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Dr, Boyce Watkins – Gates Full of It!

25 Apr

Watkins lights into Gates with this piece. I agree with Watkins that Gates has missed the key issues relative to slavery and Reparations, and fallen for the white supremacist line which is oft quoted as an excuse.

Henry Louis Gates lets US off the hook in ‘slavery blame game’

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. recently wrote an interesting piece for the New York Times called, “Ending the Slavery Blame Game.” In the piece, Gates effectively argues that the fight for reparations is convoluted and somewhat mitigated by the fact that African elites participated in the slave trade. While describing complex business deals made between some African leadership and the Europeans who brought Africans to the New World, it almost appears as though Gates is saying that this disturbing relationship somehow undermines the right of African-Americans to hold our government accountable for its involvement in crimes committed against our people.

At very least, I am under the assumption that by “ending the slavery blame game,” Gates is arguing that we should stop blaming the United States government and white America for the rape, murder, castration, lynching and beating of our ancestors.

Sorry Dr. Gates, but I must respectfully (or perhaps not so respectfully) disagree. If a young girl is sold into prostitution by her own parents, the pimp must still pay for the suffering he caused the young woman. He can’t simply say, “Her parents made a deal with me, so you should stop the blame game.”

In other words, the United States, as a broad and powerful industrial entity, benefited from slavery to the tune of several trillion dollars. Much of this wealth was passed down from one white man to another, and was always out of the grasp of the black men, women and children who gave their lives on American soil in order to earn it. As a result, the median net worth of the African-American family is roughly one-tenth that of white American families and we have consistently higher unemployment due to our inability to create jobs, since white Americans own most businesses.

These facts hold true without regard to how the African-American holocaust started in the first place. They also hold true because wealth and power are commodities that are passed down inter-generationally, and we missed out on all of this because we were slaves. What occurred after we left Africa can and must be considered independently from what happened while our forefathers were in the mother land.

Beyond the indisputable financial damage caused by slavery, there is also a price to be paid for pain, suffering and aggregate trauma. Even the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolishes slavery, has a clause stating that it’s still OK to enslave another American, as long as that person has been convicted of a crime. Given that the United States incarcerates 5.8 times more black men than South Africa did during the height of apartheid, it’s easy to argue that the human rights violations of American slavery continue to this day.

The arbitrary label of “convict” is used against black men in a disproportionate fashion as a loophole for American corporations to continue to profit from slave labor. I don’t want to play the “blame game.” But mainstream media must not play the “irresponsibility game,” by promoting apologist African-American scholars who are willing to write off 400 years of systemically oppressive behavior. While the Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” approach makes some of us more comfortable, the truth is that America cannot become truly post-racial until it overcomes its past-racial influences.

I am not sure why Gates has gone out of his way to assuage white guilt in America. I hope that’s not the price a black man must pay in order to write an op-ed in the New York Times. Perhaps his PBS specials, in which he goes out of his way to prove that he is actually from Europe, is his way of fitting into the society that never embraced the little black boy from West Virginia (Gates writes extensively about being rejected by white women as a child). Henry Louis Gates seems to have spent his entire life proving to the world that he is a “big shot,” because simply being a black man may never have been quite good enough…

 
48 Comments

Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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48 responses to “Dr, Boyce Watkins – Gates Full of It!

  1. Dwjazzlover

    April 25, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Really amazing isn’t it?

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  2. Anas

    April 25, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Based on his premise, the Jews are equally blamable for their holocaust since it is documented that Jewish Bankers bankrolled Hitler. Gates is a disingenuous scholar. He knows saying crap and untruths about Africans and black peole can be done with impunity. After all it is the white establishment of Havard and America that have heralded his more or less his rather pro-establishment explanation of history. Gates is not impressive a bit. He is at Havard because he is prepared to excuse white power from the crimes against black people. Whether Africans were part of the slave trade is immaterial the same way it is immaterial to see some Iraqis aid the Americans in the conquest of their country. The fact is Europe with its Kings and Papacy decided to enslave the African continent and its people — Africans had no say in this as the Iraqis had not say in the invasion of their country.

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  3. CNu

    April 25, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Here’s a most interesting take on the matter….,

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    • btx3

      April 25, 2010 at 4:44 PM

      I understand what they are trying to say – but in my view, there are two totally separate issues – one being the enslavement …

      And the second being what happened after black folks were brought here.

      Second, the concept of slavery as being non-racial is wrong. Queen Isabella of Spain in 1450-60 (?) specified that slavery was ONLY to be practiced against the black denizens of Africa. It also ignores how the concept of race entered the Western thought psyche, and became codified.

      I will get into some of this, maybe tonight when I have a bit of free time to do it justice.

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      • brotherbrown

        April 25, 2010 at 8:25 PM

        The second issue is a question of constitutional handling of slaves, and the economic benefit that accrued to entities (corporations, law firms, investment and insurance houses) that still exist in some form. I’m sure there are plenty of family trusts out there that have the blood of slavery on their hands.

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      • James

        April 27, 2010 at 6:47 AM

        I’ll be interested to read what you have to say about the idea that European and American slavery was not based on race, at least until quite late. From what I’ve read, this seems to be quite well-documented historically.

        To take your example, Queen Isabella of Spain did *not* declare that only black Africans could be enslaved. In fact, her empire held a great many slaves, but very few were black. That came later, as did the concept of race and the idea that Africans were inferior or more suitable for enslaving.

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      • btx3

        April 27, 2010 at 9:24 AM

        OK – so it was King Phillip II in 1600 – and he principal developer of slavery was Portugal, not Spain starting in 1452 with a Papal Bull from Nicholas V granting Alphonso V the right to attack and enslave any “Saracen, pagan, or infidel communities whatsoever, and reduce their populations to perpetual servitude, and to take possession of their property”. A second Bull granted Africa as “exclusive” to Portugal in 1454.

        Beginning in the 13th century is the emergence of the concept of race in Europe, likely starting in Germany through the Church. This initial concept likely was a result of friction and persecution of Jews, but through the Crusades expanded to mean no-European white people. As such, “Saracen, Pagan, or infidel” didn’t include European whites – and was interpreted as those afflicted with the ‘mark of Ham”, Jews, and Moslems.

        Prior to 1400, southern Europe had many types of slavery, but it wasn’t until 1452, with the establishment of the sugar plantation complex on the Portuguese Island of Madeira that Chattel Slavery developed – which was an entirely different form for that practiced in Southern Europe prior to that time.

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  4. James

    April 27, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    I agree that Portugal was a principal perpetrator of the African slave trade, especially under King Philip III of Spain, who also ruled Portugal as King Philip II. I just can’t find any mention of him declaring that only black Africans would be kept as slaves.

    What I’ve read, in fact, suggests that while Spain and Portugal greatly expanded the transatlantic slave trade during this time, they did not do so on the basis of race. For instance, they still kept many white slaves, and there were many free blacks in these societies (even serving as sailors aboard slave ships). In general, Europeans at this time drew distinctions on the basis of ancestry and appearance, but didn’t think in terms of races of people, much less that any particular race was inferior or to be used as slaves.

    Notice, for instance, that the Papal Bull of 1452 applied to “Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ,” and was aimed primarily at those of the Muslim faith, and secondarily at other non-Christians. While the effect is the same in terms of allowing the enslavement of those conquered in the Ottoman Empire (the primary goal of the document) and elsewhere, it is not based on ideas about race.

    It’s true, of course, that chattel slavery was developed by Europeans, and only happened after they started to engage in large-scale, slave-based plantation agriculture outside of Europe and with a primary source of slaves who were physically distinctive. All of these factors contributed to the emergence of chattel slavery, as well as to the slow, gradual rise of race as a concept used to justify the continued enslavement of large numbers of people across generations, but race wasn’t necessary for Europeans to engage in this behavior in the first place.

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    • btx3

      April 27, 2010 at 10:57 AM

      But none of that escapes the issue that relative to the United States. As to –

      What I’ve read, in fact, suggests that while Spain and Portugal greatly expanded the transatlantic slave trade during this time, they did not do so on the basis of race. For instance, they still kept many white slaves, and there were many free blacks in these societies (even serving as sailors aboard slave ships).

      Only to the extent that Moslems were white. The principal source of slaves to Portugal was North Africa, the old Roman state of Mairitania.

      By the end of the 12th Century – there was an explicit legal justification for the enslavement of Muslims, found in the Decretum Gratiani and later expanded upon by the 14th century jurist Oldradus de Ponte: the Bible states that Hagar, the slave girl of Abraham, was beaten and cast out by Abraham’s wife Sarah. A popular medieval legend held that Muslims were the descendants of Hagar, while Christians descended from the legitimate marriage of Abraham and Sarah. By extension it was therefore permitted for Christians to enslave Muslims. Wuropean Cannon Law also required the manumission of any slave who became a Christian, and prohibited Christian slavery as early as the 11th Century.

      They did it on the basis of religious justification – which by the fact that Christianity was almost universal in Western Europe – mean that slaves defacto would be from darker skinned groups, and not be European.

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      • James

        April 27, 2010 at 11:09 AM

        I just can’t agree with you here. First of all, it’s simply not true that European religious justifications for slavery in the 12th or 14th centuries meant that slaves would de facto come from darker-skinned groups. Most slaves in Europe were quite white at the time, and would always be. Second, the issue isn’t who the slaves were, but whether racial thinking played a role, and as you note, in these centuries the justifications were religious; race didn’t play a part in justifying slavery, or in determining who could be a slave, until much, much later.

        In later centuries, of course, Europeans would begin taking primarily black slaves, but this was about changing opportunities, not new ideas.

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      • btx3

        April 27, 2010 at 11:58 AM

        Disagree, I think the role of the Crusades influenced slavery in Western Europe – Eastern Europe is another issue entirely. I am not arguing that 13th Century Europeans had developed the concept of race, or even that they considered it very important. What I am arguing is that the religious pretext for slavery confined it to groups we would today consider racially non-white. Slavery as such was more likely “ethnic” by the 14th century than Western Europeans enslaving other Western Europeans. In particular, the development of chattel slavery in the 15th Century became more identified with Africans.

        Did these African slaves manage to be manumitted? Yes. Did they participate in the era’s merchant class – absolutely. But we see by about 1520, efforts to rescind those manumissions based on race starting in Portugal – because some of these freed Africans began competing successfully in business enterprise against the native population. If I have time later today I will hunt up the specific legal citations.

        Indeed, Western Europeans did enslave Eastern Europeans including Turks until about the 13th Century

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  5. James

    April 27, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    The problem with the Crusades argument is two-fold, I think.

    First, if slaves in western Europe became only non-white, but that was purely a result of the fact that the non-Christian peoples being conquered were non-white, that’s still a religious, and not a racial, basis for slavery. If anything, the fact that a racial basis didn’t arise within, say, a few generations is a powerful statement that people weren’t prepared to put slavery on a racial footing, simply because they could.

    Second, though, even in western Europe there were ample white slaves in the centuries after the Crusades. This is *especially* true if we’re talking about “groups we would today consider racially non-white,” who made up a tiny percentage of European slaves at this time.

    Did the development of chattel slavery by Europeans (as opposed to chattel slavery elsewhere, including in Africa) involve particularly Africans and those of African descent? Yes, but that doesn’t imply that it occurred because of race or ideas about race.

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    • btx3

      April 27, 2010 at 1:14 PM

      Chattel slavery wasn’t driven by race, it was driven by the plantation economic model first developed by the Portuguese – and later adapted to the new world. Because that model was developed on the island of Madeira, it was economically advantageous to utilize African slaves.

      In the New World, after 1600 – when Ferdinand (?) banned the use of Taino slaves, African slaves became the sole source. The issue with utiliznig Native Americans was entirely practical, in that the African laves and Native Americans would join in a mutual cause to revolt.

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      • James

        April 27, 2010 at 1:32 PM

        “Chattel slavery wasn’t driven by race, it was driven by the plantation economic model first developed by the Portuguese – and later adapted to the new world.”

        Well, I’m glad we seem to be in agreement about the role of race (or not) in the advent of chattel slavery.

        As for the rest, chattel slavery was, as I’m sure you’re aware, developed at many times by many different societies, in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. While the Portuguese did pioneer plantation economics in their production of sugar in the 15th century, my understanding is that this was not the only way in which chattel slavery came to be used by Europeans in the New World. The chattel slavery practiced by the English settlers in New England, for example, from the 1600s until the 1800s, owed little to either plantation slavery or to the Portuguese specifically. I’d be interested in knowing whether you know more, however, on the specific topic of the Portuguese influence over European systems of slavery in the Americas.

        I’m not sure why you say that Africa became the sole source of slaves in the New World after 1600. In the British colonies in North America, for instance, the native population was used periodically as slaves locally for a long time after this. Even after it became clear that African slaves were more useful within in the thirteen colonies, Native Americans were sent from there in large numbers to colonies in the West Indies. Similarly, native populations were used as slave labor elsewhere in the New World for as long as there was slavery.

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      • btx3

        April 27, 2010 at 4:25 PM

        Not sure what you are referring to as New England Chattel Slavery, James – in that the agricultural system in the North didn’t support the economics, except in rare instances – such as Rhode Island – and then only on a very small scale. Slaves never made up more than 11% of the population of any New England Charter colonies, whereas they made up over half of the population in several southern states. Slaves did form the basis for New England trade wealth – but other than on a few (possibly a dozen) or so plantations, organized along the Southern Plantation Model in Narragansett County were they also the backbone of the labor force.

        Insofar as enslavement of Native Americans in the English Colonies – I don’t understand where that comes from. Starting with the Virginia Code of 1662, began to define slavery as exclusively a black enterprise. Specifically after Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, local ordinances in Virginia began eliminating Indentured Servitude. Native Americans were held as slaves, HOWEVER – specifically in Virginia that was limited by both treaty, and restricted to Native Americans who were mixed with African blood. The 1670 Law established slavery as a “normal condition” for blacks, and was rapidly adopted by other slave holding states. So defacto, by 1700 the Colonies had tied slavery to race.

        I can only think of two exceptions – and if you know of more, feel free to chime in. Those exceptions would include the Carolinas, where a succession of “Indian Wars” resulted in a wholesale capture of Native American populations in the early 1700’s, with a result of nearly half the slaves in the colony being Native Americans (in vast majority women and children) – and the second would be int he Cherokee Regions of the deep South who also practiced slavery.

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  6. James

    April 27, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about with regard to New England and slavery. New England had chattel slavery from the earliest days of the colonies until well into the 19th century.

    It’s true that the northern climate didn’t support much in the way of large-scale plantations, although there were some large slave plantations in New England, and not just in Rhode Island, as you suggest. But there were chattel slaves to be found in one in six New England households during this time, and in one in four households in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

    As for the enslavement of Native Americans by the English settlers, this was actually quite common in the 17th and 18th centuries. I’m not sure why you think otherwise, or that you think slavery in the colonies was tied to race by 1700; Virginia, after all, was only one colony, and even then, the enslavement of Native Americans wasn’t prohibited by the Virginia laws you mention. (It is, of course, true that African slaves began to be much more common than Native American slaves, and eventually most Native American slaves were shipped out to the West Indies.)

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    • btx3

      April 27, 2010 at 7:43 PM

      Slavery in New England was principally a trade exercise. Slaves never were a significant part of the workforce.

      Those African slaves who did wind up in New England, not untypically were purchased from the West Indies in exchange for Native American prisoners captured as a result of the various “wars”. New England. New Englanders figured out pretty quickly that enslaving Native Americans on their own soil was a losing proposition. As such, Native American slavery in the North was pretty rare.

      Slavery in Vermont was only legal for 16 years and ended in 1777. It ended in Massachusetts in 1783. Other states outlawed the importation of new slaves, resulting in a gradual decline into the 1800s. New Jersey reported 18 slaves in the state as late as 1865, however, the 1800 Census shows only 1488 slaves remaining in New England – most of which were in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

      But there were chattel slaves to be found in one in six New England households during this time, and in one in four households in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

      The slave population in Connecticut in 1790 was only 2.3% of the population. In Mass, it was 1.4% – before they ended slavery in 1783. So I don’t see those numbers of one in one in four households. Perhaps that is counting indentured servants? The one place those statistic might have worked is New York City, where 12.5% of the population were black, and over 25% of the skilled labor were black slaves. So you have a source for that reference?

      Insofar as Native Americans – I didn’t say laws – I said Treaties. Enslaving Native Americans, even in the South, where the various wars possibly accounted for 60-70,000 Native Americans being enslaved and (mostly) shipped to the West Indes – effectively ended by 1750.

      Insofar as the legal background defining slavery racially –

      • Virginia, 1639: The first law to exclude “Negroes” from normal protections by the government was enacted.

      Act X. All persons except Negroes are to be provided with arms and ammunitions or be fined at the pleasure of the governor and council.

      • Maryland, 1664: The first colonial “anti-amalgamation” law is enacted (amalgamation referred to “race-mixing”). Other colonies soon followed Maryland’s example. A 1691 Virginia law declared that any white man or woman who married a “Negro, mulatto, or Indian” would be banished from the colony forever.

      • Virginia, 1667: Christian baptisms would no longer affect the bondage of blacks or Indians, preventing enslaved workers from improving their legal status by changing their religion.

      • Virginia, 1682: A law establishing the racial distinction between servants and slaves was enacted.

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      • James

        April 27, 2010 at 8:11 PM

        “Slavery in New England was principally a trade exercise. Slaves never were a significant part of the workforce.”

        We could quibble over what constitutes a significant part of the workforce–in R.I.,10% of the population and much more than 10% of the workforce seems significant to me, and the other New England states weren’t far behind.

        But I was simply responding to your assertion that there wasn’t chattel slavery in New England, which there most certainly was, in large numbers.

        “Those African slaves who did wind up in New England, not untypically were purchased from the West Indies ….”

        Those African slaves who “wound up” in New England were almost all shipped there directly from Africa, to satisfy the heavy demand for African slaves in the New England states. It wasn’t hard to arrange this trade, as 75% of all U.S. slave trading from Africa was conducted by New Englanders, and those New Englanders were shipping slaves *to* the West Indies, where there was heavy demand at that time, not *from* there.

        “Slavery in Vermont was only legal for 16 years and ended in 1777.”

        Where are you getting these facts? Vermont had slaves when it was part of New York, and abolished slavery in its first constitution in 1777. So Vermont either had slavery for a century and a half, or else for no time at all, depending on how you want to look at it. Where do you get sixteen years?

        “Slavery … ended in Massachusetts in 1783.”

        No, slavery died out gradually in Massachusetts over generations. A judge mentioned orally in 1783, in a comment that was no part of any court decision, that he thought the state’s new constitution abolished slavery. But it didn’t, and slavery wasn’t formally abolished in Massachusetts until 1865.

        “I don’t see those numbers of one in one in four households.”

        Then you’re not looking in the right place, and you’re taking figures from other years as if they’re representative.

        “The one place those statistic might have worked is New York City, where 12.5% of the population were black.”

        “The one place …”? This was *typical* of the North, not an exception. Boston, for instance, had a population that was 10% black.

        “So you have a source for that reference?”

        I do. For instance, Joanne Pope Melish, “Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780-1860” (Cornell University Press, 1998).

        “Insofar as Native Americans – I didn’t say laws – I said Treaties.”

        Treaties are, by definition, law.

        But for “enslavement of Native Americans in the English Colonies,” you cited the “Virginia Code of 1662,” “local ordinances in Virginia,” and “the 1670 Law.”

        All of these are laws, and none of them are treaties.

        “Insofar as the legal background defining slavery racially ”

        None of what you cite defines slavery in racial terms. You cite a law providing that those of African descent aren’t to be armed, whether slave or not; a law prohibiting miscegenation, regardless of whether the participants are free or slave; and so on.

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      • btx3

        April 27, 2010 at 10:18 PM

        One of several places I got numbers (at least those usable online) was here – Slavery in the North

        No, slavery died out gradually in Massachusetts over generations.

        Slavery ended in Massachusetts with the Quock Walker and Mumbet cases. While there may have been people who dodged the law by converting slaves into indentured servants – AND slaves belonging to someone coming into the state couldn’t be freed – Dred Scott et al…

        Those African slaves who “wound up” in New England were almost all shipped there directly from Africa, to satisfy the heavy demand for African slaves in the New England states.

        For the home market, the Puritans generally took the Africans to the West Indies and sold them in exchange for a few experienced slaves, which they brought back to New England. In other cases, they brought back the weaklings that could not be sold on the harsh West Indies plantations (Phyllis Wheatley, the poetess, was one) and tried to get the best bargain they could for them in New England.

        That was from the above quoted source – there are numerous other links supporting the same thing. Indeed, where Native Americans were kept in slavery in New England, they were usually children acquired as domestics.

        Treaties are, by definition, law.

        Wrong! In the United States a Treaty is a contract in terms with dealing with Native American Nations, FURTHER, there are several types of Treaties in the American Government, which are not all law in the sense of the original Constitution –

        In the United States, the term “treaty” has a different, more restricted legal sense than exists in international law. U.S. law distinguishes what it calls treaties from treaty executive agreements, congressional-executive agreements, and sole executive agreements. All four classes are equally treaties under international law; they are distinct only from the perspective of internal American law. The distinctions are primarily concerning their method of ratification. Whereas treaties require advice and consent by two-thirds of the Senate, sole executive agreements may be executed by the President acting alone. Some treaties grant the President the authority to fill in the gaps with executive agreements, rather than additional treaties or protocols. And finally, congressional-executive agreements require majority approval by both the House and the Senate, either before or after the treaty is signed by the President.

        Look up Bricker Ammendment and two SCOTUS cases – Reid v. Covert and Kinsella v. Krueger, which established the primacy of the Constitution over Treaties. You may also want to look up the process of State “Reservations” which are part of the ratification process of a treaty by the States.

        Lastly the book you referenced, “Disowning Slavery…” can be read here.

        You referenced – But there were chattel slaves to be found in one in six New England households during this time, and in one in four households in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

        Starting on the bottom of page 15 and onto page 16 – that isn’t what the book claims.

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      • btx3

        April 27, 2010 at 10:44 PM

         
  7. James

    April 28, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    “Slavery ended in Massachusetts with the Quock Walker and Mumbet cases.”

    No, it didn’t, but I can see where you might have thought so from that web site. If you’ll read that link closely, you’ll see that the only reference to the end of slavery in those cases came in a judge’s notes. This wasn’t in any way legally binding, and didn’t in any way end slavery in Massachusetts. This is explained a bit more clearly in the Massachusetts section of the first link you provide, to the generally excellent slavenorth.com.

    Slavery in Massachusetts died out gradually, for economic reasons. While the cases you mention did involve juries siding with those who were enslaved, the juries did not give their reasons, and the Commonwealth did not bother to end slavery by law (largely because its legislature was pro-slavery) until the Thirteenth Amendment took effect in 1865.

    “That was from the above quoted source – there are numerous other links supporting the same thing.”

    That quotation you provide is for the slave trade by colonists in New England in the 1600s. That pattern does not characterize the slave trade *to* New England, which was dominated by European traders, and therefore says nothing about slaves in New England or their source. It also doesn’t reflect the slave trade *by* New Englanders, except in its earliest (and least active) years.

    “Wrong! In the United States a Treaty is a contract ….”

    I’m sorry, but it’s a fundamental principle of both domestic and international law that treaties are agreements between sovereign nations and are legally binding. They are entirely different from contracts in that respect.

    See, for instance, Black’s Law Dictionary (any edition).

    See also Article VI of the U.S. Constitution (“all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land”).

    What you talk about at length above is a different issue, which is whether treaties are self-executing under U.S. law or not.

    “Starting on the bottom of page 15 and onto page 16 – that isn’t what the book claims.”

    Actually, I have the book right here, and that’s exactly what it says. What does it say on the pages you found online that seems contradictory?

    “BTW, James – the source I listed above references the book you cited…”

    Yes, slavenorth.com does cite Joanne’s book. And that “source” agrees with her, and with me, doesn’t it?

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    • btx3

      April 28, 2010 at 3:41 PM

      That quotation you provide is for the slave trade by colonists in New England in the 1600s. That pattern does not characterize the slave trade *to* New England, which was dominated by European traders, and therefore says nothing about slaves in New England or their source. It also doesn’t reflect the slave trade *by* New Englanders, except in its earliest (and least active) years.

      By the 1700’s New England’s economy was based on slave trading – the so called triangle route. I see no citation anywhere that they utilized slaves directly from Africa other than a necessity. There were very cynical reasons for that. One of them was the type of work the slaves were intended for. A slave who spoke English and was trained was far more valuable to the household servant type slavery which predominated in New England. They did frequently take slaves directly from Africa to other colonies, particularly in the South where the premium was on agricultural labor.

      Slavery in Massachusetts died out gradually, for economic reasons.

      There were slaves in virtually every state up until the 13th Amendment. But again, much of that had to do with the debate which ended in Dred Scott. Ergo, even though slavery was abolished in one colony – someone from another colony where slavery was legal could keep their slaves when visiting another colony. Second, some states like Connecticut used a “Gradual Emancipation Act” of 1784 which set a age basis for freedom. Prior to outright banning slavery in 1848, the 1840 census shows only 17 slaves left in the state. There were at that point over 300,000 people in the state.

      Which gets us to the argument that there were large numbers of slaves in New England. In the mid-1770s, there were about 5,100 slaves in the Connecticut colony and they comprised approximately three percent of the population. The vast majority were owned by the wealthy “services” class of doctors, merchants, and lawyers – a small fraction of the population. Your claim –

      But there were chattel slaves to be found in one in six New England households during this time, and in one in four households in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

      Doesn’t hold up to the numbers.

      What she said in the book was that there were numerically 1 black slave for every ESTIMATED 6 families in 1715.

      According to the first general census of the New England population In 1715 there were 168,000 whites, or about 26,33 white families, and 4,150 Negros, or about 1 Negro for every 6 white families.

      That doesn’t mean that one in six families owned slaves. Indeed she is very careful to make that clear.

      What we do know is a significant percentage of wealthy families owned slaves, and often multiple slaves.

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      • btx3

        April 28, 2010 at 4:01 PM

        Since you are apparently deep into this subject James – Have you seen this video with the following researchers?

        http://forum-network.org/lecture/african-american-slave-trade-new-england

        Robert Hall professor, African-American Studies, Northeastern
        Linda Heywood, Boston University
        John Thornton, Boston University
        Lois Brown, Mount Holyoke College
        Richard A. Bailey, University of Kentucky
        Peter Benes, Boston University

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      • James

        April 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM

        “By the 1700′s New England’s economy was based on slave trading – the so called triangle route. I see no citation anywhere that they utilized slaves directly from Africa other than a necessity. ”

        Where are you getting this information? It seems like I’m having to correct everything you write.

        Actually, New England’s economy in the 1700s was based on supplying the West Indies, more than any other factor.

        The slave trade was fairly important, but in the 1700s, many of New England’s slaving voyages sent African slaves directly to New England. See http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/index.faces.

        “There were slaves in virtually every state up until the 13th Amendment. But again, much of that had to do with the debate which ended in Dred Scott.”

        In no state in the Union did the presence of slaves, in law or practice, depend on the Dred Scott decision. That case involved a jurisdictional question and whether African slaves and their descendants were U.S. citizens. It also involved dicta to the effect that bringing a slave into a U.S. territory without slavery did not free that slave.

        The reason there were slaves in virtually every state in the Union, prior to the 13th amendment, is that virtually every state permitted slaves to be brought in by law, and virtually no state had actually outlawed slavery.

        “In the mid-1770s, there were about 5,100 slaves in the Connecticut colony and they comprised approximately three percent of the population.”

        This was not the peak of slavery in Connecticut, but what makes you say that it’s small? What percentage of the southern population do you believe were slaves at this time?

        “The vast majority were owned by the wealthy “services” class of doctors, merchants, and lawyers – a small fraction of the population.”

        Not true at all. If you’ll look at Joanne’s book, you’ll see that the estates of roughly one in four Connecticut households reported at least one slave. That’s far more than just the wealthy class, and in fact, estate records show that many ordinary people from the middle class and from single-family farms owned at least one slave.

        “What she said in the book was that there were numerically 1 black slave for every ESTIMATED 6 families in 1715.”

        That is, as you say, only an estimate, and in 1715, which was far from the peak of slavery in New England. So don’t rely on that.

        If you’ll glance down that very page, you’ll see that work was done specifically on ACTUAL households, based on estate records, throughout the 18th century.

        “What we do know is a significant percentage of wealthy families owned slaves, and often multiple slaves.”

        What we do know is that slave-owning was widely distributed among middle-class families in New England, and that most families owned just one or two slaves.

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      • btx3

        April 28, 2010 at 6:22 PM

        The slave trade was fairly important, but in the 1700s, many of New England’s slaving voyages sent African slaves directly to New England. See http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/index.faces.

        Then you are reading those charts far differently than I am. In the vast majority of the voyages between 1700=1750 that I looked at the principal slave landing was listed as Jamaica, or “the Americas”. I don’t see any evidence that slaves were shipped directly from Africa to New England.

        “In the mid-1770s, there were about 5,100 slaves in the Connecticut colony and they comprised approximately three percent of the population.”

        This was not the peak of slavery in Connecticut, but what makes you say that it’s small? What percentage of the southern population do you believe were slaves at this time?

        In the 1770 time period, the percentage of slaves ranged from 25% to near 50% in the Southern Colonies. In 1775 the white population of Virginia was 279,000. The black population was 186,000. In South Carolina in 1790 there were 140,178 whites and 108,895 slaves. By 1820 there were 237,440 whites and 265,301 black people in South Carolina.

        which was far from the peak of slavery in New England

        And what was that peak?

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      • James

        April 28, 2010 at 4:08 PM

        “Have you seen this video with the following researchers?”

        The video isn’t coming up for me, but based on the information below the video, I was at that session. Those are all superb scholars, several of whom have work with our organization in Boston.

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      • btx3

        April 28, 2010 at 7:37 PM

        One other question –

        This is a fun, and educational discussion, but what exactly does it have to do with Gates?

        My argument with Gates Has to do with his claim that origin of slavery disqualifies it from any Reparations discussion.

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      • James

        April 28, 2010 at 7:30 PM

        “Then you are reading those charts far differently than I am. In the vast majority of the voyages between 1700=1750 that I looked at the principal slave landing was listed as Jamaica, or “the Americas”. I don’t see any evidence that slaves were shipped directly from Africa to New England.”

        I don’t think you’re reading the database correctly.

        You’re responding to the issue of whether New England slaving voyages to Africa in the 1700s often brought slaves directly to New England.

        If you conduct a search in the database for voyages in the 1700s, and originating in New England, which is a reasonable proxy here, you’ll find many voyages listed as bringing slaves to New England.

        Jamaica isn’t even close to being the most common destination.

        “In 1775 the white population of Virginia was 279,000. The black population was 186,000.”

        No, it wasn’t. Follow your own link. This was only for part of Virginia, and the part with most of the slaves.

        “In South Carolina in 1790 there were 140,178 whites and 108,895 slaves.”

        Yes. And if you read the text at the link you provided, you’ll see that South Carolina was atypical of the South: it had a much, much higher percentage of slaves than any other southern state. This doesn’t make it a good point of comparison for determining whether or not the number of slaves in New England was “small,” now does it?

        “By 1820 there were 237,440 whites and 265,301 black people in South Carolina.”

        This is fifty years after the New England figures you’re addressing.

        If you want to address the size of the slave population in the North, and aren’t impressed with the fact that one in four households, in three colonies, were slave-owning, perhaps it would be more useful to note that by 1750, a third of the workforce in New York City were black slaves. Or that slaves made up a third of the population of Brooklyn, and 18% of New York County. Or you could consider the fact that in 1770, there were more black slaves in the colony of New York than in all of Georgia. The figures for Boston and for southern New England were comparable.

        “And what was that peak?”

        It varied by state, but roughly a half to three-quarters of a century later.

        Let me sum up here, if I may: You questioned the very existence of chattel slavery in New England, and said that in any event, chattel slavery in New England only occurred “on a very small scale.”

        Have we established that there was widespread chattel slavery in New England? Are we set with that issue, then?

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      • btx3

        April 28, 2010 at 8:00 PM

        No, it wasn’t. Follow your own link. This was only for part of Virginia, and the part with most of the slaves.

        Now you are moving down to something I do have a reasonable bit of foreknowledge about. Virginia included all of what became West Virginia and a bit more in 1770. The area west of the Blue Ridge was largely unsettled, and was considered the frontier. As such, 95% of the people lived east of the Shenandoah.

        Here’s a map – http://webpages.charter.net/chamberlayne/minter/1770map.htm

        you’ll find many voyages listed as bringing slaves to New England.

        Yes you do, BUT DID THEY STAY THERE? There’s one of the two rubs. You will also notice that virtually every one of those ships stopped in a Southern or Caribbean Port. There was a reason for that – pure economics. A – untrained African slave brought L 80 in those ports, much higher than they could get bringing them back to New England. What New England slave owners wanted was skilled labor, who were already “conditioned”. The only Africans the slavers brought to New England were the ones they couldn’t sell in the South or Islands.

        I’ve got to go out for a bit – I’ll get to Georgia, New York, and your conclusions when I get back.

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      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 8:56 AM

        by 1750, a third of the workforce in New York City were black slaves. Or that slaves made up a third of the population of Brooklyn, and 18% of New York County. Or you could consider the fact that in 1770, there were more black slaves in the colony of New York than in all of Georgia. The figures for Boston and for southern New England were comparable.

        Let’s get back to that New York thing. The original settlers and rulers of New York were Dutch, not English – and the Dutch system of slavery was different from English Chattel slavery. Second, what the heck does New York have to do with the New England? It was not, and is not part of that Colony – or the states that derived from it. So claiming New England had slavery, but 3/4 of those slaves were held in New York City – which isn’t part of New England…

        is bogus.

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      • James

        April 28, 2010 at 8:19 PM

        “The area west of the Blue Ridge was largely unsettled, and was considered the frontier.”

        Yes, that’s all correct. At a minimum, it means your statistic understated the white population of Virginia by a fair bit. I didn’t think that part of Virginia was still so thinly settled in 1775, but in any event, as I said, your figure wasn’t for all of Virginia, and included the part with most of the slaves, which skews the figure.

        “Yes you do, BUT DID THEY STAY THERE?”

        Yes, they did. That’s what the figures for debarkation indicate. As a check, you can see that the ships generally didn’t have any further destinations.

        Now, if you’re asking whether the slaves were brought all the way up to New England, and then loaded onto other ships and brought all the way back down to the West Indies, the answer is no. The database has no record of such voyages, and they would have made no economic sense.

        “You will also notice that virtually every one of those ships stopped in a Southern or Caribbean Port.”

        Yes, and you can easily read the figures for how many slaves were off-loaded there, and how many stayed aboard to reach New England.

        “A – untrained African slave brought L 80 in those ports, much higher than they could get bringing them back to New England. ”

        Where do you think all of the black slaves in the swelling New England slave population in that century were coming from? Obviously, roughly speaking, that many African slaves were being brought to New England for sale.

        More obviously, just look at the figures given in the database. It shows how many slaves were off-loaded, and whether they were sold locally or not.

        “The only Africans the slavers brought to New England were the ones they couldn’t sell in the South or Islands.”

        I’ve studied a great many slave voyages to New England, and I’ve seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever of this pattern. Nor is this consistent with the database, or with any of the books on the slave trade that I’ve ever seen. Where did you get this idea (and, optionally, how is it relevant to anything we’ve been talking about)?

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      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 9:11 AM

        “The original settlers and rulers of New York were Dutch, not English – and the Dutch system of slavery was different from English Chattel slavery.”

        Why is this relevant? New York in the 1700s was in English, not Dutch, hands. At the time I was discussing, New York had been in English hands for about a century,, and the laws and practices on slavery were English, not Dutch.

        Furthermore, you seem to use the term “chattel slavery” in interesting ways. Above, you suggested there wasn’t “chattel slavery” in New England, and in support of that, you mentioned only that there wasn’t as much plantation slavery as in the South. Here, you seem to be saying that what the Dutch didn’t practice chattel slavery, whereas in fact, the Dutch were major players in the Atlantic system of chattel slavery.

        “Second, what the heck does New York have to do with the New England?”

        I was, obviously, talking about the North at that point, since you had expanded the discussion to include a comparison of northern and southern slavery, and of slave populations in the South.

        If you don’t find the New York references enlightening, that’s fine.

        “So claiming New England had slavery, but 3/4 of those slaves were held in New York City – which isn’t part of New England…”

        I’m not claiming anything of the kind. What are you trying to argue? New England had extensive slavery, as did the rest of the North. So I’m not “claiming New England had slavery,” for instance; it did. The fact that there were many slaves in New York City — but far from three times as many as in all of New England! — doesn’t change that.

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      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 10:10 AM

        We are wandering all over the place, James – in part from differing definitions. I just added an article from Ghana – to get a sense of their view.

        I have found a source which bears out our differing views on from where slaves were imported to New England.

        In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860.

        Until about 1740/50 the vast majority of slaves imported to New England came from the Americas. That shifted, according to this source – not coincidentally with the growth of the New England Maritime slave trade to direct import from Africa.

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      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 10:27 AM

        “We are wandering all over the place, James – in part from differing definitions.”

        Can you say which terms you’re thinking of? It seems to me that the terms at issue–such as “chattel slavery”–have well-defined meanings.

        “I have found a source which bears out our differing views on from where slaves were imported to New England.”

        If you’ll read closely, you’ll see that the book you cite says “Colonial accounts seem to indicate that many African slaves were not imported directly from Africa ….”

        This indicates that, despite subsequent statements in the book on this topic, the Hortons aren’t certain that “many” African slaves came via indirect routes, much less that “the vast majority” did, as you claim. Instead, they examined a few colonial accounts that suggested indirect routes, and are suggesting that many (but not necessarily a majority) did so.

        In fact, this book is primarily an account of various black figures in American history, and only in passing mentions a few facts about the slave trade. And since it was written, we have vastly expanded our knowledge of such details of the trade, allowing us to make statements about the origins of New England slaves prior to the mid-18th century with much greater precision.

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      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 11:37 AM

        Can you say which terms you’re thinking of? It seems to me that the terms at issue–such as “chattel slavery”–have well-defined meanings.

        My view of “chattel slavery” is admittedly influenced by the Southern model, which was significantly different than that in New England – even at the legal level.

        What I read in my quick survey of the book was that prior to about 1740, New England slaveholders preferred slaves who were “conditioned”, because of their belief that Aficans could not survive the harsh New England winters. I think our differences are based on exactly what “conditioning” involved.

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      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 11:46 AM

        “My view of ‘chattel slavery’ is admittedly influenced by the Southern model, which was significantly different than that in New England – even at the legal level.”

        Well, okay, but we agree on that. Chattel slavery is still chattel slavery. New England had chattel slavery every bit as much as the South did. I don’t see how this is a difference in definitions.

        “What I read in my quick survey of the book was that prior to about 1740, New England slaveholders preferred slaves who were “conditioned”, because of their belief that Aficans could not survive the harsh New England winters.”

        Well, at the link you provided, a search for “conditioned” and “conditioning” turns up nothing. So I don’t know what claim the Hortons make in the book on this subject. I suspect it’s similar to the statement they make about the origins of New England slaves: that colonial accounts they’ve read suggest simply that at least some New England slave owners had the notion that slaves already acclimated to cold weather were preferable.

        But I don’t think it’s relevant: by their own admission, they have no reason to believe that most African slaves arriving in New England weren’t transported from Africa. And that’s the issue we were discussing.

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      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

        But I don’t think it’s relevant: by their own admission, they have no reason to believe that most African slaves arriving in New England weren’t transported from Africa.

        Yeah – they did. “Conditioning” was a sub-industry supporting slavery, generally performed in the West Indies, South Carolina, or Virginia. By your own statements, the fundamental difference between New England slavery and Southern Plantation slavery was the function of the slaves – which in New England, also included close physical contact with their owners.

        What was happening there was an exchange of slaves from Africa for slaves that had been “broken”, and “conditioned” which included at least some rudimentary training in understanding commands in English. That might include some basic training in some form of work. This was a lot more involved than simply unloading African slaves in a Southern port, whereupon simply under the auspices of their feet touching pure American soil – they became perfectly educated submissives. Look at the skill sets of these slaves in those slave ads. They didn’t get those chained in the bottom of a boat. So what was happening is that the slaves imported to New England – may not have even been born in Africa.

        The changeover was likely due to several factors – including that the principal slave ships home ports were in New England after 1750 – which made deadheading from the Southern slave ports financially unattractive. What they did was cut out the middlemen by importing children, and adults who couldn’t be sold to support the agrarian labor pool in the South because of age or physical infirmaties. Which coincidentally limited their ability and likelyhood of escape.

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      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 12:50 PM

        “Yeah – they did.”

        They *say* they found colonial records which indicate only the possibility that many Africans came via indirect routes. What makes you think they had reason to believe more than that, other than your belief that New England slave owners preferred conditioning (which, itself, tells us nothing about where most of the slaves came from)?

        “Look at the skill sets of these slaves in those slave ads. They didn’t get those chained in the bottom of a boat. ”

        You can talk all you want about conditioning and the value of “broken,” trained slaves.

        The fact is that most ads for slaves in New England were for slaves who’d been chained in the hold of a ship since they left Africa. This is because that’s where most of the slaves were coming from. Just look at the database.

        New England wasn’t some backwater for slaves in this era. It was a major market, at least as the British colonies went.

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      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 2:01 PM

        We really can’t blame Gates for this. Most reparations advocates–including the most prominent one at his own institution–consider these two aspects of history to be part of the same reparations discussion.

        Virginia and Carolina were a major market. You do realize that by 1770 nearly 1/4th of the people in America – slave or free – lived in Virginia, and 1/2 of the population lived between Maryland and Tennessee. 450,000 of the 2.1 million non-native souls lived in Virginia. There arguably were more free black people in Virginia alone – than there were total black people of any status in New England.

        Slavery in New England ended because by 1840 – the Irish were cheaper. More Irish immigrated to the US between 1845 and 1850 – than slaves were brought to this country in the previous 250 years.

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      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 2:35 PM

        “Virginia and Carolina were a major market.”

        They certainly were. So were the New England states, of course, and I don’t know why you’re raising the first issue, or seeming to downplay the second. There was plenty of slavery in all of these areas, and we aren’t disagreeing about anything else worth mentioning, are we?

        “Slavery in New England ended because by 1840 – the Irish were cheaper.”

        No. First of all, slavery in New England was on its way out by 1780. The reasons were in place by that time.

        You seem to be referring to the use of the Irish in textile mills and similar work, for which the use of unskilled immigrant labor (largely Irish), at very low wages and in difficult conditions, was well-known.

        But the use of the Irish in this way, and indeed that type of industry altogether, didn’t arise until slavery was all but unknown in New England, and the Irish never competed much at all with slaves in New England for jobs.

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  8. James

    April 28, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    “This is a fun, and educational discussion, but what exactly does it have to do with Gates?”

    Beats me. As I pointed out in my last comment, this whole latest string of comments derives from your disbelief that there was chattel slavery in New England, and that if there was, it was on more than a “very small scale.”

    Having established that there was widespread chattel slavery in New England, I’d have thought we’d have been done with that issue.

    “My argument with Gates Has to do with his claim that origin of slavery disqualifies it from any Reparations discussion.”

    I don’t follow you–“origin of slavery”?

    Gates isn’t making any excuses for the U.S. when it comes to the reparations debate, and he isn’t trying to disqualify anything from discussion when it comes to reparations.

    In fact, as he’s said elsewhere, Gates wants to acknowledge the historical truth that African societies were deeply complicit in the slave trade, receive token, or even symbolic, gestures from the heirs of those societies, and move on to discuss U.S. responsibility for slavery and racial discrimination.

    Like

     
    • btx3

      April 29, 2010 at 8:28 AM

      That is not what I read from Gates. Second paragraph of his diatribe he concludes –

      Perhaps the most vexing is how to parcel out blame to those directly involved in the capture and sale of human beings for immense economic gain.

      He then follows with –

      Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in “Roots.”

      There are several schools of thought on this relative to any “reparations” argument – one based wholly on the actions of the country from the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Act. The second based on the development of racial based slavery, and laws which began to be implemented as early as 1630 which specifically denied African slaves (and freedmen) rights recognized under English Common Law from the period of 1600 to 1787. Part of my own family gained their freedom in 1708 in Montgomery County Virginia, because of one of the treaty agreements with Powatan (that “Indian” Mother thing) – and fought off no less than 6 “legal” attempts to re-enslave them, and their heirs (and by evidence, several illegal attempts) through 1804. One of the cases the NRA loves to cite about gun control starting as a methodology to subdue the free black population involved my ggg-grandfather and uncle who won their case in 1811, allowing them to carry guns to protect themselves and their families from various nefarious elements AKA Plantation Police and Slave Catchers.

      I don’t see anyone making the case that Spain, which actually brought the first African slaves to North American shores in 1526 – or the Dutch who dominated the North American Slave Trade for 50 years (It’s how many of those slaves got to New York City), or the Portuguese who developed the European-African slave trade to begin with, are somehow “clouding the argument”. So I see Gate’s late to the game argument, that somehow we need to recognize African complicity a wholly specious – since the core of the argument is…

      What happened AFTER those African slaves arrived on these shores.

      Like

       
      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 8:41 AM

        “That is not what I read from Gates.”

        That’s because it wasn’t in that particular essay.

        Now, I realize you might have your concerns about his views on reparations after reading the essay. But I think it’s important to consider what he actually said, and didn’t say, and not to read anything into the essay (especially if he’s made his full views clear elsewhere).

        “I don’t see anyone making the case that Spain … or the Portuguese who developed the European-African slave trade to begin with, are somehow “clouding the argument”. ”

        That’s because no one objects to talking about their role in the slave trade. Whenever anyone mentions, in discussing reparations, that European nations did almost all of the slave trading, this fact is accepted without question. No one argues that it shouldn’t have been mentioned, or that the speaker is trying to derail reparations. It is accepted that this is history, and that while it complicates the story of complicity, we can simply focus on the history in the U.S. after the slave trade (which, after all, is what Gates wants to do) — or that we could seek reparations from European nations, too, but that acknowledging their complicity doesn’t diminish U.S. responsibility one iota.

        Why isn’t the same true of African complicity?

        “the core of the argument is…What happened AFTER those African slaves arrived on these shores.”

        And Gates and I both agree with you … as long as you aren’t trying to dismiss, altogether, the role of the slave trade as part of this story.

        After all, surely you aren’t saying that the enslavement and transportation of those 12 million Africans across the Middle Passage wasn’t an important part of the story? Or that it isn’t a part of the story for which responsibility ought to be discussed?

        People are constantly mentioning the role of (white) slave traders in discussing reparations, even if they quickly move on to focus on the remaining history.

        How, then, to justify ignoring the role of slave traders the moment African traders are mentioned? Or are you prepared to consistently say that the slave traders aren’t a part of the history that reparations are to address at all?

        (I would find that last part very interesting, since I’m descended from the leading U.S. slave trader, and even bear his name. But I’m not sure how it would be justified, or if you didn’t agree, how we can dismiss the role of African slave traders so quickly.)

        Like

         
      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 11:06 AM

        After all, surely you aren’t saying that the enslavement and transportation of those 12 million Africans across the Middle Passage wasn’t an important part of the story? Or that it isn’t a part of the story for which responsibility ought to be discussed?

        Of which story? The history of international slavery? Certainly.

        The institutionalization of slavery along racial lines, and the subsequent disenfranchisement of a entire population for near 100 years AFTER slavery was abolished in America?

        THATs the crime in my view that needs “reparations”.

        Those great grands I referenced who were freedmen, purchased and owned a plantation. They also purchased at least one “slave” that I have found records of, who became my ggg-grandmother. Their children were forced to serve as slaves on a white slaveholders plantation until their age of majority, as part of the “apprentice law” – requiring all free blacks be attached to a Plantation from the age of 13 to 21. (Welcome to the South!) Legally, in Virginia – they could not testify in their own behalf, or anyone else’s in a court of law. They actually participated in two legal battles, the first an attempt to re-enslave them and take their property based on the status of their father – by reclassifying their mother as white. Under Virginia law, the black child of a white woman by a black slave was a slave whereas in all other cases the child’s status followed that of the mother. Their father fought for the British Army during the Revolution, which he joined in the West Indies to escape slavery. The resolution of that case came about due to a copy of the manumission document signed by Lord Cornwallis, sitting in the Courthouse to this day – of which I have a copy.

        They also paid taxes – but received far fewer rights under the law. After slavery was abolished, we have the same situation in much of the country where black people worked and paid taxes – but were denied basic citizenship rights, or even services purchased with their tax money.

        The fact that some Africans participated in enslaving and selling people in Africa is irrelevant to that discussion – and a needless delve down the rabbit hole of assuaging guilt.

        I tend to view this as separate crimes – which need to be addressed individually. When discussing the enslavement and transportation of 12 million people – that is a lot broader than just an American issue, spanning dozens of countries who directly benefited, participated, and were economically advantaged. Gate’s crime in my view is to obliterate the lines between the different issues in this article. It isn’t the established historical fact that indeed some African Kings did indeed facilitate and enable enslavement of African peoples – it is that such on Gate’s part is an obfuscation of the basic issues.

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  9. James

    April 29, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    “Of which story? The history of international slavery? Certainly.”

    No, I meant the story of U.S. slavery. After all, that story is described all the time in terms of slave traders, then slave owners, then white citizens discriminating after slavery.

    I agree that much of the focus of the story of U.S. slavery should come after the trade, and perhaps the reparations discussion should focus largely on how slavery was engaged in here, or on what came after slavery.

    I’m amused, though, that I’m constantly told how important the slave traders are to the reparations discussion — and now that African traders are being discussed, I’m suddenly hearing that we don’t need to talk about the complicity of the slave traders at all!

    “THATs the crime in my view that needs “reparations”.”

    I respect that, and that’s basically Gates’ position, too.

    “The fact that some Africans participated in enslaving and selling people in Africa is irrelevant to that discussion – and a needless delve down the rabbit hole of assuaging guilt.”

    I’m fine with saying that the slave traders, white and black, are irrelevant to the reparations debate, because that debate ought to focus on later matters.

    However, I’ll only believe that any talk about African complicity in the slave trade is a “needless” diversion into “assuaging guilt” when people stop constantly talking about the (white) slave traders in discussing reparations.

    “Gate’s crime in my view is to obliterate the lines between the different issues in this article.”

    We really can’t blame Gates for this. Most reparations advocates–including the most prominent one at his own institution–consider these two aspects of history to be part of the same reparations discussion. So he’s just responding by putting the slave-trading part, at least the African role, into its proper context. By his own account, he’s doing that so the reparations debate can move on … to the sort of issues you believe it should focus on.

    “indeed some African Kings did indeed facilitate and enable enslavement of African peoples”

    Let’s be careful not to commit the mistake Gates is arguing against, of seeming to minimize African complicity in the slave trade.

    As you say, it’s well-established … that many Africans, not just a few rulers, were deeply involved in the slave trade. And they enabled the entire slave trade to take place at all.

    We can set this history aside, but the moment we seem to be distorting it, we’re vulnerable to the accusation of a double standard, and that undermines the effort to win acknowledgment of the U.S. role in slavery and race. I believe this is a central point Gates is making.

    Like

     
    • btx3

      April 29, 2010 at 12:46 PM

      We really can’t blame Gates for this. Most reparations advocates–including the most prominent one at his own institution–consider these two aspects of history to be part of the same reparations discussion.

      I don’t know this, but it is going to provide some interesting fodder over a future family dinner. My god-daughter and her husband both studied under Gates for their Doctorates at Kennedy. So I’ll serve lots of finger food…

      Like

       
      • James

        April 29, 2010 at 12:52 PM

        That should be an interesting discussion! (I was referring to Charles Ogletree, by the way, in case it comes up.)

        Do you know whether your god-daughter and her husband cross-registered for classes with Gates in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences while they were students at the Kennedy School? Or did he come over and teach a class there? Or was he on their dissertation committees?

        Like

         
      • btx3

        April 29, 2010 at 1:38 PM

        I believe he was on her Dissertation committee. Whether she also took classes, I’ll have to ask. She did spend one summer interning at the SPLC, which was an eye opener for a decidedly suburban girl. She got her Masters at Duke. I think her husband’s was from Columbia – but I could be wrong. They are both now at UVa.

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