Saturday, May 5, 2012
Black history they don’t want you to know
by DailyKenn.com | Occasionally updated and edited
How many Americans know that the first slave owner in America was a black tobacco farmer? How many Americans are aware that thousands of free blacks in the South were, themselves, slave owners? How many know there were 440,000 free American Negros in 1860, half of whom chose to live in the South?
Answer: Very few.
Embedded in the minds of Americans is a grand distortion of black history.
Our perception depends largely on activists in Hollywood and revisionists in academia. Add those who parrot Hollywood and academia and you have a broad swath of ignorance prevailing in America.
DailyKenn.com is here to set the record straight; at least in part.
Did you know the following about black history in America?
• The first slave owner in American history was black.
Anthony Johnson came to the American colonies in August, 1619 as an indentured servant. In 1623 Johnson had completed his indenture and was recognized as a free negro. In 1651 he acquired 250 acres of land in Virginia, later adding another 250 acres; a sizable holding at the time.
John Casor, a black indentured servant employed by Johnson, became America’s first slave after a legal dispute with Robert Parker. Parker was a white colonist who employed Casor while Casor was still indentured to Johnson. Johnson sued Parker in Northampton Court in 1654. The court upheld Johnson’s right to hold Casor as a slave on March 8, 1655. The court found:
The court seriously consideringe and maturely weighing the premisses, doe fynde that the saide Mr. Robert Parker most unjustly keepeth the said Negro from Anthony Johnson his master … It is therefore the Judgement of the Court and ordered That the said John Casor Negro forthwith returne unto the service of the said master Anthony Johnson, And that Mr. Robert Parker make payment of all charges in the suit.
Five years later, in 1670, the colonial assembly passed legislation permitting blacks and Indians the right to own slaves of their own race, but prohibiting them from owning White slaves. [Source]
• Free blacks commonly owned black slaves in the antebellum South.
Henry Louis Gates of the White House ‘Beer Summit’ fame said, "This is the dirtiest secret in African American history. A surprisingly high percentage of free Negros in the South owned slaves themselves." [Source]
There were thousands of black slave owners in the South.
"In 1830 there were 3,775 such slaveholders in the South who owned 12,740 black slaves, with 80% of them located in Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. There were economic differences between free blacks of the Upper South and Deep South, with the latter fewer in number, but wealthier and typically of mixed race. Half of the black slaveholders lived in cities rather than the countryside, with most in New Orleans and Charleston."
Historians John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger wrote:
"A large majority of profit-oriented free black slaveholders resided in the Lower South. For the most part, they were persons of mixed racial origin, often women who cohabited or were mistresses of white men, or mulatto men … . Provided land and slaves by whites, they owned farms and plantations, worked their hands in the rice, cotton, and sugar fields, and like their white contemporaries were troubled with runaways."
Historian Ira Berlin wrote:
"In slave societies, nearly everyone – free and slave – aspired to enter the slave holding class, and upon occasion some former slaves rose into slaveholders’ ranks. Their acceptance was grudging, as they carried the stigma of bondage in their lineage and, in the case of American slavery, color in their skin."
To write extensively about blacks who owned slaves in the antebellum South would require a library of full volumes. Black slave owners: free Black slave masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860 By Larry Koger is one such volume.
Koger tells of Richard Holloway, Sr., a black carpenter who purchased his African cousins as slave labor. Cato was the name of one of his slaves. Cato remained in Holloway’s possession throughout the 1830s and ’40s, according to Koger, until he was sold to his son, Richard Holloway, Jr., in 1845. Cato died in 1851 and the younger Holloway replaced him with the purchase of a 16 -year-old black male.
Koger says there were ten black slave owners in Charleston City, SC in 1830.
In 1860 the largest slave owner in South Carolina was William Ellison, a black plantation owner.
Again, to account for all black-owned slave in the South would require a volume of books.
• In 1860 about half of all free Negros chose to live in the South.
The 1860 census reveals there were 440,000 free blacks living in America. About half of those resided in the South, even though they were free to move to the North. [Source]
• Blacks owning black slaves was even common in the pre-war North.
Black-on-black slavery was not unique to Southern states.
Koger informs us that in 1830 New York City recorded eight black slave holders who owned a total of 17 black slaves. The total number of slaves owned by blacks in 1830 was more than 10,000 according to the federal census of 1830; and that includes only four states: Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia. In addition there were "black master in every state where slavery existed," Koger says.
There is no record, to my knowledge, of a slave ship disembarking in a Southern port. All blacks slaves from Africa were delivered to ports in the North and transported to the South.
• Without black African slave owners there would have been no slavery in America.
Henry Louis Gates of the White House ‘Beer Summit’ fame enraged his base in 2010 by strongly opposing reparations to blacks. According to Gates the slave trade was almost wholly the result of black slave owners selling their human wares to Europeans.
"While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today’s Congo, among several others."
"The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred." [Emphasis added]
The notion of White European raiding parties descending on unsuspecting African villages is a gross distortion of reality. Not only does the historical record argue against White raiding parties, but such parties would have been costly and inefficient compared to purchasing Africans already held in slavery. White slave traders would not endure the risk related to such incursions. Furthermore, Africans already held as slaves would be less willing to resist, particularly among those whose African owners were brutal and abusive enemies.
Gates noted on another occasion that the importance of David Livingstone’s disappearance into black Africa was significant because White people never ventured beyond the coasts. The prospect of disease and other unanticipated dangers compelled them not to embark on slave-hunting expeditions.
• Beating black slaves in the South was extremely uncommon.
In 1838 Harriet Martineau visited New Orleans where she heard tales of a particularly abusive slave owner. At issue was slave owner Delphine LaLaurie who resided in a mansion at 1140 Royal Street. "Martineau reported that public rumors about LaLaurie’s mistreatment of her slaves were sufficiently widespread that a local lawyer was dispatched to Royal Street to remind LaLaurie of the laws relevant to the upkeep of slaves." The attorney found no evidence of wrong doing.
Nonetheless, LaLaurie was forced to forfeit nine slaves after a subsequent investigation found her guilty of slave abuse.
It was later rumored that one of LaLaurie slaves intentionally set fire to the mansion to draw attention to ongoing abuse. Bystanders forced entry to squelch the fire and discovered "seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated … suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other."
Tales of the abuse quickly spread throughout New Orleans. An angry mob of White residents descended on the mansion and "demolished and destroyed everything upon which they could lay their hands."
LaLaurie fled the mob violence, escaping to Mobile, Alabama and then to Paris.
What we learn from the historical LaLaurie episode is that:
• The legacy of runaway slaves is over stated
When discussing the Underground Railroad, Black historian Henry Louis Gates affirms that there were not millions of black slaves who escaped to the North. Over multiple generations he suspects there were fewer than 50,000 runaway slaves, including those who left for a night out and then returned home.
For generations there were thousands of black slaves who lived on properties adjacent to free states. Few bothered to hop the farm fence or cross the river to freedom.
There were no border fences built to retain hordes of runaway slaves. They simply weren’t needed.
• Blacks voluntarily fought for the Confederacy
Black Confederate troops were featured are the cover of Harper’s Weekly in 1863 and numerous photographs of blacks in Confederate uniforms are accessible on the Internet.
The first military conscription (draft) in American history was enacted on April 16, 1862 by the Confederacy to boost the army’s shortage of manpower. Even though Negros were not drafted except as noncombatants until March 1865, many volunteered. Blacks voluntarily formed a regiment in North Carolina, for example.
Harper’s Weekly January 10, 1863
Picture Title: Rebel Negro Pickets
as Seen Through a Field Glass
The May 10, 1862 edition of Harper’s Weekly is one of numerous historical records. It provides this account: "The correspondent of the New York Herald, in one of its late numbers, reports that the rebels had a regiment of mounted negroes, armed with sabres, at Manassas, and that some five hundred Union prisoners taken at Bull Run were escorted to their filthy prison by a regiment of black men.”
83% of Richmond’s male slave population volunteered for duty.
Frederick Douglas famously noted, “There are at the present moment many Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the… rebels.” [Source]
The revisionists imagery of a White Southern army is further dismissed by Brigadier General Stand Watie, a full-blood Cherokee Indian and principle chief of the Cherokee nation. After the Cherokee Nation voted to support the Confederacy, Watie was placed in command of the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi that included Cherokee, Seminole and Osage infantry. [Source]
• Slaves were allowed to own, earn and save money
Black slaves frequently purchased their own freedom. Seldom asked is, "Where did they get the money?"
Historians ignore the fact that black slaves had the freedom to earn money and save it as private property.
The May 3, 1861 edition of the Vindicator and reprinted from the Richmond Dispatch reported that a black slave wished to donate his savings to help equip black Confederate volunteers.
"In our neighboring city of Petersburg, two hundred free negroes offered for any work that might be assigned to them, either to fight under white officers, dig ditches, or any thing that could show their desire to serve Old Virginia. In the same city, a negro hackman came to his master, and with tears in his eyes, insisted that he should accept all his savings, $100, to help equip the volunteers. The free negroes of Chesterfield have made a similar proposition. Such is the spirit among bond and free, throughout the whole of the State. Those who calculate on a different state of things, will soon discover their mistake."
$100 in 1860 would be worth almost $2,500 in 2012.
• Mutiny by black soldiers occurred in the U.S. military.
The two most notorious black mutinies were in Houston (1917) and Townsville, Australia (1942).
The latter mutiny was marred by black soldiers turning machine guns on their commanding officers. Australian troops were summoned to quash the rebellion. When serving in the U.S. Congress, Lyndon Johnson was sent to Townsville to investigate the uprising. The Townsville mutiny remained censored from American history until early 2012 when papers of the late president were reviewed.
• About one-third of lynching victims were white.
There were 4,743 victims of lynching between 1882 and 1968. Of those 1,297 were white and 3,446 were black.
Lynchings occurred in 44 states. There were more whites than blacks lynched in 25 of those 44 states.
The Department of Justice informs us that each year there are an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 black-on-black homicides. Using 8,500 as a mean, there are as many black-on-black homicides every five months as there were blacks killed during the 86-year lynching era.
• Black crime and gang attacks were common.
In 1828 19-year-old Abraham Lincoln and a friend were "attacked by seven Negroes with intent to kill and rob them. They were hurt some in the melee, but succeeded in driving the Negroes from the boat, and then ‘cut cable’ ‘weighed anchor’ and left." [Source]
19th century newspaper editors, unencumbered with the burden of political correctness, were often candid in their description of black crime and lifestyles. Commenting in the Franklin County, Virginia Valley Spirit an editor wrote,
"Observe their actions and listen to their conversation. What disgusting obscenity! What horrid implications! Their licentious and blasphemous orgies would put to the blush the imps of pandemonium. Drinking whisky and inhaling tobacco smoke you would hardly suppose would keep soul and body together; yet you perceive no indications here that would lead you to suppose they subsist on anything else. You seem impatient to get out of the atmosphere of this room; mount that ladder and take a look in the room above. One look will be sufficient. Here huddled promiscuously together, on beds–no, not on beds; there is an idea of ease and comfort attached to a bed, that would never enter your mind on looking at these heaps of filthy rags–are men, women and children; arms, heads and legs, in a state of nudity, protrude through the tattered covering in wild confusion. Poverty, drunkenness, sickness and crime, are here in all their most miserable and appalling aspects. But, come, we have twenty rooms of this description to visit in this building, and we cannot devote any more time to this set. What! twenty rooms filled with beings of this kind?"
The article was published in the March 30, 1859 edition. [Source]
• The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederacy
It is commonly known, but seldom acknowledged, that the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to slaves living in most of the Confederacy. From the Union’s perspective, therefore, slavery was legal in parts of the North but not in most of the South. The concept of a slavery-free Union fighting a slave-legal South is an inversion of reality from the North’s perspective. The Union considered the South legally free while the North was not.
The Union slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware were not affected by the proclamation. Slavery remained legal in Tennessee, that state being under Union control at the time the proclamation was enacted. New Orleans and thirteen Louisiana parishes were likewise exempted.
The Emancipation Proclamation actually freed about 20,000 slaves when it went into effect on January 1, 1863. Those were slaves living in certain Confederate regions controlled by the North.
From the Union’s perspective 500,000 slaves in Union states and 300,000 slaves in exempted Southern areas were legally unaffected by the Emancipation Proclamation at the time it was enacted.