The Shocking Savagery of America's Early History, a look at historian Bernard Bailyn's book.
Bailyn has not painted a pretty picture. Little wonder he calls it The Barbarous Years and spares us no details of the terror, desperation, degradation and widespread torture—do you really know what being “flayed alive” means? (The skin is torn from the face and head and the prisoner is disemboweled while still alive.) And yet somehow amid the merciless massacres were elements that gave birth to the rudiments of civilization—or in Bailyn’s evocative phrase, the fragile “integument of civility”—that would evolve 100 years later into a virtual Renaissance culture, a bustling string of self-governing, self-sufficient, defiantly expansionist colonies alive with an increasingly sophisticated and literate political and intellectual culture that would coalesce into the rationale for the birth of American independence. All the while shaping, and sometimes misshaping, the American character. It’s a grand drama in which the glimmers of enlightenment barely survive the savagery, what Yeats called “the blood-dimmed tide,” the brutal establishment of slavery, the race wars with the original inhabitants that Bailyn is not afraid to call “genocidal,” the full, horrifying details of which have virtually been erased.[more inside]
Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
‘There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan,” says Angela Davis. “There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.”
Quilombos are the communities formed by escaped slaves in Brazil.
Probably the most well known of these is Palmares one of whose inhabitants was the legendary leader Zumbi.
Probably the most well known of these is Palmares one of whose inhabitants was the legendary leader Zumbi.
"Sometimes, society gets it wrong... When that happens, strong privacy protections—including collection controls that let people pick who gets their data, and when—allow the persecuted and unpopular to survive."
What happens when we let industry and government collect all the data they want.
What happens when we let industry and government collect all the data they want.
Sugar: the evolution of a forbidden fruit
Sweetness was meant to be irresistible. We are born with a sweet tooth. Babies drink in sugar with their mother’s milk. Sweetness represents an instant energy boost, a fuel that kept our ancestors going in a harsher world where taste buds evolved to distinguish health-giving ripeness and freshness from the dangers of bitter, sour, toxic foods. Sugar gives us drug-like pleasures – lab rats deprived of their sugar-water fix exhibit classic signs of withdrawal. When things are going well, we blissfully say, “Life is sweet.”[more inside]
Shortly after the Civil War, an ex-slave was asked by his master to return to the plantation. He dictated a reply that would have made Mark Twain proud, and which has been previously featured on Metafilter. In fact, the letter was so good that some folks began to question whether it was real. New research shows it was, and gives details about the lives of the master and slave.
Exhibit B is a performance art piece by white South African Brett Bailey. The piece features black actors in still images depicting scenes of slavery and as asylum seekers in living installations that recall the human zoos (previously) of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The piece has been highly controversial, it has attracted significant critical acclaim, being described by art critics as unbearable and essential and "hugely powerful, deeply unsettling, but vital viewing". [more inside]
It's not always obvious, but Cracked does some amazing true life interviewing and reporting buried in a (very) thin veneer of black humour. From John Cheese's writings on growing out of alcoholism to Robert Evans' personal experience articles, they do a surprisingly good job at telling intense, hard-to-read stories. This is their take on sex slavery. Holy shit trigger warnings.
Gerald Horne is the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He is a prolific author whose most recent book is The Counter-Revolution of 1776: : Slave Resistance & the Origins of the United States of America (published by NYU Press; available on Google Books). From the publisher's description:
The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others—and which today takes the form of a racialized conservatism and a persistent racism targeting the descendants of the enslaved.Early in the book, Horne writes:
The construction of 'whiteness' or the forging of bonds between and among European settlers across class, gender, ethnic, and religious lines was a concrete response to the real dangers faced by all of these migrants in the face of often violent rebellions from enslaved Africans and their indigenous comrades.He recently sat down with Paul Jay of the Real News Network for the show Reality Asserts Itself. The result is a far-ranging discussion that covers his youth growing up in Jim Crow era St. Louis, his personal and intellectual development, pre-revolutionary America and the lucrative business of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the Civil rights movement. The interview concludes by bringing us back to recent events, including the recent chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York, and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. [more inside]
Why I Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit: "Anger shot up my body like a hot thermometer. Face flushed, I walked to the Mammy sphinx. Couples posed in front of it, smiling as others took their photos. So here it was, an artwork about how Black people’s pain was transformed into money was a tourist attraction for them... Something snapped... I yelled that this was our history and that many of us were angry and sad that it was a site of pornographic jokes." [more inside]
"One of the most vexing questions in African-American history is whether free African Americans themselves owned slaves. The short answer to this question, as you might suspect, is yes, of course … For me, the really fascinating questions about black slave-owning are how many black "masters" were involved, how many slaves did they own and why did they own slaves?" Henry Louis Gates Jr. on black slave owners.
A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.So it turns out many of the prawns on sale at your local supermarket are produced by slave labour.
The strange, tragic story of the Brothers Muse. The sideshow called them Eko and Iko, cannibal savages from Borneo, sheep-headed men, ambassadors from Mars, highlighting their signature white dreadlocks in every poster. In reality, they were George and Willie Muse, taken from their parents in 1899 in rural Roanoke, Virginia by bounty hunters working for sideshow producers fascinated by their albinism. [more inside]
The enigma of Mona Lisa's smile? Who cares? The mystery of Dido Belle is much more intriguing. The double portrait Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, once attributed to Johann Zoffany and now hanging in Scone Palace in Perth, depicts two elegant 18th-century women in silks and pearls at Kenwood House in London. Beyond them, you can just glimpse St Paul's and the rest of the Georgian cityscape. Nothing unusual about any of that, but for one detail – Dido is mixed race. Belle is about slavery and follows on the heels of Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. An impossible act to follow, you might suppose. Yet the two films could hardly be more different. "I wouldn't want audiences to come to Belle and think they were about to see '12 Years a Slave Mark 2'," Asante says. Based in Britain and rooted in fact, Belle is an extraordinary story, she tells me: Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the daughter of John Lindsay, a British admiral, and an African slave. She grew up in Kenwood House, Hampstead, under the guardianship of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. One delicately speculative Guardian article about a painting and its context leads to a fascinating portait of a Ghanaian/British filmmaker and the circumstances that formed her. Asante has always had an "extra eye" and sees herself as an insider and outsider (all directors, she believes, need to be emotionally ambidextrous).
"To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte." Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation both de jure and de facto--Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Case for Reparations.
An NPR interview with the creator of a 75 foot long Mammy-Sphinx sculpture made entirely of sugar. Award-winning artist Kara Walker's latest work challenges viewers to confront the relationships between American history, racism, slavery, and industrialization. Her exhibition is held in the soon-to-be-demolished, historic Domino Sugar Factory. (New Yorker article) [more inside]
Why Aren't Stories Like '12 Years a Slave' Told at Southern Plantation Museums?
Evil is not a word you hear, though, when you visit one of the hundreds of plantation-house museums dotting the South. Instead, these historic sites usually lure tourists with their stunning architecture and wealth of antiques, as the privileged members of the planter-class denied themselves nothing. They had the finest china and silver of the 18th and 19th centuries; European-made furniture like settees and tea caddies; the most expensive rugs, drapes, linens, and clothing that money could buy. Even the toys and kitchen utensils offer a glimpse into the privileged life in the antebellum period, and tours play this aspect up, connecting these objects emotionally to the stories of the white planters. Many of these museums let visitors walk away without considering that all of these exquisite things were accumulated through the violence and forced labor of slavery.[more inside]
Qatar has proposed a bold vision of its future in 2022, but at what cost? In September 2013, the Guardian reported that up to 4,000 migrant workers would die during the construction process for Qatar's staging of the football World Cup in 2022. The Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee, an advocacy group representing Nepalese and South Asian migrant workers, estimates that 400 Nepalese have died on Qatari construction sites since 2010. Nepalese make up around 20% of the migrant workforce. In the past two years 450 Indian workers have died on construction sites. [more inside]
In 2002 Henry Louis Gates jr. published The Bondwoman's Narrative. It was the first publication of a novel written in the 1850s by a former slave who wrote under the name Hannah Crafts. The original manuscript has been digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library. The book caused a splash at the time, sold well and was reviewed widely, including an essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books. The identity of Hannah Crafts was uncertain, which cast a slight shadow on its provenance, but Prof. Gregg Hecimovich discovered the writer's true identity. Her name was Hannah Bond and after escaping slavery she became a teacher in New Jersey. Journalist Paul Berman further fills in the story of Colonel Wheeler, the slaveowner whose family was depicted in The Bondwoman's Narrative. Wheeler was the US ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1850s and played a major part in the administration of General Walker, the American who became a short-lived dictator of Nicaragua and tried to set it up as a slave state.
What happens to a nation that's suffered a great crime? What happens when the wrong can't be made right?
Each of Historian Barbara Wells Sarudy's six blogs contains a wealth of esoteric treasures: "President John Adams declared, “History is not the Province of the Ladies.” Oh well, I'll give it a try." [more inside]
"Very often, black people work to make white people at ease by layering away any unease we ourselves may feel. It is hard work to translate yourself daily to someone else who most likely lives life without ever being fully aware of how their very existence has been the basis for determining what is 'normal' in America and much of the world. And yet this painful and ongoing work of translation is second nature to those of us who have always had to figure out ways to be seen and understood in a world where the white experience is assumed to be the default."
"Detectives investigating the case of three women allegedly held as slaves for 30 years in south London have uncovered a "complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control". Last month officers were contacted by Freedom Charity after it received a call from a woman saying she had been held against her will for decades. A Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a British woman, 30, were rescued from the house on 25 October. A 67-year-old man and woman were held in Lambeth and bailed until January." More details on the BBC here.
Anthropologists weigh in on Jared Diamond's latest: lack of citations, ethnographic carelessness, and the smoothing of complex narratives into quotable fables. The World Until Yesterday has prompted a flurry of commentary from anthropologists unenthusiastic about the physiologist turned evolutionary biologist turned geographer. In a recent London Review of Books, leading political anthropologist James C. Scott doesn't buy Diamond's description of the modern nation-state arising to curtail primitive tribal violence "[i]n a passage that recapitulates the fable of the social contract" given how "slaving was at the very centre of state-making." Anthropologist Alex Golub, who shares Papua New Guinea as a major research site, wrote "Still, it is telling that we live in an age when a member of America’s National Academy of Sciences and one of the world’s foremost public intellectuals has less concern for citations and footnotes than do the contributors to Wikipedia." David Correia pulls no punches in his opinion piece "F*ck Jared Diamond" calling Diamond's resurrection of environmental determinism as racist apologia and his latest book as essentializing primitivism in order to define Western industrialized exceptionalism. [more inside]
"I'm here because my family went through slavery" - Steve McQueen on 12 Years A Slave, the story of Solomon Northup. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin. Before Solomon Northup: Fighting Slave Catchers in New York. The final fate of Solpmon Northup remains unknown. (Previously)
The Walk Free Foundation has released its latest report on the contemporary slave trade, the Global Slavery Index (interactive map). As summarized by Al Jazeera, over 29 million people are in some form of involuntary servitude, ranging from kidnapped fishermen to women forced into prostitution to child brides. The countries with the largest populations of enslaved people include Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Back in 2012, J. J. Gould wrote on the difficulties in confronting slavery in today's society: In the West, and particularly in the United States, slavery has long settled in the public imagination as being categorically a thing of the past.... It can mean having a harder time recognizing slavery when it's right in front of us.
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
A new critically acclaimed film (96%) is coming out soon 12 Years a Slave (trailer), the true story of Solomon Northup. His memoir is a riveting read (or listen to Louis Gossett, Jr. reading it), but this post is about where Northup was enslaved, a cotton plantation near the Red River, Louisiana. [more inside]
Why “Libertarian” Defenses of the Confederacy and “States’ Rights” are Incoherent
There is a strain of libertarian contrarianism that holds that the Confederate States of America were within their “rights” to secede from the Union. Such contrarianism on this particular topic is detrimental to the larger cause of liberty because the logic of this argument relies upon relinquishing individual rights to the whim of the state. Indeed, as there is no legal or moral justification for supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War, it is impossible that there could be a libertarian one.[more inside]
Teju Cole (previously) live-tweeted on Friday his trip across the Slave Coast from Lagos, Nigeria to Ouidah, Benin.
"It's almost tragic that the most badass escaped slave story most people know is Django Unchained. Because in real life, not only did slaves frequently escape, but they often did it without help from free whites, and without murdering several hundred people. Instead, what they had was cleverness and the audacity to try ridiculous plans that by all rights should never have worked." [SLCracked but a decent effort]
Was Marina Chapman really brought up by monkeys? (The Guardian), Kidnapped, dumped in the jungle and raised by monkeys (Daily Mail), The Girl with No Name: Author claims she was raised by monkeys (The Star), Strange life of the housewife who grew up with monkeys (Telegraph), Marina Chapman tells her incredible story of survival (Today), Girl who lived with monkeys spins incredible tale (CBC). National Geographic is producing a documentary. [Feral children previously on MeFi - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
NYT Editorial Filter -- "Now African-Americans make up about a fifth of the military. The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable; the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd. Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?" [more inside]
The horrifying, little-known story of how hundreds of thousands of blacks worked in brutal bondage right up to the middle of the 20th century. It was a crime for for a black man to lack employment and a crime to change jobs without his previous employer's permission. It was a crime to sell the proceeds of his farm to anyone other than the man from whom he rented land. A crime for a black man to speak loudly in the company of a white woman, to walk beside a railroad line, to fail to yield a sidewalk to white people, to sit among whites on a train and, in practice, generally a crime for blacks to be accused of any crime by a white person.
The blog US Slave collects long-form articles on every aspect of the history of slavery, primarily focussing on African slaves in the USA and their descendents. Among the content there is this biography of Ota Benga, the Congolese Pygmy man who was put on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, and several posts about Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus. [more inside]
"We’ve coined a term," said Katrinah Lewis, the actress who typically interprets Lydia. "Post-traumautic slave syndrome." The Washington Post reports on African American actors who interpret the lives of slaves at Colonial Williamsburg.
Legacies of British Slave-ownership, which went live on February 27, 2013, tracks what became of the twenty million pounds set aside to compensate British slave owners in the Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies (1833). Users have a variety of search options that can yield results according to individuals, businesses, countries, and so on. The site tracks compensated owners through their contributions to the arts, politics, entrepreneurship, and governance; some owners have extensive biographical notes. A number of the site's revelations about slave-owning families and the extent of their compensation have already attracted comment. [more inside]
The inefficiency of it all ... Here's a great infographic: slavery and cotton in the South in 1860. But if the map is interesting, the article is astonishing. It says only 2 percent of Deep South land produced cotton in 1860 -- and only 13 percent grew any crop at all. You better read that last sentence again.
"If I was to die, today or tomorrow, I do not think I would die satisfied till you tell me you will try and marry some good, smart man that will take care of you and the children"
Author Jon Meacham has a new book out on Thomas Jefferson. It is reviewed in the New York Times: Cultivating Control in a Nation’s Crucible
But this book does not address its principal concern, power, until Jefferson has accrued some. When it comes to the force that he wielded as a slaveholder, Mr. Meacham finds ways to suggest that thoughts of abolition would have been premature; that it was not uncommon for white heads of households to be waited on by slaves who bore family resemblances to their masters; and that since Jefferson treated slavery as a blind spot, the book can too.[more inside]
State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
Lisa Kristine, a photographer, gives a thoughtful and very moving talk on the extent of modern day slavery in this TEDx talk. The photos she shows are absolutely beautiful and the bare-bones stories behind them are exceptionally hard to hear at times. The group she is working with, Free the Slaves, seems to be doing a lot of good work and working on real solutions for the people involved (such as the one example she gives where the slaves that were freed carried on doing the same work, the only work they had ever known, but rent the quarry themselves and are now the recipients of the profits etc). She has published a book with these photos as well and it's available on her website.
In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass wrote of his early days in New York City after his escape from slavery:
Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. DAVID RUGGLES. [...] Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable Darg case, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in on almost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his enemies.[more inside]
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, recently touched on a couple of interesting aspects of the American Civil War. First, Racism Against White People briefly looked at how Southern intellectuals argued that Northern whites were of a different race. Then a subthread in the comments on that post spawned an investigation of American Exceptionalism in History and the notion of preserving democracy in the context of the American Civil War. After all, "if a government can be sundered simply because the minority doesn't like the results of an election, can it even call itself a government?" Definitely check out the comments of both posts.
Southern Values Revived: How Our Elites Have Become Worse "It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are. Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now." [more inside]
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization, the 2008 remake of 1994's Sid Meier's Colonization was met with some hostility over the concept at the outset. Trevor Owens and Rebbeca Mir, contributors to Play the Past, have been making a series of blog posts about the inherently problematic nature of the game. It started with "Sid Meier's Colonization: Is it offensive enough?", next was "if (!isNative()[returnfalse;]: De-People-ing Native Peopls in Sid Meier's Colonization?", then "Guns, Germs and Horses: Cultural Exchange in Sid Meier's Colonization" and, the latest, "Playing at Slavery: Modding Colonization for Authenticity" [more inside]