All Articles Tagged "slaves"
Abigail Adams, The Woman Who Was In The White House When It Was Built, Refutes Bill O’Reilly’s “Well-Fed” Claim
Earlier today, we wrote about actress Audra McDonald checking Bill O’Reilly and his inaccurate thoughts on slavery in a series of tweets, complete with pictorial evidence of the horrific nature of the institution.
In case you missed what O’Reilly said, he, in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s comment about the White House being built by slaves,
“Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor.”
I know you see the problem with this statement. It completely belittles the devastating and dehumanizing realities of slavery. It makes it seem like these men, literally building the home that would house the nation’s leaders, were happy to be doing it. Like it was a pleasant experience. Like they were serving their country willingly, instead of serving a country that benefited and grew rich from their labor without even recognizing their humanity.
What really would it have matter if they were well-fed or not? I’ll take freedom over food any day.
But since Bill O’Reilly had it all wrong, let’s hear from a first person source, Abigail Adams, wife to our second president John Adams. She’s also the woman who was living in the White House as it was being built by these so-called well-fed slaves. (Note: All spelling errors are her own.)
“The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employed with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house. the four carts are all loaded at the same time, and whilst four carry this rubbish about half a mile, the remaining eight rest upon their Shovels, Two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day as the whole 12, but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, or fit for … to labour, whilst the owner watches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast, Such is the case of many of the inhabitants of this place.”
Well there you have it.
Considering she was actually looking out the window and Bill O’Reilly was just making sh*t up, I’ll take her word for it.
For some reason I really thought Paula Deen was a cool, older lady. On her Emmy winning show, “Paula’s Home Cooking” she was adorable, relatable and she loved butter.
But today, we’re seeing a realer, more disgusting side of Ms. Deen.
According to RadarOnline, in a May 17 deposition that was taped, Paula Deen was asked if she used the N word. The 66 year old responded: “Yes, of course,” and proceeded to give examples of the ways in which she’d used the word.
“It’s just what they are — they’re jokes…most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks…I can’t determine what offends another person.”
During the deposition Paula was questioned for three hours because of $1.2 million lawsuit that was filed against her in 2012 by Lisa Jackson, the General Manager for Deen’s Savannah, Georgia restaurant. Jackson claimed Deen used the N word and her brother Bubba Hiers sexually harassed her thereby inflicting distress.
Deen also admitted that she wanted the black waiters to play the role of slaves for a wedding party she was catering.
“I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America…after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War…It was not only black men, it was black women…I would say they were slaves.”
After further questioning, Deen revealed that her brother, the one accused of sexual harassment was addicted to coke, pornography and alcohol.
Later, Bubba took the stand using the N word to refer President Barack Obama.
More revelations from these two during the deposition will appear in tomorrow’s issue of National Enquirer.
Historically, the National Enquirer hasn’t always been the most credible source, but if the testimony is recorded, it’s only a matter of time before Paula and her brother are exposed for what they really are. Either way, racist is not a good word to have associated with your brand. Personally, I’m disappointed. For whatever reason, I assumed Paula was above the Southern racist cliche. It’s all so predictable.
I would say that this recent testimony is going to hurt Deen’s empire, but she wouldn’t be the first, successful white person to express blatantly racist sentiments and continue to operate a successful business. People really just don’t care, especially if she can rationalize her behavior under the guise of jokes. As for me and mine though, I can honestly say we won’t rock with Paula or her little stankin’ recipes anymore.
And apparently, I’m not the only one, several people on “Black Twitter” have started a trending topic detailing some of Deen’s best (read: racist) recipes. Beware, you must understand satire to appreciate these recipes.
There are so many gaps in the documentation of slaves in the US that it’s hard to piece together the lives of many African American ancestors, but luckily the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Progress Administration had the foresight to gather the stories of the last people who were born into slavery and who died free men and women.
Housed in the Library of Congress is a 17-volume collection of this history in “Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves.” Compiled in more than 17 states between 1936 and 1938, this collection tells the first-person account of more than 2,300 men and women who were born into slavery some 70 years after they’d been set free.
“We were never allowed to go to town and it was not until after I ran away that I knew that they sold anything but slaves, tobacco, and whiskey,” reads the account of John W. Fields, a Civil War-era slave who went on to work as a domestic in Lafayette, IN.
“Our ignorance was the greatest hold the South had on us,” he said. “We knew we could run away, but what then?”
Beyond these narratives, the collection also holds roughly 500 black-and-white photos that offer a unique look at the physical post-slavery life of these African Americans. The Huffington Post reports that the oral recollections range “from startling descriptions of cruelty to almost nostalgic views of plantation life.” Most of the participants in the project were well into their 80s and 90s at the time of the interviews and their stories were said to have been collected with a sense of urgency over the two-year span to capture as many first-person accounts as possible before they passed.
Check out a slideshow of some of the photos here and tell us what you think.
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?” Those are the types of ridiculous math problems students at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, GA, are being asked to solve and their parents are not happy about it to say the least.
Gwinnett County school district officials said the principal at Beaver Ridge will personally work with teachers to come up with more appropriate lessons and will offer more opportunities for staff development following the backlash over the worksheet which also included questions such as: “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” But parents say that’s not enough. They’re demanding an apology from the school and diversity training for the teachers and district officials.
“That’s how people learn from one another and that’s how we all grow,” says Jennifer Falk, a community activist who recently had two children graduate from Gwinnett high schools. “Intentionally or not, this was inappropriate.”
So how does something like this even happen? School district officials said teachers were attempting to incorporate history into their third-grade math lessons.
“Clearly, they did not do as good of a job as they should have done,” district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. “It was just a poorly written question.” That’s one way to look at it.
Under district policy, the worksheet should have been reviewed before being handed out to students, but for some reason that protocol wasn’t followed in this situation. The most recent accountability report for Beaver Ridge, which has an enrollment of about 1,200 students, shows that 62% of its students are Latino, 24% are black, and 5% are white. The school was recently recognized as a Georgia Title I Distinguished School for achieving adequate yearly progress for six straight years. Something tells me they won’t earn that title for the seventh year.
Can you believe this?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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This movie just got a whole lot more interesting and we won’t see it in theaters until December of next year! The anticipation!
Actress Kerry Washington has just been added to the cast of Quentin Tarantino’s newest flick, Django Unchained, which follows a freed slave attempting to save his wife, Broomhilda, from her slave master with the help of a ruthless bounty hunter. Django, played by Jamie Foxx, will learn the tricks of the trade that is bounty hunting to get his woman back from the uber-cray slave master, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Washington is set to star as Broomhilda after Tarantino made his big pick on Tuesday evening. While the director was initially looking for a little known actress to be Broomhilda, he obviously was a big fan of Washington. So the two stars of Ray will be meeting up as boos on-screen once again.
Washington is absolutely doing HUGE things in Hollywood right now. She’s on Shonda Rhimes’ new series for ABC, Scandal, is set to star alongside Eddie Murphy in A Thousand Words, and now this! Make that money girl!
Will you check this film out?
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This Wednesday, a searchable database of about 1,400 slaves and 180 owners will become available at vahistorical.org, The New York Times reports. They are the preliminary results of a research project conducted by scholars at the Virginia Historical Society with a goal of going through eight million documents, some dating back to the 17th century.
“’Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names’ is searchable by locations, professions and first and last names, among other keywords,” the Times reports. “Listings for Thomas Jefferson’s holdings do not yet mention Sally Hemings, but they do include ‘Thurston the son of Isabel’ and ‘Bec daughter of Minerva.’ A search for nurses brings up Judy, near age 10, valued at $900, working at a plantation near Fredericksburg, Va., with dozens of other slaves including Jef Davis, Magnus, Fenton and Jinney.”
Procured through wills, family Bibles, memoirs and other correspondence, the high resolution scans have potential to answer a lot of questions and close many historical holes, “providing links that families have been looking for, literally, for generations,” Paul A. Levengood, the historical society’s president, told the Times. “Descendants of plantation owners may be dismayed to learn how many slaves lived at the properties; in some cases legends have persisted that the families only had loyal servants.”
Eye witness accounts of history are social treasures, especially for a group of people so deprived of such gems. And it will only continue to unfold as the full eight million page roster of documents will eventually make its way to the Web.
Mauritania is a north African country in which 20% of the population, 500,000 people, are living in forced servitude. Deprived of even simple rights like having a last name, or retaining control over their children, the slave class is largely made up of black Africans who have been displaced due to a history of tragic events. Colonialism, drought, civil war, and economic power plays (notably China’s recent grasp for control of Mauritania’s fishing industry) have combined to make slavery persistent and nearly impossible to eradicate.
Mauritania’s unstable government fails to intervene in the lives owned by the ruling class in part because it is is dependent on the wealthy for survival. The result is that weak tactics are employed such as creating laws that protect “servants,” which dilute acknowledgement of the horrific truth with euphemisms. This allows everyone to turn a blind eye. The government also claims superficially that slavery has been outlawed, while doing nothing to enforce these laws. The Atlantic reports on how this hypocrisy came to be the norm:
Mauritania could have been designed to be a modern-day slave state, so perfect are the conditions for entrenching this cruel habit. An artificial creation of the end of colonialism, the European-drawn, largely arbitrary borders cut across ethnic groups that are black African, black Arab or Berber, and white Arab or Berber. French colonialism rapidly centralized much of what was once a heavily nomadic population, forcing ethnic groups that had once been separated by geography to coexist and to compete. In the 1970s, widespread droughts forced many of the country’s farmers and rural peoples into cities, creating new classes of destitute and jobless citizens who have been unable to adapt to this new reality. Because 50 percent of the economy is still based in agriculture, urban job opportunities are scarce. Lacking other options, faced with an economy unable to help them and an ethnic hierarchy that tells them they are worth less than their white-faced or Arab counterparts, they become slaves. Many of the displaced were children in need of a guardian. Many of those guardians became masters. The cycle repeated in the late 1980s, when an estimated 70,000 black Africans were expelled from the country, leaving behind masses of children, many of whom were enslaved.
Even though there are local groups fighting to end this injustice, they are blocked by a fragile government concerned that organized political groups could become the source of the next military coup. In a nation racked by sudden violent changes, the issues important to slaves — the least powerful — are of little importance to those grasping for power.
Hope lies only in a relationship with the West, as Mauritania seeks to build alliances with foreign investors. We weigh human rights issues highly when doing business, so awareness of the plight of blacks in their own land needs to spread. Citizens of Western democracies need to be armed with the knowledge that slavery persists there, so we can pressure the Mauritanian government to end it now if they want American capital.
Mauritania needs to break away from what many perceive as a highly exploitative relationship with China, so will likely be reaching out to us. Americans must demand social reform in exchange for investment, and consider economic sanctions against this and all countries that accept human bondage.
(NY Times) — The Civil War, the most wrenching and bloody episode in American history, may not seem like much of a cause for celebration, especially in the South. And yet, as the 150th anniversary of the four-year conflict gets under way, some groups in the old Confederacy are planning at least a certain amount of hoopla, chiefly around the glory days of secession, when 11 states declared their sovereignty under a banner of states’ rights and broke from the union. The events include a “secession ball” in the former slave port of Charleston (“a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink,” says the invitation), which will be replicated on a smaller scale in other cities. A parade is being planned in Montgomery, Ala., along with a mock swearing-in of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy.
(Washington Examiner) — African-American slaves sweated in the summer heat and shivered in the winter’s cold while helping to build the U.S. Capitol. Congress took note of their service and sacrifice Wednesday by erecting commemorative plaques inside the Capitol in their honor. Lawmakers said the memorials will ensure that the contributions of slaves in building one of the world’s most recognizable buildings are never again forgotten.
Capitalism, slavery and prison labor have been bedfellows since the 1800s. African American male labor was exploited then, and this exploitative coupling continues into this century. In 1860, there were 1,981,385 black male slaves in the Unites States—a figure computed from the Historical Demographics, Economic, and Social Data: U.S., 1790-1970, ICPSR. Once these slaves were manumitted and no longer a free workforce, Douglas A. Blackmon describes how their labor was recaptured in his book Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Black male labor was recaptured, according to Blackmon, by charging Negroes with crimes such as vagrancy and other non-consequential acts, and this need for cheap labor paralleled an increased enforcement of these frivolous laws—i.e., harvesting time. As a result of this system, Blackmon describes this indentured servitude (debt slavery) as forced labor. As prison labor became a more necessary part of the capitalist system during Reconstruction, as a result of the devastation brought on by the Civil War, landowners exploited this peonage system and needed to build new prisons to house these former slaves and lease them to labor-hungry entrepreneurs.
These labor-hungry entrepreneurs decided to expand on this idea of convict leasing in the 1800s and created the first private prisons. States such as California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas had privately operated prisons between 1850 and 1950. The industry of contracting out prison labor was extremely profitable up until 1950, but things became unglued with the discovery of rampant abuse in these private prisons. Private prisons reappeared in the 1980s as a result of the “war on drugs,” and the concomitant laws associated with this war such as California’s notorious three-strikes-and-you-are-out laws. These campaigns such as the “war on drugs” and “get tough on crime” have been a dismal failure and have afflicted non-violent African American offenders, especially males, with a permanent handicap—a lifetime of limited opportunities.
The collateral consequences of a felony conviction also play a role in the burgeoning African American male unemployment rate. African American male unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 15.6%, which economists assert is a Depression-era level number. The U.S. economy, it has been widely reported, has not added jobs since December of 2007 and has shed 7.2 million jobs overall since then, according to reports. Even worse, it is accepted that many jobs will not return for several years. Of course, African American males will be the most affected by the structural and racial flaws in the economy.
In my book, Merchandizing Prisoners: Who Really Pays for Prison Privatization?, I show how the United States is returning to systems of prison labor exploitation. Over 2 million U.S. citizens are now incarcerated in the U.S., and half of them are African American males. This return to slavery has been facilitated by private prison corporations that lease factories in prisons and then lease the prisoners they house for the state out to these factories to perform work for companies such as Dell, Victoria’s Secret, and other multinational corporations and Fortune 500 companies. According to Yahoo Finance, Corrections Corporation of America has a 2.69 billion market cap.
There is a phenomenon eerily similar to what Blackmon describes regarding the nominal fees Black men were forced to pay to forestall forced labor. This is now happening to the formerly incarcerated who come out of prisons with crushing debt. These economic sanctions come in the form of probation fees, jail fees, special assessments, fines, and restitution. These fees are assessed on money deposited for prisoners by their family members. When ex-prisoners cannot pay these fees, they are returned to prison on a technical violation and are then forced into labor again.
Instead of states spending more money on corrections over education and building more prisons, they should embrace this idea of justice reinvestment to attack disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system, outsourcing and African American unemployment. Justice reinvestment strategies, according to Susan Tucker and Eric Cadora, contend that the billions of dollars spent on corrections should be redirected to build “human resources, physical infrastructure such as schools in those neighborhoods devastated by high levels of incarceration like the million dollar blocks in Brooklyn, NY.” A million dollars a year, according to Tucker and Cadora, is being spent to incarcerate people from one block in Brooklyn.
Redirecting money to create jobs in these high incarceration communities would go a long way towards improving education in these communities, improving employments prospects, and de-commodifying Black men so that their labor is not stolen by capitalists looking to exploit the captive labor the prisons provide them. Finally, states should follow New Jersey’s state legislature’s example of exploring laws which remove barriers that affect successful reintegration back into society by the formerly incarcerated, such as not being able to stay in public housing or receive welfare benefits, not being able to secure occupational licenses, and asking the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”
Dr. Byron E. Price is a professor of political science at Texas Southern University and is the author of Merchandising Prisoners: Who Really Pays for Prison Privatization.