This is Your Time Rwanda - Book on Rwandan Feminism and Resourcefulness

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

American Slavery - Continuing History

Although outlawed in nearly all countries today, slavery is still secretly practiced, in a kind of shamefaced subterranean way, in many parts of the world. It has been opposed for as long as it has existed, as it deprives enslaved people of basic human, civil and legal rights, and oppresses entire huge groups over time. The Bible mentions it frequently like it’s something good, which it is not. However, I believe economic conditions have largely been what fostered, promoted and spread it around.

The attempt to “get ahead” by using easy to disregard “enemy peoples” and also women and children is a mainstay of the slavery process. But anyone, even white men, can be and have been victims of slavery. There are now an estimated 27 million such victims around the world, even though in most cases it is illegal and considered to be a major human rights abuse. WWII saw a resurgence of slavery in communist and socialist countries; for example, the Nazis used millions of Jewish people and others as slave labor before killing them.

In Mauritania and Niger, both African countries, some million and a half people are enslaved, nearly 8% of Niger’s population and 20% of Mauritania’s. It’s sad that in Africa, after all the hard battles fought against American slavery, this obscene process is as yet ongoing. It is said Mauritanian slaves are now considered to be “bonded labor,” but in 2007, a new law was passed abolishing slavery. Their human rights situation seems to be improving, along with their relations to America.

Africa is indeed one of the areas responsible for beginning this age-old practice, as it has been maintained in ancient Egypt, which used slaves to build their pyramids. The story of Moses tells how he freed the Jewish people from their bondage in Egyptian slavery, a tale which was often cited by Dr. King, with him leading people “to the Promised Land.” But slavery in the West actually began more or less in ancient Greece, where slave labor built the white temples our government buildings are modeled after. Pre-dynastic China in the East used the Mongols, their invading enemy, to build the Great Wall of China over many generations.

No one continent, nation or people seems to have begun slavery, which is about as old as human history. But some scholars have stated that without slavery, modern civilization wouldn’t have been achieved, or at least not as quickly; it was mostly involved with the trading of goods.

Anyway, Africa is where the history of slavery in America began. Soon after the English colonists settled Virginia, slave boats began travelling back and forth between America, England and the west coast of Africa, which included countries such as French-settled Niger and Nigeria. Over time, slave gathering men moved further inland, but they pretty much had an easy time capturing black people, who didn’t have anything like guns or sophisticated weaponry in those times.

For four centuries, slave traders practically decimated Africa’s west coast of its native population. They transported people packed into the cargo holds of their ships, which were run by many races of people as diverse as the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French and of course the English. Even Moslems from the north of Africa were involved in selling slaves abroad, sometimes indoctrinating Africans into Islam before selling or trading them. There were occasions where black captives took over the slave ships and voyaged back to Africa, but on the whole, they were hauled over in masses, many dying due to hideous conditions along the way.

There was a lot of trading slaves for rum and other “drug” products, a medieval commerce defended staunchly by the white South, which needed slaves to run their larger agricultural efforts. And the white North was into backing this at first, as they needed the tobacco and food supplies slavery cheaply provided by the maintenance of large southern plantations. Also, the same was true in the northern United States, but this changed gradually due to America’s northern industrialization, which supplanted the northern agricultural plantations. Since slave labor was not typically used in the industrialized North, racism became much subtler and less obvious than it remained in the South.

That’s why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did the majority of his protesting in the Deep South. The conditions slavery had fostered lasted for over a whole century after its end. You may recall the bringing of black people to America was showcased, as well as American slavery’s family history, in the 1970s TV miniseries “Roots” by black author Alex Hailey.

In this series of hugely popular programs, Hailey tells us about how his ancestors were hauled over to America, many dying along the way in jam-packed slave holds, being kept in cages like wild animals until they were put on display to be sold. They were no longer treated as human, and were auctioned off in a perverse manner, being kept naked in public and displayed like cattle. Many black women were raped by their white male owners, whole families were separated piecemeal, and children were forced into physical labor beyond their tender years. The laws of the times said they were “animals.” They had no human rights whatsoever.

Read the next article in this series, “American Slavery – Death in 1865” and the other articles in this long article series about why racism was and is so prevalent in the American South.

This article is from the "Background: Why Was the South Racist, Anyway?" section from P.L. Ryan's wonderful new forthcoming book, "The Boys of Birmingham," about the FBI investigation in Birmingham, Alabama of Dr. King's assassination. Ryan is the daughter of the lead agent in charge, who actually tracked down James Earl Ray, Dr. King's killer, securing his arrest and conviction. Look out for "The Boys of Birmingham" as it's set to be republished in April of 2011.


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Ghost Writer, Inc. - Book Ghostwriter Karen S Cole

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Executive Director and President of Ghost Writer, Inc., Karen Cole writes. GWI at Ghostwriting Book Services is a renowned inexpensive and affordable professional freelance writers, book authors, ghost writers, copy editors, proofreaders, coauthors, manuscript rewriters, graphics and CAD, digital and other photographers, marketers, promoters, publishing/production assistance, and screenplay writers, editors, developers and analysts service.

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