How Slavery Built America

Saw this one on my Amazon Reading List, downloaded it – and have been reading through it the last week or so on my way to work on the subway.  Historian Edward Baptist’s treatise on how slavery made America has been greeted with both strong objection from the usual suspects as well as hailed for it’s detailed treatment of a complex historical subject, the ramifications of which still impact American Society today. What Baptist documents is what us students of American History have suspected for a very long time, but until this book – no one really documented it and brought it out front.

What Baptist succinctly points our and documents is the “capitalism” which grew this country from it’s founding in the early 1600’s to an industrial powerhouse owes it roots, and its foundation to slavery. Far from the oft repeated “land of economic opportunity”, slavery generated over half of this country’s economic might, and the worth  of slaves alone constituted over 1/6th of the total wealth of the nation prior to 1860. This one smacks the”Southern Myth” regurgitated by conservative right wingers dead between the eyes.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

 

Part of a book review by the NY Times. Follow the link for the whole article.

A Brutal Process

‘The Half Has Never Been Told,’ by Edward E. Baptist

For residents of the world’s pre-­eminent capitalist nation, American historians have produced remarkably few studies of capitalism in the United States. This situation was exacerbated in the 1970s, when economic history began to migrate from history to economics departments, where it too often became an exercise in scouring the past for numerical data to plug into computerized models of the economy. Recently, however, the history of American capitalism has emerged as a thriving cottage industry. This new work portrays capitalism not as a given (something that “came in the first ships,” as the historian Carl Degler once wrote) but as a system that developed over time, has been constantly evolving and penetrates all aspects of society.

Slavery plays a crucial role in this literature. For decades, historians depicted the institution as unprofitable and on its way to extinction before the Civil War (a conflict that was therefore unnecessary). Recently, historians like Sven Beckert, Robin Blackburn and Walter Johnson have emphasized that cotton, the raw material of the early Industrial Revolution, was by far the most important commodity in 19th-century international trade and that capital accumulated through slave labor flowed into the coffers of Northern and British bankers, merchants and manufacturers. And far from being economically backward, slave owners pioneered advances in modern accounting and finance.

Edward E. Baptist situates “The Half Has Never Been Told” squarely within this context. Baptist, who teaches at Cornell University, is the author of a well-­regarded study of slavery in Florida. Now he expands his purview to the entire cotton kingdom, the heartland of 19th-­century American slavery. (Unfortunately, slavery in the Upper South, where cotton was not an economic staple, is barely discussed, even though as late as 1860 more slaves lived in Virginia than any other state.) In keeping with the approach of the new historians of capitalism, the book covers a great deal of ground — not only economic enterprise but religion, ideas of masculinity and gender, and national and Southern politics. Baptist’s work is a valuable addition to the growing literature on slavery and American development.

Where Baptist breaks new ground is in his emphasis on the centrality of the interstate trade in slaves to the regional and national economies and his treatment of the role of extreme violence in the workings of the slave system. After the legal importation of slaves from outside the country ended in 1808, the spread of slavery into the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico would not have been possible without the enormous uprooting of people from Maryland and Virginia. Almost one million slaves, Baptist estimates, were transported to the cotton fields from the Upper South in the decades before the Civil War.

The domestic slave trade was highly organized and economically efficient, relying on such modern technologies as the steamboat, railroad and telegraph. For African-Americans, its results were devastating. Since buyers preferred young workers “with no attachments,” the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children was intrinsic to its operation, not, as many historians have claimed, a regrettable side effect. Baptist shows how slaves struggled to recreate a sense of community in the face of this disaster.

The sellers of slaves, Baptist insists, were not generally paternalistic owners who fell on hard times and parted reluctantly with members of their metaphorical plantation “families,” but entrepreneurs who knew an opportunity for gain when they saw one. As for the slave traders — the middlemen — they excelled at maximizing profits. They not only emphasized the labor abilities of those for sale (reinforced by humiliating public inspections of their bodies), but appealed to buyers’ salacious fantasies. In the 1830s, the term “fancy girl” began to appear in slave-trade notices to describe young women who fetched high prices because of their physical attractiveness. “Slavery’s frontier,” Baptist writes, “was a white man’s sexual playground.”

The cotton kingdom that arose in the Deep South was incredibly brutal. Violence against Native Americans who originally owned the land, competing imperial powers like Spain and Britain and slave rebels solidified American control of the Gulf states. Violence, Baptist contends, explains the remarkable increase of labor productivity on cotton plantations. Without any technological innovations in cotton picking, output per hand rose dramatically between 1800 and 1860. Some economic historians have attributed this to incentives like money payments for good work and the opportunity to rise to skilled positions. Baptist rejects this explanation.

Planters called their method of labor control the “pushing system.” Each slave was assigned a daily picking quota, which increased steadily over time. Baptist, who feels that historians too often employ circumlocutions that obscure the horrors of slavery, prefers to call it “the ‘whipping-machine’ system.” In fact, the word we should really use, he insists, is “torture.” To make slaves work harder and harder, planters utilized not only incessant beating but forms of discipline familiar in our own time — sexual humiliation, bodily mutilation, even waterboarding. In the cotton kingdom, “white people inflicted torture far more often than in almost any human society that ever existed.” When Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans in his Second Inaugural Address of the 250 years of “blood drawn with the lash” that preceded the Civil War, he was making a similar point: Violence did not begin in the United States with the firing on Fort Sumter.

MSNBC Wusses Out…Again. Martin Bashir Resignation.

MSNBC commentator Martin Bashir has tendered his resignation to MSNBC. More than likely he was asked to leave by cowardly MSNBC Management. This leaves a huge hole in MSNBC’s lineup, taking away what was by far, their best interviewer. I mean I love you Rachael, but although she is smarter than the entire collection of Faux News bimbos combined, cutting through the bullshit in an interview isn’t her strong point. Bashir is a victim of responding to the Sno’ Ho’s ignorant and racist comments in kind – saying what a lot of us would if we had the microphone.

To be honest, if MSNBC is too chickenshit to call Palin on her pernicious and offensive racist statements…

Then they are too chickenshit for this viewer.

Putting this one under the heading of Domestic Terrorism.

 

Martin Bashir Resigns From MSNBC Following Sarah Palin Comments

Martin Bashir has resigned from MSNBC following weeks of controversy over his incendiary comments about Sarah Palin, he announced in an email posted byMediaite on Wednesday.

“Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the president of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation,” the email read in part. “It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments.”

In a statement, MSNBC president Phil Griffin paid tribute to Bashir:

“Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague – we wish him only the best.”

Bashir had been a host on the network since 2011, and had frequently raised eyebrows with his hyperbolic commentary. But his comments in November in response to remarks about slavery by Palin touched off a firestorm. Among other things, Bashir said that someone should defecate and urinate in Palin’s mouth, a punishment delivered to some slaves. He apologized, but the comments continued tohaunt him.

Bashir’s resignation came shortly after Alec Baldwin parted ways with MSNBC over anti-gay comments he made towards a photographer. At the time, many wondered why Baldwin, who was suspended for two weeks for statements he made off the air, was seemingly being punished more than Bashir, who was not given any immediate suspension.

Bashir’s departure leaves a hole in MSNBC’s afternoon lineup. Leading candidates for the slot include MSNBC contributor and guest host Joy Reid, along with the recently hired Ronan Farrow. For the time being, Reid will fill in as a guest host.

Bashir Takes a Dump on the Sno’ Ho’

I mean…Tell us how you feel, Martin! The only issue I see here is his suggestion wouldn’t be any different than taking a dump in a Don’s John.,,

You are just adding to the pile.

Martin, you get an Honorary Giant Negro Award for that one!

MSNBC’s Bashir: Sarah Palin Should Be Defecated, Pissed On

MARTIN BASHIR: We end this week in the way it began — with America’s resident dunce, Sarah Palin, scraping the barrel of her long deceased mind, and using her all time favorite analogy in an attempt to sound intelligent about the national debt.

SARAH PALIN: Our free stuff today is being paid for by taking money from our children, and borrowing from China. When that note comes due and this isn’t racist, so try it. Try it anyway. This isn’t racist. But it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due.

BASHIR: It’ll be like slavery. Given her well-established reputation as a world class idiot, it’s hardly surprising that she should choose to mention slavery in a way that is abominable to anyone who knows anything about its barbaric history. So here’s an example: One of the most comprehensive first-person accounts of slavery comes from the personal diary of a man called Thomas Thistlewood, who kept copious notes for 39 years. Thistlewood was the son of a tenant farmer who arrived on the island of Jamaica in April 1750 and assumed the position of overseer at a major plantation.

What is most shocking about Thistlewood’s diary is not simply the fact that he assumes the right to own and possess other human beings, but the sheer cruelty and brutality of his regime. In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby catched [sic] eating canes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, S-H-I-T in his mouth. This became known as Darby’s dose, a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of the slave owners savagery and inhumanity.

And he mentions a similar incident again in 1756, this time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. Flogged Punch well and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper. Made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth. I could go on, but you get the point.

When Mrs. Palin invoked slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.

 

 

 

Joan Walsh Torches the Sno’ Ho’

I have never heard it said more clearly – Joan walsh absolutely unloaded on the Sno’ Ho’s racial shenanigans comparing bullsquat to slavery…

When you’re tempted to preface something by saying this isn’t racist, maybe you should probably check yourself because it probably is.

And second of all, she put on a clinic in white privilege, really, because it is many things. But one of those things is letting yourself stay ignorant enough to use slavery as a metaphor for something you don’t like about government. As Cynthia [Tucker] said, the debt does not let someone rape their slave. So the debt does not come and take her child Piper out of her arms. So this is — the white grievance industry, where she also does a fun thing in there, you know. She’s like go ahead and try. because being told that you shouldn’t use slavery as a metaphor, that’s discrimination. That’s racist against white people. My god. What are you guys doing to us?

 

 

 

Tea Party Southern Myth vs 12 Years a Slave

Like the Holocaust Deniers scattered around the world in anti-Semitic clusters, America has its own peculiar breed of Denier of the unconscionable – The advocates of the Southern Myth.

Recognizing what they were doing as slavers was morally unconscionable from a Judeo Christian basis, the slavers sought absolution through first, perverting their religion to justify slavery, and second by attaching themselves to Chivalrous traditions creating a “Genteel” societal veneer. Indeed, in my State of Virginia Thomas Jefferson’s University, UVa – adopted the Cavalier as the school symbol. That wasn’t just because most slaveholders were Crown Loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Attaching themselves to the English Cavaliers was an attempt to gloss over, and add class to an evil society. No different than the Drug Lords of recent vintage using their ill gotten gains to project an image of respectability.

Post Civil War, this shifted into manufacturing a society’s existence under slavery which never existed. The brutality visited upon the slaves to force them to obey, which included torture, systematic rape of women and children, and murder became the “Good Old Days” of a slightly decadent but otherwise genteel society. The Civil War became the “War of the States” supporting the fiction that each and every Southern State’s Secession Articles didn’t list slavery as the “States Right” they were fighting for. These same stawarts brought America Segregation and Jim Crow.

The modern incarnation of this “Southern psychosis” is the Tea Party, the grandchild of the Second Klan of the 20’s, American Nazi Party of the 40’s, and Dixiecrats  of the 50’s and 60’s. Absorbing the Republican matra of blaming the victim. Like their poor, landless ancestors who marched off to be maimed and killed to [protect the rights of wealthy slave owners, today’s conservative confederate malcontents support the rights of the elite right who have eviscerated the American Dream, sold their jobs overseas,  and near destroyed the American Middle Class since Raygun. All under the banner of maintaining their fictitious racial superiority. It is OK with the modern Tea Bagger to take Food Stamps away from the poor, using much the same justification of the rapist that the “bitch deserved it”. It is OK to harass the poor, even though the economic condition of many Tea Parties would place them among the “white trash” – because in a country which has legislatively discriminated, at the Tea Bagger’s ancestors demand,  against minorities for generation – a higher percentage of minorities are poor. Despite class mythology, the only reason many of these white Tea Baggers aren’t scions of society has nothing to do with discrimination – and everything to do with their own personal, generational failures. no one has held them back, except their own ignorance and racism.

In front of the White House after disgracing th WII Memorial

Tea Party and ’12 Years a Slave’

“Twelve Years a Slave,” a movie based on the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841, is a powerful antidote to the Tea Party’s poisonous nostalgia for the era of “states’ rights” and “nullificationism,” which became code words for protecting the “liberty” of Southern whites to own African-Americans.

The movie, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup, reveals how lofty phrases about “freedom” often meant their opposite as Southern politicians developed an Orwellian skill for weaving noble-sounding “principles” into a cloak for covering up the unjustifiable.

And, for too many generations, it worked. Americans have romanticized the antebellum South, seeing it through the rosy haze of “Gone with the Wind” or learning from school history books that most slave-owners were kindly and paternalistic masters. Even today many Americans tell themselves that slavery wasn’t all that bad. To burnish their pride in the never-to-be-criticized USA, they whitewash one of the nation’s greatest crimes, the enslavement of millions of people based on the color of their skin. Continue reading

Modern Slavery – Haiti

Slavery exists in Haiti. Worse – not infrequently the children enslaved under restavèk are sold into the child sex trade in the Dominican Republic on the other side of the island.

The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Reports indicate that large numbers of Dominican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking throughout the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and the United States. A recent study conducted by the United Nations Population Fund revealed that tens of thousands of Dominican women are presently victims of trafficking worldwide. Additionally, the commercial sexual exploitation of local children by foreign tourists is a problem, particularly in coastal resort areas of the Dominican Republic, with these child sex tourists arriving year-round from the United States, Canada, and European countries.

Haiti’s child slaves land country high on new global slavery index

But many of the 29 million modern day slaves might challenge your concept of who is a slave. It might be an indebted laborer, a victim of human trafficking, or, in the case of Haiti, the child working in the kitchen.

Walk Free Foundation used an expanded definition of slavery to produce what it says is a first-of-its-kind look at the practice in the modern world.

“It would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, but it remains a scar on humanity on every continent,” says Nick Grono, CEO the Australia-based foundation that produced the Global Slavery Index 2013, the first of a planned annual publication.

Nearly half of the world’s slaves lives in India. But the index ranked 162 countries according to the percentage of enslaved people in the general population. Western Africa’s Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan had the three highest rates of slavery, respectively, according to the index.

While Mauritania’s 140,000 to 160,000 enslaved people fit more closely with the historical perception of who is a slave, Haiti provides a different face to the practice.

Haiti’s 200,000 to 220,000 enslaved people are mostly children who live with families not their own, working as household servants in the Caribbean country’s complex and long-standing restavèk system.

Under restavèk (a Haitian creole word derived from French meaning “one who stays with”), poor, often

rural, families send their children to live with a family of better means, usually in urban areas. The children are sent with the understanding that the family will clothe, feed, quarter and educate them in exchange for their work.

But inside the homes, “many of these children suffer the cruelest form of neglect – denied food, water, a bed to sleep in, and constant physical and emotional abuse,” the report says.

The group estimates that between 300,000 and 500,000 children are in a similar circumstance, according to information it gathered on the ground. It is unclear why they counted some, but not all, restavèk children as slaves.

In compiling the index, researchers defined slavery as “the possession and control of a person … with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer, or disposal.”

Some have argued against defining slavery so broadly, based in part on its historic significance.

In The Haitian Times last year, columnist Max Joseph wrote, “For Haitians, or any member of the African Diaspora for that matter, the word ‘slavery’ is distinctively associated with the transatlantic slave trade in which millions of Africans were forcibly uprooted from their villages and sold like domesticated animals in faraway lands.

“The notion of associating the restavèk phenomenon with slavery is a naked attempt at trivializing one of the most grotesque episodes in human history,” Joseph wrote.

In its report, the foundation says it’s important to focus on “hidden” enslaved people, such asrestavèk children.

“Since hidden slaves can’t be counted it is easy to pretend they don’t exist. The Index aims to change that,” Kevin Bales, the lead researcher on the index, said in a statement.

Racism, Conservatism, Slavery, and the South

A long term criticism of the Congressional Black Caucus is that they have a seeming inability to move past the 60’s Civil Rights struggle. Since many of their districts exist because of racial gerrymandering by Republicans to produce reliably white, Republican districts by concentrating black and Minority voters – about half of the districts held by black Congressmen are in the South. The reverse Great Migration of black folks back to the South has resulted in the majority of black folks in the United States being located in the region.

African-American Population Percentage by County US in 2000 Census

Growing up and living in an extremely diverse region, Northern Virginia – where black professionals are common, leads to a view of the status of race relations, and the relationships between races is decidedly different from that of folks from the Deep-South. Folks from the Deep-South are more likely to see racism as a major issue. The flip answer has been that such belief is based on historical experience and not modern.

Turns out the flip answer, as usual… is wrong.

Former Slavery Strongholds Harbor Majority Of Nation’s Racists, Study Shows  - What they found: That a “slavery effect” persists among white Southerners who currently live in the Cotton Belt where slavery and the plantation economy thrived from the late 18th century into the 20th century. Residents of those counties are much more likely today to express more negative attitudes toward blacks than their fellow Southerners who live in nearby areas that had few slaves; are more likely to identify as Republican; and are more likely to express opposition to policies like affirmative action, the study authors concluded.

Conservatism is racism.

Slaves were concentrated in counties where cotton thrived, as shown in the above map based on the 1860 census. White Southerners in these same areas today express more racial resentment and are more likely to be Republican and oppose affirmative action, than other Southerners.

Legacy of Slavery Still Fuels Anti-Black Attitudes in the Deep South

Although slavery was abolished 150 years ago, its political legacy is alive and well, according to researchers who performed a new county-by-county analysis of census data and opinion polls of more than 39,000 southern whites.

The team of political scientists found that white Southerners who live today in the Cotton Belt where slavery and the plantation economy dominated are much more likely to express more negative attitudes toward blacks than their fellow Southerners who live in nearby areas that had few slaves. Residents of these former slavery strongholds are also more likely to identify as Republican and to express opposition to race-related policies such as affirmative action.

Conducted by Avidit AcharyaMatthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen from the University of Rochester, the research is believed to be the first to demonstrate quantitatively the lasting effects of slavery on contemporary political attitudes in the American South. The findings hold even when other dynamics often associated with racial animosity are factored in, such as present day concentrations of African Americans in an area, or whether an area is urban or rural.

“Slavery does not explain all forms of current day racism,” says Acharya. “But the data clearly demonstrates that the legacy of the plantation economy and its reliance on the forced labor of African Americans continues to exacerbate racial bias in the Deep South.”

The findings are reported in a working paper that will be presented for the first time at the Politics of Race, Immigration, and Ethnicity Consortium at the University of California at Riverside on Sept. 27.

The study looked at data from 93 percent of the 1,344 Southern counties in the Cotton Belt—the crescent-shaped band where plantations flourished from the late 18th century into the 20th century. The researchers found that a 20 percent increase in the percentage of slaves in a county’s pre-Civil War population is associated with a 3 percent decrease in whites who identify as Democrats today and a 2.4 percent decrease in the number of whites who support affirmative action.

The “slavery effect” accounts for an up to 15 percentage point difference in party affiliation today; about 30 percent of whites in former slave plantation regions report being Democrats, compared to 40 to 45 percent white Democrats in counties that had less than 3 percent slaves, according to the authors. Despite the region’s similarity in culture and its shared history of legalized slavery and Jim Crow laws, “the South is not monolithic,” says Blackwell.

Their analysis shows that without slavery, the South today might look fairly similar politically to the North. The authors compared counties in the South in which slaves were rare—less than 3 percent of the population—with counties in the North that were matched by geography, farm value per capita, and total county population. The result? There is little difference in political views today among residents in the two regions.

“In political circles, the South’s political conservatism is often credited to ‘Southern exceptionalism,'” says Blackwell. “But the data shows that such modern-day political differences primarily rise from the historical presence of many slaves.”

But how is it possible that an institution so long outlawed continues to influence views in the 21st century? The authors point to both economic and cultural explanations. Although slavery was banned, the economic incentives to exploit former slaves persisted well into the 20th century. “Before mechanization, cotton was not really economically viable without massive amounts of cheap labor,” explains Sen. After the Civil War, southern landowners resorted to racial violence and Jim Crow laws to coerce black field hands, depress wages, and tie tenant farmer to plantations.

“Whereas slavery only required a majority of (powerful) whites in the state to support it, widespread repression and political violence required the support and involvement of entire communities,” the authors write.

Again comparing the county-by-county data, the researchers found evidence of the relationship between racial violence and economics in the historical record of lynchings. Between 1882 and 1930, lynching rates were not uniform across the South, but instead were highest where cotton was king; a 10 percent increase in a county’s slave population in 1860 was associated with a rise of 1.86 lynchings per 100,000 blacks. “For the average Southern county, this would represent a 20 percent increase in the rate of lynchings during this time period,” says Blackwell.

By the time economic incentives to coerce black labor subsided with the introduction of machinery to harvest cotton in the 1930s, anti-black sentiment was culturally entrenched among local whites, the authors write. Those views have simply been passed down, argue the authors, citing extensive research showing that children often inherit the political attitudes of their parents and peers.

The data, says Sen, points to the importance of institutional and historical legacy when understanding political views. Most quantitative studies of voters rely on contemporary influences, such as education, income, or the degree of urbanity. The findings are also in line with research on the lingering economic effects of slavery. Studies have shown that former slave populations in Africa, South and Central America, and the United States continue to experience disparity in income, school enrollment, and vaccinations.

For the study, the authors drew on publically available data, including the 1860 census and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a large representative survey of American adults. No external funding was required for the analysis.

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