soldier with rifle american civil war THE
SESQUICENTENNIAL
EDITION

 

 

The New York Times Ideologues"Reframe" American History

The kids at The New York Times, supervised by its "editors," put together a set of superficially written pieces on the experience of Americans of African descent, to make the argument that this experience deserves to be "at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are." The kids, pushed from the rear by their elders at The Times, tell us their aim is "to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative." The device they use to introduce their argument is the fact that, in 1619, when the Virginia colony was managed by the London Company which was established by King James I in 1606, "a ship appeared in [Hampton Roads in 1619] with 20 Africans on board, who were sold to the colonists. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began." (The New York Times Magazine, August 2019.)

Note

In fact the noun—America—is a latin word derived from the name of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth, in 1507, the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent. The word "America" was adopted as the discriptor for the Western Hemisphere. In our modern time the word has come to mean The United States of America. The London Company's colonly of Virginia, as it existed in 1619, was not understood by anyone living in the time as "America." But, hey, what's wrong with a little romance substituting for American History in the classrooms?

Hannah JonesA black woman (or is she white?) named Nikole Hannah-Jones starts the ball rolling with an "introductory" piece which was awarded a Pulizer Prize by the Pulizer Foundation, The New York Times co-partner in the political exercise. According to news reports, a thousand school teachers from across the nation have expressed interest in feeding the crap Jones has written, to their captive students as "American History." Well, let's see what Ms. Jones has to tell us.

She opens her essay with a skinny biography of her family: her dad was born into a family of sharecroppers, in Mississippi; his mother left the segregated state and went to Iowa, a segregated state; he went into the Army, and he always flew the American flag in the yard. Ms. Hannah-Jones tells us, growing up in Iowa with her dad, she was embarrassed for him, because she did not understand his patriotism. She writes, "That my dad felt so much honor in being an American felt like a marker of his degradation, his acceptance of our subordination." Then she leaps, in a great flush of fantasty, to the fantastic conclusion that her "people's contributions to building the richest and most powerful nation in the world were indelible, that the United States simply would not exist without us." (Certainly the Democrat Party would not exist, but the nation? Really?)

Alright, this is exciting. Let's see what objective facts Ms. Hannah-Jones produces for us, as the basis of her wish that we believe her.

1. "The Jamestown colonists bought 20 Africans from English pirates."

Well, not quite. Between 1545 and 1700 or so, the Portuguese, then the Spanish, then the Danes, followed by the Dutch and the English, purchased some ten million or more Africans from their owners—the Dahomy and Ashanti kings—by exchanging cloth, rum, iron, guns, etc for them. All ten million or so of these Africans, enslaved by Africans and sold to Europeans, were transported across the Atlantic to the mainland of South America and the Caribbean islands, though toward the 1700s, a few thousand were diverted by the English from this massive movement to the colonies they had established on the North American continent, so that, by 1789, when the United States of America were formed, there were about 200,000 Africans residing as slaves in the United States, primarily in Virginia and Carolina, among a total white population of about 2 million white people. As for the first twenty Africans? They were dumped on our shores by a Dutch vessel that wandered a bit lost from the Caribbean.

slave shipThe first documented arrival of Africans to the colony of Virginia was recorded by John Rolfe: "About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of a 160 tunes arrived at Point-Comfort, the Comandors name Capt Jope, his Pilott for the West Indies one Mr Marmaduke an Englishman. … He brought not any thing but 20. and odd Negroes, w[hich] the Governo[r] and Cape Merchant bought for victuall[s]." 

2. "These individuals and their descendants transformed the lands to which they were brought into some of the most successful colonies in the British Empire."

Well, yes and no. The most successful colony in the "British Empire" of, say, 1765, was Jamacia, where the English used the Africans as easily replaceable units in a depersonalized mechanism that was calculated solely in terms of minimum costs and maximum profits. In other words, the English, led happily by their kings and queens for one hundred and fifty years, produced a system of exploitation of labor unparalleled for its cruelty in all of human history. In contrast, the few Africans present in the United States of America, in 1800—some 300,000—could not be replaced by the process of importation, because the new federal union of "States" prohibited their importation after 1808. Thus, slaves had to be bred rather than imported. These slaves lacked political rights, of course, but, because they possessed a measure of economic value, unlike their counterparts in the Caribbean, human relationships developed between "master" and "slave" and this produced laws which gave African slaves standing in the state courts; standing to be protected from muderous intent of cruel owners; standing to litigate the issue of their legal freedom: e.g., if they were brought illegally into a state, or their owner had manumitted them but his children refuse to recognize the fact, etc. (See, if you like to read, John H. Russell, The Free Negro in Virginia 1619-1865 (Dover Publications, 1969); The Negro in Virginia complied by the Workers of the WPA (Blair Press 1994).)

Indeed, at least for those of us descended from the Irish mud sills, the African slave residing in the United States of America, between, say, 1820 and 1860, lived in material conditions—food, clothing, housing, health care, working hours—that were equal to, or better than what the unskilled "free" laborers received from the capitalists, who employed them to dig the canals, lay the railroad tracks, and excavate the minerals from the mines; all work the slave owner would not allow his slaves to perform, as such work would physically ruin them in short order and their economic value to him would be gone. Furthermore, while the capitalist simply dumped his Irish mud sills on the roadside when economic downturns occurred, as they frequently did, the slaveowner maintained his slaves in season and out, in good times and bad, keeping the young, the old, and the infirm, not turning them out in the cold. As long as an American Antebellum master was obliged to maintain his slaves thus, we cannot consider him on the same footing as the capitalist—the one taking care of his "property" while the other uses "free" workers which belong to no one and which one can use so long as they are servicable, and then throw them out on the street.

Recognize the difference between the slavery we Americans are not morally responsible for, and the slavery that was ours in the nation's Antebellum time. The Caribbean planters had no incentive to keep the Africans alive, as they were easily replaced with new arrivals from Africa; thus, the Africans' life exepectancy was no more than a few years as their lives were of little intrinsic value. But the lucky few Africans who wound up in Ms. Hannah-Jones's "America" constituted the planter's capital, to be preserved and nutured. American slave owners were not at liberty to dispose of excess, unprofitable slaves in the same manner as excess, unprofitable cattle. Africans held as slaves in "America" lived out their long lives in relative ease. They were not dumped on the road side when their productive years were finished, to die in the ditch like the Irish mud sills. (See, Richard L. Rubenstein, The Cunning of History (Harper Collins 1975 at p. 43.)

3. "The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, proclaims that ''all men are created equal'' and ''endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.'' But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. ''Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'' did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country."

FramersWell, Ms. Hannah-Jones is a clever writer, in weaving her conclusions into the threads of Jefferson's language. But she doesn't quite get the facts right. The Englishmen who were the ruling elite in the British colonies, as they existed in 1776, were motivated by self-interest to renounce their status as subject of the British Crown and thus their allegiance to the British Commonwealth. Once the British military had driven the French military out of its stronghold of Canada, in 1765, and the British Parliament decreed the lands west of the Appalachians off limits to the colonists and imposed taxes to finance a British standing army in the colonies, the elites organized a revolution. To justify it, they seized upon a long-standing political principle of English history that dates back to the 14th century when King Edward II was deposed. The fact that a thirty-three old Jefferson waxed poetic with "The all men are created equal" silliness does not mean that, in fact, all men are created equal; indeed, the plain evidence at the end of your nose telegraphs the reality that such is not the case. What Jefferson's language means, is that, as the English people understood it, all human beings, being born "free," possess "certain unalienable rights," among them being the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Which means that the people possess the unalienable political right to throw off a Government that they find has become oppressive and dangerous to their enjoyment of their "rights." The language, in other words, constitutes the political basis of the American people's Declaration of Independence from the British Commonwealth; nothing more, nothng less. But, as Ms. Hannah-Jones's use of it makes plain, generations of politicans have used it to wax poetic nonsence about all men being equal in society, a very, very different thing.

4. "At the time, one-fifth of the population within the 13 colonies struggled under a brutal system of slavery unlike anything that had existed in the world before."

Nonsense. The "brutual system of slavery unlike anything that had existed in the world before," was not the system of slavery that existed in the United States of America, from 1789 to 1863, but the system of slavery that existed in Africa for a thousand years before "America" (i.e., the New World) wa discovered in 1492, and the system of slavery that the Portuguese, Spanish, Danes, Dutch, French and English practiced in the Caribbean islands of Jamacia, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Kit, Dominon, the Spanish Main, and Brazil for two hundred years. (See, Clinton V. Black, The Story of Jamaica (Collins, 1965); William Knibb, Facts and Documents Connected With the Late Insurrection in Jamaica (Holdsworth 1832); Lowell Ragatz, The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean: 1763-1833 (Century Co. 1928); Lothrop Stoddard, The French Revolution in Santo Domingo (Anodos Pub. 1914); St. John Spencer, Hayti, or the Black Republic (Ballantyne Press 1889)

5. "With independence, the founding fathers could no longer blame slavery on Britain. The sin became the nation's own, and so, too, the need to cleanse it."

Here, Ms. Hannah-Jones finally writes words that actually reflect the objective reality of American History. Yes, in 1789, when The United States of America were formed by the founding fathers, there were about 300,000 Africans residing within the "states" as slaves with no rights the white man was bound to respect, though the objective record makes plain, if any one cares to examine it, that the white man did, in fact, respect the humanity of the African as slave—the respect codified in their laws and enforced by their courts. (See, e.g. General Lee Slave Whipper?)

Yes, it is right here, at the beginning of The United States of America, at this point in time, that the two million white people, who composed the new political community through their elected representatives in Congress assembled, might have faced the issue head-on, of emancipating the Africans and integrating them into the new political community as citizens with equal political rights. But they did not, and it is hardly surprising, to any person with the brains to think, why they did not.

Their first opportunity came with the First Congress, in 1800. Massachuesetts, which had hardly a thousand Africans residing in its territory, presented a resolution that the slaves be emancipated throughout the Union. South Carolina, which had more Africans residing in its territory than whites, objected, raising as the basis the spector of civil war—the point being that the white people of South Carolina, in such circumstance, would find themselves without majority political power and saddled with a majority of people who were illiterate, ignorant, and with no heritage to base their social behavior upon but what traditions and beliefs they had learned in the brutal place of nature called Africa.

The color of skin had very little to do with it. For, you have to be blind to the realities not to recognize that, had the Europeans been black, in 1545, when the transfer of Africans to the New World commenced in earnest, and the Africans white, the First Congress of the United States would have faced the same reality. Suppose, today, that 40 million Pakistani, with their dark religion and their bizzare social customs and ways, were settled, as citizens, in California. Who among us Americans, whatever our skin color, would tolerate their becoming, with a little help from the drudges of our society, in control of our Government? The first thing they would strip from it is the First Amendment, exchanging it for blasphemy laws, and let the beheadings begin.

The third chance came with the conquest of Mexico and the annexation of its provinces north of the Rio Grande, an acquistion that tripled the land mass of the United States overnight. Now, the white people of the Union might find the capital, through loans and bonds etc, to compensate the slaveowners for the economic loss freedom for the Africans entailed; more important, they might now agree among themselves to share and share alike: to disperse the Africans from where they were concentrated in mass, in the South, to the entire country, each state taking its fair share and intergrating them into its political community as citizens. Yes, like the Irish mud sills now arriving in the country, in the millions, the Africans were still illiterate, a political restriction imposed upon them to keep them ignorant. They had no property but the clothes on their backs. And nothing to offer the employer but their labor and what craft they may have learned as slaves. To make them useful, law-abiding citizens with equal civil rights, employment would have to found for them, places to live, schools to teach them; and during this developing time they were to exercise the right to vote? This was always the sticking point: the idea that this still alien class of people would, by their concentrated numbers, end up on top. It is called human self-interest, which drives all men whatever their skin color.

But what if the Africans did not want to leave the South, did not want to strike out for the hard life of the Prairie, did not want to move into the Northern cities? So the white people of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas were supposed to allow their world to be turned upside down, with the Africans on top? Does this sound like an action consistent with human nature?

So, there they are, in 1860, the Africans free: do they remain in their cabins on the plantations, taking wages like the Irish mud sill in exchange for their labor? Can they earn enough from their labor, to pay rent for the cabin, to keep food on the table year round? To clothe their children? To support a school? And what are the old folks to do? The widows, the ophans, the maimed? Well, if they control the majority vote in the political community they are residing in, why not simply tax the property owners and use the revenue to cut themselves checks? Indeed, why not use force and violence to get on top?No, it can hardly come as a surpise to you kids, reading the pap Ms. Hannah-Jones feeds you through The New York Times, that it took a war to accomplish this immensely great human feat of eliminating the institution of slavery from the land.

6. "The Supreme Court [In In Re Dred Scott] ruled that the Negro race was 'a separate class of persons,' which the founders had 'not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government' and had 'no rights which a white man was bound to respect.' This belief. . . became the root of the endemic racism that we still cannot purge from this nation to this day."

Ms. Hannah-Jones states the reality correctly. The founders plainly did not intend that Africans, a alien race imported into this country as slaves, be recognized by the Legislature of a State as a citizen of the State's political community; and, hence, Africans could not be recognized as citizens of the United States, as the one depends upon the other. This was a view expressed by state courts for years before 1856 when In Re Dred Scott was decided. An enlightening example in American History of this objective truth can be found in the pages of the Congressional Record carrying the transcript of what the Senators had to say, in Feburary 1870, in their debate over the issue of accepting Hiram Revels as Senator repreenting the state of Mississippi.

Negro politiciams 1870

The gentleman on the left is Hiram Revels. Mr. Revels was a resident of the State of Ohio before the war. In the war's aftermath, during Reconstruction, the State government of Mississippi was a puppet government installed by the Republican-controlled Congress, with a Union brigadier-general acting as the Governor. The general appointed Revels, who had moved to Mississippi after the war, as Senator, and when Revels presented his credentials to the Senate and sought to take his seat, the few Democrat Senators in the chamber objected on the ground that the Constitution requires a person to be a citizen of a State for at least nine years before taking office; and Revels could not meet this condition. What follows are snippets from the three days debate that ensued in the Senate over this issue.

senate 1870





"feelings of Nations"

feelings of nations

Naturalization Act of 1790

naturalizaton act 1790

Framers' intent

framers intent

Not Citizens



What if a State Makes An African a citizen? Is he not then a citizen of the United States?



Mass. Sen. Sumner shows how the Guarantee Republican Gov. might have been used



Mass Senator Wilson swims in the wonder of rhetoric

Wilson


The question is reached

vote taken

NOTE

1. Some Reminiscences, William L. Royall, a Richmond newspaper publisher of the 1880s, published 1907. "The negro vote nearly balanced the white vote in the State and the negro always votes solidly against what he thinks the white people favor. Mahone, knowing this, resolved to start a new political party based upon this enormous negro vote. After the election in the fall of 1881, the Mahone party were in complete possession of every department of the State Government and they proceeded to put their theories into practice. In the fall of 1883 there was a riot between the whites and the blacks. The white people carried the election and came into control of both bodies of the Legislature. They thereupon determined that they would never run the risk of falling under negro domination again, and they accordingly amended the election laws so that the officers of election, if so inclined, could stuff the ballot boxes and cause them to make any returns that were desired. Under these statutes the elections in Virginia became a farce. We got rid of negro government, but we got in place of it a government resting upon fraud and chicanery, and it very soon because a serious question which was worse, a negro government or a white government resting upon stuffed ballot boxes."

2. Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston (1942). This Race Problem business, now. Since there is no fundamental conflict, no solid reason why the blacks and whites cannot live in one nation in perfect harmony, the only thing in the way of it is Race Pride and Race Consciousness on both sides. It is the root of misunderstanding and hencde misery and injustice. And how can Race Solidarity be possible in a nation made up of as many elements as these United States? It could result in nothing short of chaos. The fate of each and every group is bound up with the others. Individual ability in any group must function for all the rest. National disaster touches us all. And in practice there can be no sharp lines drawn, because the interest of every individual in any racial group is not identical with the others. Section, locality, self-interest, special fitness, and the like set one group of Anglo-Saxons, Jews, and Negroes against another set of Ango-Saxons, Jews and Negroes. We are influenced by a pain in the pocket like everyone else.

And why should Negroes be united? Nobody else in America is. If united on something special to us, that would lead towards a hard black knot in the body politic which would be impossible of place in the nation. All of the upper class Negroes certainly want political and economic equality. That is the most universal thing I can pin down. Negroes are like everybody else. Some soar. Some plod ahead. Some just make a mess and step back in it.

I know there is race prejudice, not only in America but also wherever two races meet together in numbers.

Since I wash myself of race pride and repudiate race soldiarity, by the same token I turn my back upon the past. I see no reason to keep my eyes fixed on the dark years of slavery and the Reconstruction. I am three generations removed from it, and therefore have no experience of the thing. And I'll bet my old folks didn't like it. But my old folks are dead. Let them wrestle all over Hell about it if they want to. The present is upon me and the white man's grandchildren as well. I have business with the grandson as of today. I want to get on with the business at hand. Since I cannot pry loose the clutching hand of time, I will settle for some influence on the present."

3. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston (2018) "Kossola was born circa 1841, in the town of Bante, the home to the Isha subgroup of the Yorbuba people of West Africa. King Ghezo of Dahomey renounced his 1852 treaty to abolish traffic in slaves and by 1857 had resmed his wars and raids.

From 1801 to 1866, an estimated 3.4 million Africans were exchanged for gold, guns, and other merchandise. Of that number, approximately 445,000 were controlled by Dahomey. During the period 1851 to 1860, 22,000 Africans were exported. And of that number, 110 were taken abroad the Clotilda. Kossola was among them—a transaction between the ship owner and King Glele who had succeeded King Ghezo in 1859. Kossola described to Hurston the predawn raid on his village when he woke to Dahomey's female warriors, who slaughtered them in their daze. Kossola recalled the horror of seeing decapitated heads hanging from the belts of the warriors, and how on the second day, the warriors stopped the march in order to smoke the heads."

4. The Crisis (1934) W.E. B. Du Bois. "Negroes are not wanted. What can we do about it? We cannot use force. We cannot enforce the law, even if we get it on the statute books. So long as overwhelming public opinion sanctions and justifies and defends color segregation, we are helpless, and without remedy. We have got to renounce a program that always involves humiliating self-stultifying scrambling to crawl somewhere where we are not wanted; where we crouch panting like a whipped dog. We have got to stop this. No, by God, stand erect in a mud-puddle and tell the white world to go to hell, rather than lick boots in a parlor."

Comment

Looking back objectively, a serious student of American History, what do we see? We see the reality that the human race occupying the world of 1492 was enslaved by the class on top—the Russian Czar and his 50 million serfs tied to the land; the Ottoman Sultan who owned the peoples within his vast realm, stretching from Vennia to Timbukto; the Dahomey and Ashanti kings who owned the people of the Gold Coast; the Hapsburg emporer who owned the peoples between Moscow and Vennia and those in Germany; the French king whose people were his slaves; the Mongols who held sway over the millions of Chinese.

Earth image

A new world was discovered composed of a series of islands in a tropical climate surrounded by mysterious impentrable mainlands. For one hundred years, unchallenged by any other power, the Spanish Crown seized the islands and developed them through the use of slave labor: first the indigeous peoples and then the Africans. By 1600, the French King had taken possession of Santo Domingo and turned it into a gold mine based on sugar production; then came the Dutch and the Danes and, finally, late to the game, the English.

The English lost possession of the thirteen colonies and the loss became the United States. Hardly a person's life time passed, who was born in 1789, before the nature of war brought freedom for the African race in the United States and this was followed immediately with the winners of the war recognizing Africans to be citizens of the states in which they lived. The generation of Africans freed by the war, died away by the 1890s, and the generation of their children were born and grew up as citizens of the United States, but the whites' prejudice of race against them—which became increasingly irrational—made their progress toward equality with the whites profoundly more difficult than it should have been; that is, until another war came which released them from their rural way of life. In 1915, with Wilson in the White House, they began gravitating toward the cities, north and south; and the change brought them more success in closing the competitive gap between the races. Then came yet another war, and the process of Americanization accelerated with the next generation achieving political and civil equality under law. And here we are, today, with the fourth generation, yet still divided as they will always be, by the three classes Hurston recognized.

The consequence of this history, is that the great mass of Americans of African descent now occupy the core of many of our worn out Northern cities: St. Louis where 50% of the 300,000 people left living in it are of African descent; Detroit where 72% of the 650,000 people left living in it are of African descent; Chicago where 32% of the 2.1 million people left living there are of African descent, concentrated in the south side of the city, while the 43% of the populaton which is white is concentrated in the north side of the city; Cleveland wshere 56% of the 319,000 people still living in it are of African descent.

Today black people make up 13% of the general population of the nation, but, as the examples illustrate, they are concentrated in the cities and dominate by their majority the politics. Since the 1930s, black people vote as a monolithic block for the Democrat Party. Without this block of 35 million black people voting Democrat the Democrat Party would not exist as a national force in politics. Of course this fact means nothing meaningful in the real world, if, but only if, the self-interest of the voting bloc is essentially the same as the self-interest of the 70% of the national population that is white.

Chicago dot map

St. Louis dot map

Why is it that, in the four cities used as examples, the white population and the black population are segregated? Only one objective fact can account for it: The black populations of these cities are infected with the disease of violence; in the white residential areas of these cities, the statistics show, murders rarely occur; in the black residential areas, the murder rate keeps climbing. For example, the homicide rates for blacks in Missouri is 46.24 per 100,000, more than double the national black homicide rate of 18.67 per 100,000, while the national white homicide victimization rate of 2.67 per 100,000.

The overwhelming majority of white people will acknowledge that any person, whatever his race, is welcome as a neighbor as long as he or she is not bringing violence into the neighborhood. Who does not wish Denzel Washington as a neighbor? Charles Barkely? Dr. Carson? Frederick Douglass? Barack Obama? Any person of a color not white who is educated, employed, not loud, not violent? When the Black community extinquishes violence among its classes, that will be the time the two communities will amalgamate into one "America."

The remaining pieces of The New York Times 1619 Project include the proposition that "Slavery gave America a fear of black people [which] still defines our criminal justice system. Hogwash. Yes, the white people of our Antebellum time, living in states like South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi certainly have good reason to fear black people held as slaves. As early as 1800, the Virginia jurist, St. George Tucker, made the point plain in an essay he published that is worth you reading today. Black people are incarcerated in such large numbers, today, because we allow our Federal Government to enforce as national policy a "war on drugs" which is a waste of our time and our money, but, since the black people living in the worn out cores of our cities use drugs, they get themselves arrested and processed into our jails. This won't stop until we stop it. Black persons in our cities also commit violent crimes at an astonishing rate, relative to white persons, but the violence is more often than not directed against black persons, so, again, it is up to the black Americans to get a grip on the matter, by coming together as a community to stop the violence.

Another piece makes the argument that sugar was the white gold that fueled slavery. No shit, Sherlock. Sugar was refined in the Caribbean islands into molasses and the molasses—shipped to Boston—was refined into rum and the rum was shipped to Africa, exchanged for Africans and these shipped to the Caribbean islands. End of story.

Joe Ryan