Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in “Django Unchained.”
by Imara Jones ShareThis
Wednesday, January 9 2013
Much hullabaloo has been made recently about slavery as entertainment in movies like “Django Unchained.” But lost in the discussion is slavery as history, and the simple fact that it was an economic system which seized the economic know-how of Africans in order to construct unimaginable wealth in North America, Europe and throughout the Western Hemisphere. Wealth from the slave trade took Western Europe from being one of the world’s poorest regions to its wealthiest and most powerful in under a century.
Though sadistic and macabre, the plain truth is that slavery was an unprecedented economic juggernaut whose impact is still lived by each of us daily. Consequently, here’s my top-10 list of things everyone should know about the economic roots of slavery.
1) Slavery laid the foundation for the modern international economic system.
The massive infrastructure required to move 8 to 10 million Africans halfway around the world built entire cities in England and France, such as Liverpool, Manchester and Bordeaux. It was key to London’s emergence as a global capital of commerce, and spurred New York’s rise as a center of finance. The industry to construct, fund, staff, and administer the thousands of ships which made close to 50,000 individual voyages was alone a herculean task. The international financial and distribution networks required to coordinate, maintain and profit from slavery set the framework for the modern global economy.
2) Africans’ economic skills were a leading reason for their enslavement.
Africans possessed unique expertise which Europeans required to make their colonial ventures successful. Africans knew how to grow and cultivate crops in tropical and semi-tropical climates. African rice growers, for instance, were captured in order to bring their agricultural knowledge to America’s sea islands and those of the Caribbean. Many West African civilizations possessed goldsmiths and expert metal workers on a grand scale. These slaves were snatched to work in Spanish and Portuguese gold and silver mines throughout Central and South America. Contrary to the myth of unskilled labor, large numbers of Africans were anything but.
3) African know-how transformed slave economies into some of the wealthiest on the planet.
The fruits of the slave trade funded the growth of global empires. The greatest source of wealth for imperial France was the “white gold” of sugar produced by Africans in Haiti. More riches flowed to Britain from the slave economy of Jamaica than all of the original American 13 colonies combined. Those resources underwrote the Industrial Revolution and vast improvements in Western Europe’s economic infrastructure.
4) Until it was destroyed by the Civil War, slavery made the American South the richest and most powerful region in America.
Slavery was a national enterprise, but the economic and political center of gravity during the U.S.’s first incarnation as a slave republic was the South. This was true even during the colonial era. Virginia was its richest colony and George Washington was one of its wealthiest people because of his slaves. The majority of the new country’s presidents and Supreme Court justices were Southerners.
However, the invention of the cotton gin took the South’s national economic dominance and transformed it into a global phenomenon. British demand for American cotton, as I have written before, made the southern stretch of the Mississippi River the Silicon Valley of its era. The single largest concentration of America’s millionaires was gathered in plantations along the Mississippi’s banks. The first and only president of the Confederacy—Jefferson Davis—was a Mississippi, millionaire slave holder.
5) Defense of slavery, more than taxes, was pivotal to America’s declaration of independence.
The South had long resisted Northern calls to leave the British Empire. That’s because the South sold most of its slave-produced products to Britain and relied on the British Navy to protect the slave trade. But a court case in England changed all of that. In 1775, a British court ruled that slaves could not be held in the United Kingdom against their will. Fearing that the ruling would apply to the American colonies, the Southern planters swung behind the Northern push for greater autonomy. In 1776, one year later, America left its former colonial master. The issue of slavery was so powerful that it changed the course of history.
6) The brutalization and psychological torture of slaves was designed to ensure that plantations stayed in the black financially.
Slave revolts and acts of sabotage were relatively common on Southern plantations. As economic enterprises, the disruption in production was bad for business. Over time a system of oppression emerged to keep things humming along. This centered on singling out slaves for public torture who had either participated in acts of defiance or who tended towards noncompliance. In fact, the most recalcitrant slaves were sent to institutions, such as the “Sugar House” in Charleston, S.C., where cruelty was used to elicit cooperation. Slavery’s most inhumane aspects were just another tool to guarantee the bottom line.
7) The economic success of former slaves during Reconstruction led to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
In less than 10 years after the end of slavery, blacks created thriving communities and had gained political power—including governorships and Senate seats—across the South. Former slaves, such Atlanta’s Alonzo Herndon, had even become millionaires in the post-war period. But the move towards black economic empowerment had upset the old economic order. Former planters organized themselves into White Citizens Councils and created an armed wing—the Ku Klux Klan—to undermine black economic institutions and to force blacks into sharecropping on unfair terms. Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Warmth of Other Suns”, details the targeting of black individuals, as well as entire black communities, for acts of terror whose purpose was to enforce economic apartheid.
8) The desire to maintain economic oppression is why the South was one of the most anti-tax regions of the nation.
Before the Civil War, the South routinely blocked national infrastructure protects. These plans, focused on Northern and Western states, would have moved non-slave goods to market quickly and cheaply. The South worried that such investments would increase the power of the free-labor economy and hurt their own, which was based on slavery. Moreover, the South was vehemently opposed to taxes even to improve the lives of non-slaveholding white citizens. The first public school in the North, Boston Latin, opened its doors in the mid-1600s. The first public school in the South opened 200 years later. Maintenance of slavery was the South’s top priority to the detriment of everything else.
9) Many firms on Wall Street made fortunes from funding the slave trade.
Investment in slavery was one of the most profitable economic activities throughout most of New York’s 350 year history. Much of the financing for the slave economy flowed through New York banks. Marquee names such as JP Morgan Chase and New York Life all profited greatly from slavery. Lehman Brothers, one of Wall Street’s largest firms until 2008, got its start in the slave economy of Alabama. Slavery was so important to the city that New York was one the most pro-slavery urban municipalities in the North.
10) The wealth gap between whites and blacks, the result of slavery, has yet to be closed.
The total value of slaves, or “property” as they were then known, could exceed $12 million in today’s dollars on the largest plantations. With land, machinery, crops and buildings added in, the wealth of southern agricultural enterprises was truly astronomical. Yet when slavery ended, the people that generated the wealth received nothing.
The country has struggled with the implications of this inequity ever since. With policy changes in Washington since 1865, sometimes this economic gulf has narrowed and sometimes it’s widened, but the economic difference has never been erased. Today, the wealth gap between whites and blacks is the largest recorded since records began to be kept three decades ago.
Black Magic at The White House is a video from the project ATLANTIC that deals with the Danish Transatlantic Slavetrade.
In the video Jeannette Ehlers is performing a voodoo dance in Marienborg which has a strong connection to the triangular trade. It was built as a summer residence for the Commander Olfert Fischer in 1744. Several others of the period’s trading men have owned and put their stamp on Marienborg, and today it still plays an important role in Denmark, in terms of its position as the official residence of the country’s prime minister.
AN AFRICAN CENTERED AUTODIDACT ASSESSES AMERICAN HISTORY: WHAT STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND PARENTS SHOULD REALIZE!
Prepared by Rob Bowen:
Definition of "Autodidact": a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.
"THE WRITING OF HISTORY REFLECTS THE INTEREST, PREDILECTIONS AND EVEN PREJUDICES OF A GIVEN GENERATION. THIS MEANS THAT AT THE PRESENT TIME THERE IS AN URGENT NEED TO RE-EXAMINE OUR PAST IN TERMS OF OUR PRESENT OUTLOOK.
I THINK KNOWING ONE'S HISTORY LEADS ONE TO ACT IN A MORE ENLIGHTENED FASHION, I CAN NOT IMAGINE HOW KNOWING ONE'S HISTORY WOULD NOT URGE ONE TO BE AN ACTIVIST." John Hope Franklin
"GIVE ME THE FREE LABOR OF ONE BLACK PERSON FOR ONE YEAR; I WOULD BE A RICH MAN.
GIVE ME THE FREE LABOR OF A DOZEN BLACK PEOPLE FOR ONE YEAR; I WOULD BE A VERY RICH MAN.
GIVE ME THE FREE LABOR OF MILLIONS OF BLACK PEOPLE FOR 250 YEARS, I WOULD BE AMERICA!" Ralph Wiley* AFRICAN CENTERED ASSESSMENT
The United States, of America, did not begin as either a democracy or "The Land of the Free, Home of the Brave." The physical, cultural, and social differences, among human beings, became both the legal, and color-of-law dispersion, of codified White Supremacy. Slave codes, The United States Constitution, Black Codes, Jim Crow laws---supported by the pseudo-science of eugenics, which posits Africans on the lowest rung, of human evolution---evolved into America's extant social and political practices. Therefore, the currently accepted biological reality of "One Race, the Human Race," originating in Africa, obviates the historical reality: the disparate access, obstacles, opportunities and resources---ever-present---among the so-called races!
I am intentionally using the term "African," when referring to Black People. The reason is that people, all over the world, refer to their ancestral homes landmass, for self-description. The 12 million square miles encompassing the resources-rich "continent" of Africa, are the ancestral lands of all **African Descendant People. The so-called White Africans, like White Americans, have their ancestral homelands, elsewhere: primarily a "country" in Europe.
Easily recognized ancestral homelands / self-description examples are Italy: Italian-American / Italian- African; Ireland: Irish-American / Irish-African; Holland: Dutch- American / Dutch-African. In short, there is a known distinction between African Descendent Africans and post-wormian-ice-age European Descendent Africans.
The irony is that Europeans can be referred to, as an example, as either Irish or Irish- American. Only African-American is used to describe us, never just African!
British Imperialist Cecil Rhodes Thought He and England could Rule over Africa Forever!
To understand why the nations of Europe spent centuries engaged in the imperialistic practice of colonizing Africa, The Americas, The Caribbean, Hawaii, India, etc., refer to a "Peters' Projection Map" and see the truth of Dr. Jeffries statement that, compared to other lands, "Europe is land poor (i.e. landmass), people poor (i.e. population) and resources poor." (Also, the egregious impact of imperialism results in the resources-richest-continent, having so many impoverished people.)
When reporting the historical and present plight, of African Americans (i.e. the bottom of most socio/economic indices),
Commentators intentionally and misleadingly Concentrate on the Conditions; Never the Cause!
AMERICA WAS BUILT ON STOLEN LAND:
· Broken treaties
· The Indian Removal Act of 1830
· In 1832, President Andrew Jackson defied a Supreme Court Order to protect the Indigenous People of Georgia. The Court ruled, in Worcester v. Georgia (U.S. 515-1832), the Cherokee Nation was entitled to federal protection from actions by the state government.
After the ruling, Jackson expressed his opinion, regarding Chief Justice Marshall: "John Marshall has made his decree. Now let him enforce it." (Also, Jackson denied the use of the United States' mail for anti-slavery pamphlets.)
· The Original Apartheid conditions were devised on reservations
AND, FREE LABOR:
· Enslaved Africans
· White Supremacy; socially codified, by Thomas Jefferson, among others, with his "Notes on Virginia," in 1781. 'I advance it therefore, as a suspicion only, that the Blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the Whites in the endowments both of body and mind.'
· White Supremacy is geographically imposed with the Naturalization Act of 1790. Citizenship for "free White persons of good moral character"
· White Supremacy is made legal when the ratification, of the U. S. Constitution, in 1787, included the 3/5th compromise. (Ironically, because of the 3/5th compromise, Thomas Jefferson, won the Presidency, over John Adams, in 1800, with 8 more votes in the House of Representatives
· White Supremacy is theologically codified and, The Creator is made a selective racist, with the "Curse of Ham" myth: (Genesis 9:18-27). Equally egregious is the popular blueeyed, blond haired depiction of "The Son of God." This image is not in accord with the bible's description: (Revelations 1:13,14)
During the State-Sponsored Kidnapping of Africans to the Americas and the Caribbean, (euphemistically referred to as the Trans-Atlantic slave trade), the primacy of Africans, as the original people populating the planet was a known scientific and historic fact. The institutionalized racism of White supremacy ensures the positive history and contributions, of African Descendant People, are obscured, ignored and / or denied. The 18th century French scholar, Count Volney, wrote and lectured about the many African contributions to civilization:
"…There a people, now forgotten, discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men, now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe." Count C.F. Volney "The Ruins of Empires," page 17 (1793)
Many Africans knew these historic and scientific facts, in the 19th and 20th century. Cyril Briggs, founder of the African Blood Brotherhood, wrote an article entitled Race Catechism (Teach it to the little ones, learn and practice it yourself).
Richard B. Moore, the "Caribbean Militant in Harlem," said the article "extolled the present virtues and past achievements of the Negro race." The article's format, in part, was question and answer:
Question: Why are you proud of your race?
Answer: Because, in the veins of no human being does there flow more generous blood than in our own; in the annals of the world, the history of no race is more resplendent with honest, worthy glory than that of the Negro race, members of which founded the first beginning of civilization upon the banks of the Nile, developing it and extending southward to Ethiopia and westward over the smiling Sudan to the distant Atlantic, so that Greeks who came to learn from our fathers declared that they were 'The most just of men, the favorite of the gods.'" Cyril V. Briggs, (1918); quote from "Modern Black Nationalism" page 39
Academia is complicit in America's limited learning of African Descendant People's accomplishments and contributions to human progress. Rather than reveal the truth, an academic canard can pass into the curricula as fact. An infamous example is renowned historian (?), Arnold J. Toynbee's major work: "The Study of History, vol. 1"; page 233:
"It will be seen that when we classify mankind by color, the only one of the primary races, given by this classification, which has not made a creative contribution to any one of our twenty-one civilizations is the Black Race." (1934)
Toynbee's statement is an academically false paean to White supremacy. It is pointedly disingenuous, slanderous and outrageously self-serving!
To the detriment of African Descendant People, the importance of Ancient Egypt's / Kemet's life-affirming adage, "Know Thy Self," has not been internalized. The corporate controlled media has always played a major part in telling Africans, and the world, what Africans should know about themselves. Two quotes accurately speak to this dilemma:
"One of the greatest roles ever created by western man has been the role of the 'Negro.' One of the greatest actors to play the role is the 'nigger.'" Henry Dumas (quoted in "The Black Book" page 167; 1974)
"Whoever controls the images of a people also controls the self esteem, self respect and self development of those people." Dr. Leonard Jeffries C.E.M.O.T.A.P.'S 17th Annual Luncheon (2006)
The dual drawbacks, affecting African Descendant People, are self-hate and the absence of knowledge about ***… "our rightful place on the map of human history." Collectively, they are the causes of our current malaise: refusing to collectively build on our positive past and present to create our positive future.
AFRICAN CENTERED CODA
An easily implemented solution---when, and if, a collective will develops… is to correctly and fully teach the primacy and centrality of Africans in American and world history! Carter G. Woodson's admonishment still rings true: "We should not emphasize Negro history; but the Negro in history!" Carter G. Woodson (1927) quoted in " The Wisdom of the Elders" page 33
Rob (African Centered Autodidact)
* Thank you, Sister Laurie Daniels-Favors, for this quote
** Thank you, Dr. Donald H. Smith, for this allencompassing descriptive designation
*** Thank you, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, for this insightful and informative phrase.