African Slavery and the Civil War: There are two sides to the Story; Here is a Black man’s perspective
By Fahim A. Knight-El
I was looking for a way and entry into writing and presenting this Blog in order to paint a historical picture about my views on African Slavery and the Civil War. This article sprung from two prior articles that I had recently written dealing with the States petitioning the United States Government for the right to secede from the Union—those articles can be linked at http://fahimknightsworld.blogspot.com/20... and the second article can be linked at: http://fahimknightsworld.blogspot.com/20... . And I then looked to the right of my computer and in my home I have this really nice portrait of Fredrick Douglass and simanteously one of his most memorable and controversial speeches came to mind: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”; so I only find it fitting to open this discussion with a quote from that speech by Douglass delivered over 160 years ago.
I have read many mind altering and life changing speeches by Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, Elijah Muhammad, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Minister Louis Farrakhan, Huey P. Newton, Minister Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, and any other great black orator that you could ever think of; nevertheless, Douglass speech on the meaning of the 4th of July is unmatched by any of them. Just keep this in mind, Douglass was saying what Minister Louis Farrakhan is saying in 2012; he was speaking these decisive political and social views in 1852. Here is a small segment of Douglass speech:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour”.
“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival”.
Let me first make the most important premise in which we must first understand that Chattel Slavery was evil and an immoral institution and even in 2012, we still cannot fully assess the inhumanness and the wealth this illegal cargo accumulative for the wicked profiteers. Most American historians begin slavery with the date of 1619 when the Dutch initially imported African slaves to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia (but what they do not tell you that it was this 64 year period that made dignified Africans into Negroes). But the first African slaves actually arrived to the Americas and the United States in 1555 on a slave ship named Jesus of Lubeck also known as the 'good ship Jesus' piloted by Sir John Hawkins (Some have traced this interchangeable name to John Hopkins; the name of John Hopkins University in Baltimore). The slave ship Jesus was a 700-ton ship purchased by King Henry VIII from the Hanseatic League, a merchant alliance between the cities of Hamburg and Lubeck in Germany.
Twenty years after its purchase the ship, in disrepair, was leant to Sir John Hawkins by Queen Elizabeth. Yisraylite stated: “Hawkins, a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, was granted permission from Queen Elizabeth for his first voyage in 1562. He was allowed to carry Africans to the Americas "with their own free consent" and he agreed to this condition. Hawkins had a reputation for being a religious man who required his crew to "serve God daily" and to love one another. Sir Francis Drake accompanied Hawkins on this voyage and subsequent others. Drake, was himself, devoutly religious. Services were held on board twice a day”.
The Portuguese prior to Great Britain getting involved in the African slave trade were the first maritime slavers who took a very small number of West African slaves to Lisbon, Portugal and introduced African slaves as a commodity (but more like Indentured Servants in which the Portuguese were amazed by their physical endurance). The Catholic Church under Pope Alexander VI (1493) and later Bishop Bartholomew Las Casas (1517) religiously blessed and sanctioned slavery in which the Spanish and Portuguese were initially at the forefront of the African Slave trade.
They also signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 legally sanctioning the greatest strategy designed to carryout Western imperialism—literally believing that they had the power and authority and most of the divine right to divide the world up between two white European nations. Spain and Portugal in addition, signed the Papal Bull of Demarcation where these two nations drew and imaginary line dividing the world between these two European powers. Spain was awarded all the territories in the so-called "New World" interpreted to meaning all the lands in the Caribbean, Central and South America with the exception of Brazil were awarded to Spain under King Ferninand V and Queen Isabella 1 rule.
I purchased a small book over ten years ago titled: "Slavery and Catholicism" authored by Richard Roscoe Miller, which was ironically published by North State Publishers in Durham, Carolina in 1957. This publishing company is probably defunct, but this was one of the best sources on the Catholic Church role in slavery that I have ever read. These signings led to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Middle Passage where anywhere between 15 million to 100 million Africans were transferred (as human cargo) by force to the Western Hemisphere (Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad and Dr. John Henrik Clarke would often referred to it as the 'black holocaust'); Dr. Clarke documents this in his book titled: "Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust". Dr. W.E.B. Dubois in his monumental book titled, "The suppression of the African slave-trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870" estimated that 7-9 million Africans (most Afrocentric historians would view Dubois numbers as being conservative) were sold into bondage in which this research served as Dubois PH.d dissertation and for those who might not know that Dubois was the first African American to earn a PH.d from Harvard University in 1895.
Yet, even prior to slavery in the Antebellum South it was the Massachusetts—Plymouth Rock (remember the famous slogan of Minister Malcolm X who said we did not land on Plymouth Rock, But Plymouth Rock landed on us) in around the Boston area where Chattel Slavery begin to flourish (so initially slavery was a Northern institution before the Mason-Dixon line was drawn; I am referencing the early 1600s) and although slavery was a primary southern institution, but many northern slave investors, brokers and financers were heavily involved in the business side of slavery. Historian C. Vann Woodard in 1955 wrote an interesting book titled: "The Strange Career of Jim Crow" where he maintained that Jim Crow was more of a northern phenomenon, than a southern institution (Woodard was challenging the notion that the north was more liberal and less racist towards black people). Also, J.A. Rogers in his book titled, "Africa's Gift to America" maintained that before Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862; blacks had already started to rebel against the institution of slavery, thus, there were internal tension festering between white slave plantation owners and black slaves who desired to be free.
Perhaps one of the most famous slave rebellions took place in 1831, in SouthHampton County Virginia under the leadership of Nat Turner in which Turner believed that God had spoken to him in which he was given the mission and vision to liberate the slaves and he and some other slaves went on killing spree to free themselves from the yoke of slavery; killing slave masters, plantation owners and their families indiscriminately. Turner and his men were eventually subdued, but not after they had killed hundreds of white plantation owners. Turner was eventually caught and hung. And there were other prior rebellions such as in 1739 the Stono (named after the Stono River) Rebellion near Charleston, South Carolina led by a slave named Cato or Jemmy this was supposed to have been one of the largest organized slave insurrections in American history. Thus, after the Stono rebellion was squashed by a white militia which led to the hanging and decapitation of many of the slaves who participated in the Stono Rebellion.
I was given a book titled, “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America” it literally brought tears to my eyes as I surveyed these pictures of blacks who were lynched in the United States. The events of the Stono Rebellion led to 1740 passing of the Negro Act which essentially prohibited Africans from being imported directly from Africa into South Carolina because the white plantation owners and slave masters believed that during this time period of the African slave trade that many would be African slaves had military training due to the many internal civil wars on the continent and this posed a threat to their rule based on these slaves fighting ability who were being transported to southern slave ports. Historian Herbert Aptheker In his book American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), estimates that over 250 slave rebellions occurred in the United States between 1619 and 1865.
Many do not know that there was only one successful slave revolt that took place in the Western Hemisphere and that took place in Haiti which 1804 this black island nation became sovereign and independent of white rule. The Africans of Haiti fought the French and became the first black independent Republic in the Western Hemisphere; thanks to great generals and military tacticians such as: Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, Alexandre Petion—great Black Haitian revolutionaries. I am a constant visitor to the historic District Savannah, Georgia (one of the largest slave ports on the eastern seaboard, perhaps where my African ancestors were kidnapped and sold as slaves in the United States. But a few years ago my sister-in-law Benita Gamble and Brother Jabari Moketsi was spearheading my wife's side of the family reunion, which was the Dunlaps in which the venue took place in Beaufort, South Carolina Low Country. It was by far one of the best family reunions that I had ever attended—relative to my wife’s side of the family; I do not eat shell fish, as far as crabs, shrimp, oysters, lobsters, scallops, crow fish and frogmore stew, etc., (this was one of the main delicacy in South Carolina Low Country). My sister-in-law had brought this brother in from Savannah, Georgia named Brother Jamal Toure (Savannah is about 45 miles from Beaufort) as a presenter to do a retracing of their family genealogy (it was a beautiful thing to hear and see—this was show and prove at its best.
Brother Toure owns and operates Day Cleaning Touring Company and he specializes in African American (although I use this ethnic term and racial classification he and I know this to be a misnomer because we are not African American, but we are still in search of a nationality) tours in Savannah (Do not go to Savannah unless you look up Brother Jamal Amir Toure his tour is worth the price of admission). Nevertheless, it is often the ties of relationships that has the potential to expand our horizon and at times helps us to further connect the dots. Brother Toure as our tour guide took us to Franklin Square where there is a beautiful royal bronze monument which is dedicated to the free Haitian soldiers in which in 1779 according to historical records 500 of them joined the American colonist in an unsuccessful attempt to drive the British from Savannah in coastal Georgia.
Writer Russ Bynum a writer for South Florida Times in an online article titled, “Monument Dedicated to Haitian Soldiers in the American Revolution” quoted Daniel Fils-Aime as stating: “This is a testimony to tell people we Haitians didn't come from the boat,’’ said Daniel Fils-Aime, chairman of the Miami-based Haitian American Historical Society, one of many Haitian Americans who came to Savannah for the dedication. “We were here in 1779 to help America win independence. That recognition is overdue.’’ America not only owes black folk a debt of gratitude, but the Island nation of Haiti should be treated with the utmost political dignity and diplomacy, as opposed to with contempt by the United States Government—they are still punishing Haiti for defeating Napoleon Bonaparte and this is why Haiti has remained the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The bronze monument depicting black patriotism and heroism is a testimony of loyalty and bravery that is often overlooked in these racist discussions of patriotism and liberty discussion—that is now rooted in the recent secession debates. I do know that the Confederate and Unionist, perhaps viewed the history of the Civil War entirely different yesterday and today. Randall Robinson former head of TransAfrica authored three very good books titled, An "Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President", "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks" and "Quitting America" all three are must reads and 1829 David Walker wrote his "Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, Written in Boston, State of Massachusetts, September 28, 1829" .
So there was growing social tension amongst some of the slaves who desired to be free by any means necessary. Most of this has been documented by American historian Kenneth Stamp in his book titled, "Peculiar Institution" and Stanely Elkins' book titled, "Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life". So I believe the Civil War (1861-1865) was inevitable and it was going to happen whether it was Lincoln or some other social or political phenomenon (the quest for black freedom was starting to rise as a social antagonistic contradiction). However, Lincoln was extremely intelligent, he knew that if he so-called freed slaves in the South this would serve as a strategic and tactical political maneuver employed as an objective of weakening the South; although the South in theory had already succeeded from the Union and Lincoln had no jurisdiction and/or power and authority over the governance of South—yet both sides, the North and South used the black slave as a political football.
I think many black and white historians have depicted President Abraham Lincoln as this great emancipator, philanthropist and humanitarian who passed what appeared on the surface to be positive slave legislation, but in reality, Lincoln's motive was to cripple the South economically and incite blacks to become disrupted, which would ultimately affect an agriculture economy that functioned off slave labor. The Aristocratic white property owners incited poor white Confederates by imparting a false sense of white pride, which was rooted in the ideology of white supremacy and they had a mandate from god to ensure that Black slaves remained their property who was considered unequal to whites and according to the language in the U.S. Constitution; blacks were considered 3/5 of a human being.
The Confederates built a racist patriotic theme of why they were going to war—to so-called defend their sovereignty, but beneath this argument and rationale was to maintain slavery which was rooted in racism and economics—this part of the equation even in contemporary debates is often overlooked (out of so-called political correctness) about the Confederacy, Civil War and States sovereignty and even in this present day secession movement debate, it is shrouded in constitutionalism and inalienable right to exercise liberty by choosing to secede from the United States and covertly hide behind the U.S. Constitution. Also the argument yesterday was not totally about States sovereignty, but this was the only route left to challenging the federal government, which was by breaking away and declaring themselves free of federal laws and legal restraints and continue to keep slavery intact as the economic lifeblood of the southern plantation system.
The wealthy white property owners financed and used the poor white Confederate soldiers as mere cannon fodder. It would actually become the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution that freed the slaves in 1865 and not the Emancipation Proclamation as many have come to accept. I think one must come to the realization that slavery was wrong and evil; it was justified based on theology and the American jurisprudence system (law and God). There is no other way to look at the ‘peculiar institution’; moreover, it was this compromised labor force that propelled the United States and the South in particular, to becoming extremely economically prosperous to the detriment of the African slaves who were victims of systematic brutality. Slavery gave the United States as a nation a 300 year economic advantage and made them into a superpower nation, but no retribution has ever been made to the ex-slaves (Reference: Ida Hakim, Dorothy Blake Fardan, Jamil Hakeem and Len Moritz; “Reparations: The Cure for America’s Race Problem”).
The Civil War (1861-1865) was fought to maintain this economic interest and the Confederate system would have been debunked years before the Civil War was fought, but the dehumanization process was the foundation and driving entity that kept those who did not see blacks/Africans as human beings during the de jure and de facto time periods of empowerment and it was this psychology that was so entrenched and the glue that held the Confederate ideology together by depicting white skin as superior and black skin as inferior. How could one ignore that racism and the Confederacy ideology were equally tied and yoked?—there was an interest to keep this system of inequality in place because it allowed for a set of norms to go unabated and the beneficiaries would always be the wealthy white plantation owners. It was a vicious system of control and people of African descent will never see any humanity in the Confederate justification of fighting the Civil War other than the understanding that racism undergirded this historical reality at that time in history in which America was a racially divided nation. The foremost State rights that the Confederate South wanted was to maintain slavery and having a free labor force to sustain a cash crop economy. The right to keep on enslaving black people was part of this priority. Thus, one must also understand that right after the Civil War, we ventured into the Reconstruction period from 1865-1877 what W.E.B. Dubois referred to it as "Black Reconstruction". Blacks gain an enormous amount of economic and political power in former Confederate States during this twelve year period only to see the hands of time set backed by political betrayal.
For example, PBS Pinchback became Governor of Louisiana and Blanche K. Bruce became a Senator of Mississippi and Hiram Revels also became a Senator from Mississippi, Robert Small (a Black Civil War Hero) and a five term member of the House of Representatives from the State of South Carolina became a powerful black political personality (Reference: Russell L. Adams; "Great Negroes: Past and Present"). This was proof positive that when the political and social playing field became equal African Americans soared to great political heights. Also during this same time period in1866 the Ku Klux Klan (White Knights) was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee to reset racial and black social progress back to the old South concept. The U.S. Federal Government betrayed the interest of Blacks by removing the Federal troops from the South and the South after Reconstruction became even more repressive. I believe that after federal government betrayed the gains of 'Black Reconstruction' it would not be until almost one hundred later in 1967 when Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts (Republican) was elected to the Senate that another black man would serve in this august body (Reference: W.E.B. Dubois; "Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880").
There were a lot of slavery Supreme Court decisions; the Missouri Compromise in 1850 and the Dred Scott Decision in 1857 declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional in which Chief Justice Roger B. Taney decision declared that no black slave or free person of African descent could ever be considered a citizen of the United States of America. However, Judge Taney's legal decision was in support of the southern institution of slavery and thereby fueling white plantation owners to stand their ground because according to them blacks had no legal rights and they would forever remain Chattel (property). The framers of the Constitution wrote and believed that blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it." The Fugitive Slave Act stated: "The 1793 act provided for an orderly return of runaway slaves. Under this law a master or his agent was empowered to seize or arrest a fugitive slave and take that fugitive before 'any judge of the circuit or district courts of the United States, residing or being within the state, or before any magistrate of a county, city or town' where the arrest took place. Upon satisfactory proof, the judge or magistrate was to issue a certificate of removal, allowing the master to return home with the slave" (Reference: Paul Finkelman; "Slavery in the Courtroom"; p. 59).
A white Abolitionist such as John Brown and Fredrick Douglass (1818-1895) was fighting for abolishment of slavery writing, speaking out against the evils and just outright agitating this system of injustice—many heard of the heroic and revolutionary work of Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) with the underground railroad freeing slaves from the United States up into Canada, she used to carry a 45 pistol and no slave was allowed to turn around and if you did she would kill you on the spot thus, could not risk a compromise in this freedom movement.
It was a racist fervor that was driving the southern Aristocratic plantation owners to dupe the Confederate mindset into thinking that they had a divine right to keep blacks in a lowly servitude position because in their mind the "Negro" was inferior. The poor rank and file Confederate bought the second part of the argument (hook, line and sinker) that it was a battle for States Rights and sovereignty (or Liberty and Freedom), but in all reality the Civil War was about money—an economic arrangement that had made huge white plantation owners extremely wealthy, which was rooted in racism.
Thus, even President Lincoln stated that if he could preserve the Union and maintain slavery he would have done just that. Lets not get it twisted blacks fought on both sides of the Civil War. We will always see the Confederate as a racist American dilemma in which people of African descent were forcibly worked for 310 years and no reparations were ever made to the ex-slaves. I will always stand against American style injustice and racism and to my last breath is taking to expose this human tragedy. I have always argued the inhumanity and immorality of Chattel Slavery and from that vanish point it does not matter what the Confederate intentions were or were not. But we do know there was a historical crime that had taken place and the inhumanness of its affect was catastrophic, which devastated real people even to this very day. It is extremely difficult to overlook the reality of this 310 year crime and nothing could ever make African people whole again. I do not think the quest for States rights (sovereignty or secession) during the Civil War era even came close to superseding the importance of a segment of humanity enduring the tragedy of slavery. They were fighting for the right to be considered human beings and free from the yoke of this evil institution.
Fahim A. Knight, Chief Researcher for keeping it Real Think Tank located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolism and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EI can be reached at fahimknight@ yahoo.com.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-El