in the new industrial economy—let alone to play a premier role as a driver of economic expansion—and had been little more than a drag on the explosive growth that had built the modern United States. In fact, during the Civil War, northerners were so convinced of these points that they believed that shifting from slave labor to free labor would dramatically increase cotton productivity.

It didn’t. But even though the data of declining productivity over the ensuing three score and ten years suggested that slavery might have been the most efficient way to produce the world’s most important crop, no one let empirical tests change their minds. Instead, historians of Woodrow Wilson’s generation imprinted the stamp of academic research on the idea that slavery was separate from the great economic and social transformations of the Western world during the nineteenth century. After all, it did not rely upon ever-more efficient machine labor. Its unprofitable economic structures supposedly produced antique social arrangements, and the industrializing, urbanizing world looked back toward them with contempt—or, increasingly, nostalgia. Many whites, now proclaiming that science proved that people of African descent were intellectually inferior and congenitally prone to criminal behavior, looked wistfully to a past when African Americans had been governed with whips and chains. Granted, slavery as an economic system was not modern, they said, and had neither changed to adapt to the modern economy nor contributed to economic expansion. But to an openly racist historical profession—and a white history- reading, history-thinking public obsessed with all kinds of race control—the white South’s desire to whitewash slavery in the past, and maintain segregation now and forever, served the purpose of validating control over supposedly premodern, semi-savage black people.

Such stories about slavery shaped the questions Claude Anderson was to ask in the 1930s, because you could find openly racist versions of it baked into the recipe of every American textbook. You could find it in popular novels, politicians’ speeches, plantation-nostalgia advertising, and even the first blockbuster American film: Birth of a Nation. As president, Woodrow Wilson—a southern-born history professor—called this paean to white supremacy “history written with lightning,” and screened it at the White House. Such ideas became soaked into the way America publicly depicted slavery. Even many of those who believed that they rejected overt racism depicted the era before emancipation as a plantation idyll of happy slaves and paternalist masters. Abolitionists were snakes in the garden, responsible for a Civil War in which hundreds of thousands of white people died. Maybe the end of slavery had to come for the South to achieve economic modernity, but it didn’t have to come that way, they said.

The way that Americans remember slavery has changed dramatically since then. In tandem with widespread desegregation of public spaces and the assertion of black cultural power in the years between World War II and the 1990s came a new understanding of the experience of slavery. No longer did academic historians describe slavery as a school in which patient masters and mistresses trained irresponsible savages for futures of perpetual servitude. Slavery’s denial of rights now prefigured Jim Crow, while enslaved people’s resistance predicted the collective self-assertion that developed into first the civil rights movement and later, Black Power.

But perhaps the changes were not so great as they seemed on the surface. The focus on showing African Americans as assertive rebels, for instance, implied an uncomfortable corollary. If one should be impressed by those who rebelled, because they resisted, one should not be proud of those who did not. And there were very few rebellions in the history of slavery in the United States. Some scholars tried to backfill against this quandary by arguing that all African Americans together created a culture of resistance, especially in slave quarters and other spaces outside of white observation. Yet the insistence that assertive resistance undermined enslavers’ power, and a focus on the development of an independent black culture, led some to believe that enslaved people actually managed to prevent whites from successfully exploiting their labor. This idea, in turn, created a quasi-symmetry with post–Civil War plantation memoirs that portrayed gentle masters, who maintained slavery as a nonprofit endeavor aimed at civilizing Africans.

Thus, even after historians of the civil rights, Black Power, and multicultural eras rewrote segregationists’ stories about gentlemen and belles and grateful darkies, historians were still telling the half that has ever been told. For some fundamental assumptions about the history of slavery and the history of the United States remain strangely unchanged. The first major assumption is that, as an economic system—a way of producing and trading commodities—American slavery was fundamentally different from the rest of the modern economy and separate from it. Stories about industrialization emphasize white immigrants and clever inventors, but they leave out cotton fields and slave labor. This perspective implies not only that slavery didn’t change, but that slavery and enslaved African Americans had little long-term influence on the rise of the United States during the nineteenth century, a period in which the nation went from being a minor European trading partner to becoming the world’s largest economy—one of the central stories of American history.

The second major assumption is that slavery in the United States was fundamentally in contradiction with the political and economic systems of the liberal republic, and that inevitably that contradiction would be resolved in favor of the free-labor North. Sooner or later, slavery would have ended by the operation of historical forces; thus, slavery is a story without suspense. And a story with a predetermined outcome isn’t a story at all.

Third, the worst thing about slavery as an experience, one is told, was that it denied enslaved African Americans the liberal rights and liberal subjectivity of modern citizens. It did those things as a matter of course, and as injustice, that denial ranks with the greatest in modern history. But slavery also killed people, in large numbers. From those who survived, it stole everything. Yet the massive and cruel engineering required to rip a million people from their homes, brutally drive them to new, disease-ridden places, and make them live in terror and hunger as they continually built and rebuilt a commodity-generating empire—this vanished in the story of a slavery that was supposedly focused primarily not on producing profit but on maintaining its status as a quasi-feudal elite, or producing modern ideas about race in order to maintain white unity and elite power. And once the violence of slavery was minimized, another voice could whisper, saying that African Americans, both before and after emancipation, were denied the rights of citizens because they would not fight for them.

All these assumptions lead to still more implications, ones that shape attitudes, identities, and debates about policy. If slavery was outside of US history, for instance—if indeed it was a drag and not a rocket booster to American economic growth—then slavery was not implicated in US growth, success, power, and wealth. Therefore none of the massive quantities of wealth and treasure piled by that economic growth is owed to African Americans. Ideas about slavery’s history determine the ways in which Americans hope to resolve the long contradiction between the claims of the United States to be a nation of freedom and opportunity, on the one hand, and, on the other, the unfreedom, the unequal treatment, and the opportunity denied that for most of American history have been the reality faced by people of African descent. Surely, if the worst thing about slavery was that it denied African Americans the liberal rights of the citizen, one must merely offer them the title of citizen—even elect one of them president—to make amends. Then the issue will be put to rest forever.

Slavery’s story gets told in ways that reinforce all these assumptions. Textbooks segregate twenty-five decades of enslavement into one chapter, painting a static picture. Millions of people each year visit plantation homes where guides blather on about furniture and silverware. As sites, such homes hide the real purpose of these places, which was to make African Americans toil under the hot sun for the profit of the rest of the world. All this is the “symbolic annihilation” of enslaved people, as two scholars of those weird places put it.2 Meanwhile, at other points we tell slavery’s story by heaping praise on those who escaped it through flight or death in rebellion, leaving the listener to wonder if those who didn’t flee or die somehow “accepted” slavery. And everyone who teaches about slavery knows a little dirty secret that reveals historians’ collective failure: many African-American students struggle with a sense of shame that most of their ancestors could not escape the suffering they experienced.

The truth can set us free, if we can find the right questions. But back in the little house in Danville, Anderson was reading from a list of leading ones, designed by white officials—some well- meaning, some not so well-meaning. He surely felt how the gravity of the questions pulled him toward the planet of plantation nostalgia. “Did slaves mind being called ‘nigger’?” “What did slaves call master or mistress?” “Have you been happier in slavery or free?” “Was the mansion house pretty?” Escaping from chains is very difficult, however, so Anderson dutifully asked the prescribed questions and poised his pencil to take notes.

Ivy listened politely. He sat still. Then he began to speak: “My mother’s master was named William Tunstall. He was a mean man. There was only one good thing he did, and I don’t reckon he intended to do that. He sold our family to my father’s master George H. Gilman.”

Perhaps the wind blowing through the window changed as a cloud moved across the spring sun: “Old Tunstall caught the ‘cotton fever.’ There was a fever going round, leastways it was like a fever. Everyone was dying to get down south and grow cotton to sell. So old Tunstall separated families right and left. He took two of my aunts and left their husbands up here, and he separated altogether seven husbands and wives. One woman had twelve children. Yessir. Took ‘em all down south with him to Georgia and Alabama.”

Pervasive separations. Tears carving lines on faces. Lorenzo remembered his relief at dodging the worst, but he also remembered knowing that it was just a lucky break. Next time it could’ve been his mother. No white person was reliable, because money drove their decisions. No, this wasn’t the story the books told.

So Anderson moved to the next question. Did Ivy know if any slaves had been sold here? Now, perhaps, the room grew darker.

For more than a century, white people in the United States had been singling out slave traders as an exception: unscrupulous lower-class outsiders who pried apart paternalist bonds. Scapegoaters had a noble precedent. In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson tried to blame King George III for using the Atlantic slave trade to impose slavery on the colonies. In historians’ tellings, the 1808 abolition of the Atlantic trade brought stability to slavery, ringing in the “Old South,” as it has been called since before the Civil War. Of course, one might wonder how something that was brand new, created after a revolution, and growing more rapidly than any other commodity-producing economy in history before then could be considered “old.” But never mind. Historians depicted slave trading after 1808 as irrelevant to what slavery was in the “Old South,” and to how America as a whole was shaped. America’s modernization was about entrepreneurs, creativity, invention, markets, movement, and change. Slavery was not about any of these things—not about slave trading, or moving people away from everyone they knew in order to make them make cotton. Therefore, modern America and slavery had nothing to do with each other.

But Ivy spilled out a rush of very different words. “They sold slaves here and everywhere. I’ve seen droves of Negroes brought in here on foot going South to be sold. Each one of them had an old tow sack on his back with everything he’s got in it. Over the hills they came in lines reaching as far as the eye can see. They walked in double lines chained together by twos. They walk ‘em here to the railroad and shipped ’em south like cattle.”

Then Lorenzo Ivy said this: “Truly, son, the half has never been told.”

To this, day, it still has not. For the other half is the story of how slavery changed and moved and grew over time: Lorenzo Ivy’s time, and that of his parents and grandparents. In the span of a single lifetime after the 1780s, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out plantations to a subcontinental empire. Entrepreneurial enslavers moved more than 1 million enslaved people, by force, from the communities that survivors of the slave trade from Africa had built in the South and in the West to vast territories that were seized—also by force—from their Native American inhabitants. From 1783 at the end of the American Revolution to 1861, the number of slaves in the United States increased five times over, and all this expansion produced a powerful nation. For white enslavers were able to force enslaved African-American migrants to pick cotton faster and more efficiently than free people. Their practices rapidly transformed the southern states into the dominant force in the global cotton market, and cotton was the world’s most widely traded commodity at the time, as it was the key raw material during the first century of the industrial revolution. The returns from cotton monopoly powered the modernization of the rest of the American economy, and by the time of the Civil War, the United States had become the second nation to undergo large-scale industrialization. In fact, slavery’s expansion shaped every crucial aspect of the economy and politics of the new nation—not only increasing its power and size, but also, eventually, dividing US politics, differentiating regional identities and interests, and helping to make civil war possible.

The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth. And that truth was the half of the story that survived mostly in the custodianship of those who survived slavery’s expansion—whether they had been taken over the hill, or left behind. Forced migration had shaped their lives, and also had shaped what they thought about their lives and the wider history in which they were enmeshed. Even as they struggled to stay alive in the midst of disruption, they created ways to talk about this half untold. But what survivors experienced, analyzed, and named was a slavery that didn’t fit the comfortable boxes into which other Americans have been trying to fit it ever since it ended.

I read Lorenzo Ivy’s words, and they left me uneasy. I sensed that the true narrative had been left out of history—not only American history in general, but even the history of slavery. I began to look actively for the other half of the story, the one about how slavery constantly grew, changed, and reshaped the modern world. Of how it was both modernizing and modern, and what that meant for the people who lived through its incredible expansion. Once I began to look, I discovered that the traces of the other half were everywhere. The debris of cotton fevers that infected white entrepreneurs and separated man and woman, parent and child, right and left, dusted every set of pre–Civil War letters, newspapers, and court documents. Most of all, the half not told ran like a layer of iridium left by a dinosaur- killing asteroid through every piece of testimony that ex- slaves, such as Lorenzo Ivy, left on the historical record: thousands of stanzas of an epic of forced separations, violence, and new kinds of labor.

For a long time I wasn’t sure how to tell the story of this muscular, dynamic process in a single book. The most difficult challenge was simply the fact that the expansion of slavery in many ways shaped the story of everything in the pre–Civil War United States. Enslavers’ surviving papers showed calculations of returns from slave sales and purchases as well as the costs of establishing new slave labor camps in the cotton states. Newspapers dripped with speculations in land and people and the commodities they produced; dramatic changes in how people made money and how much they made; and the dramatic violence that accompanied these practices. The accounts of northern merchants and bankers and factory owners showed that they invested in slavery, bought from and sold to slaveholders, and took slices of profit out of slavery’s expansion. Scholars and students talked about politics as a battle about states’ rights or republican principles, but viewed in a different light the fights can be seen as a struggle between regions about how the rewards of slavery’s expansion would be allocated and whether that expansion could continue.

The story seemed too big to fit into one framework. Even Ivy had no idea how to count the chained lines he saw going southwest toward the mountains on the horizon and the vast open spaces beyond. From the 1790s to the 1860s, enslavers moved 1 million people from the old slave states to the new. They went from making no cotton to speak of in 1790 to making almost 2 billion pounds of it in 1860. Stretching out beyond the slave South, the story encompassed not only Washington politicians and voters across the United States but also Connecticut factories, London banks, opium addicts in China, and consumers in East Africa. And could one book do Lorenzo Ivy’s insight justice? It would have to avoid the old platitudes, such as the easy temptation to tell the story as a collection of topics—here a chapter on slave resistance, there one on women and slavery, and so on. That kind of abstraction cuts the beating heart out of the story. For the half untold was a narrative, a process of movement and change and suspense. Things happened because of what had been done before them—and what people chose to do in response.

No, this had to be a story, and one couldn’t tell it solely from the perspective of powerful actors. True, politicians and planters and bankers shaped policies, the movement of people, and the growing and selling of cotton, and even remade the land itself. But when one takes Lorenzo Ivy’s words as a starting point, the whole history of the United States comes walking over the hill behind a line of people in chains. Changes that reshaped the entire world began on the auction block where enslaved migrants stood or in the frontier cotton fields where they toiled. Their individual drama was a struggle to survive. Their reward was to endure a brutal transition to new ways of labor that made them reinvent themselves every day. Enslaved people’s creativity enabled their survival, but, stolen from them in the form of ever- growing cotton productivity, their creativity also expanded the slaveholding South at an unprecedented rate. Enslaved African Americans built the modern United States, and indeed the entire modern world, in ways both obvious and hidden.

One day I found a metaphor that helped. It came from the great African-American author Ralph Ellison. You might know his novel Invisible Man. But in the 1950s, Ellison also produced incredible essays. In one of them he wrote, “On the moral level I propose we view the whole of American life as a drama enacted on the body of a Negro giant who, lying trussed up like Gulliver, forms the stage and the scene upon which and within which the action unfolds.”

The image fit the story that Ivy’s words raised above the watery surface of buried years. The only problem was that Ellison’s image implied a stationary giant. In the old myth, the stationary, quintessentially unchanging plantation was the site and the story of African-American life from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. But Lorenzo Ivy had described a world in motion. After the American Revolution—which seemed at the time to portend slavery’s imminent demise—a metastatic transformation and growth of slavery’s giant body had begun instead. From the exploitation, commodification, and torture of enslaved people’s bodies, enslavers and other free people gained new kinds of modern power. The sweat and blood of the growing system, a network of individuals and families and labor camps that grew bigger with each passing year, fueled massive economic change. Enslaved people, meanwhile, transported and tortured, had to find ways to survive, resist, or endure. And over time the question of their freedom or bondage came to occupy the center of US politics.

Excerpted from “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward E. Baptist. Published by Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2014 by Edward E. Baptist. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Edward E. Baptist is Associate professor at Cornell University

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