Archive for February, 2019

The Truth About Slavery – Part 2

February 26, 2019

The initial forced labor in the British North American colonies involved indentured servants who served a limited amount of time and were then freed. Many whites volunteered to  serve a period of time in exchange for funds to pay for their trip to North America. Although these indentured servants were only temporary slaves, they were slaves in every sense of the word.   Owners could mistreat them and even choose their sexual partners.  Use of   indentured servants continued through April, 1775, when prominent Virginia planterGeorge Washington     advertised  a rewatd  for the  teturn of 8 white 2 black runaways.
The Africans and many Irish were forced to travel to the British colonies. Irish were sometimes sentenced to “transportation to America” for illegal acts.  Over 300,000 Irish  were sent to North America and the West Indies as slaves.  .  Thousands of children from London streets were rounded up and sent to the Americas.

Most indentured servants were white, particularly Irish, but some were Africans like Anthony Johnson who like white indentured servants was given some land after being freed.  Johnson used indentured servants on his land.

Later when a decision was made to allow people to be held as permanent slaves, only Africans could be permanent slaves because they were foreigners.  The law didn’t allow British subjects to be permanent slaves.  However, initially black children of indentured servants could be treated as permanent slaves because the mother’s status as free or nor free determined the  child’s status.  If the mother was a slave the child woul be a slave.   This practice differed from the traditional practice of having the father’s social status determine the child’s status.    A white slave child would be considered an indentured servant.  A black slave child would become  a permanent slave.

By the time permanent slavery began whites and blacks had been having relationships for years and produced children of mixed ancestry.   Some plantation owners forced white female  indentured servants to mate with black men so the children would become permanent slaves.  This practice increased the portion of the slave population that had European [white] genes as well as African [black] genes.   The slave population received additional white DNA from slave owners and overseers.

The relationships among those of mixed ancestry and between those with  mixed ancestry and whites were producing children who could ” pass for white ” in the 18th Century.   Some with a slightly dark complexion might have claimed to be of North American or Mediterranean ancestry to gain acceptance as whites.

The relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his sister-in-law and virtual wife  Sally Hemings provides an example of this situation.  Hemings was the daughter of a union between Jefferson’s father-in-law  John Wayles. and a slave. Wayles took Hemings’ mother as his concubine after his first three wives died.   Hemings was legally classified as  “white” and had  long straight hair, but the social situation and laws governing slavery likely made an actual marriage impossible.   Some of their children later passed for white after being freed and leaving Virginia.

This situation demonstrates that slavery was no longer about “race” or “color” in 1800.  Even though Hemings was the “white” daughter of a plantation owner, she was still considered a slave who became part of the property of her father’s estate when he died in 1774.

Various accounts in the following years indicate that household servants were often of lighter complexion than field slaves.   Many suggest this situation indicates color prejudice.  The more likely explanation is that the household servants had lighter complexions because they were related to the plantation owner.

By the time of the Civil War there were 5,000 black slave owners and  many slaves who were light complexioned or even white.

The strange case of Jane / Alexina Morrison demonstrates that slavery wasn’t necessarily about color.  According to the slave trader who sold her in Louisiana the blonde haired blue-eyed young woman he called “Jane” was born a slave. The woman who called herself “Alexina” sued him for kidnapping her after she escaped from him. The case bounced around the Louisiana courts just before the Civil War with juries siding with the woman and the courts with the slave trader.  It  apparently is still technically before the courts.   Regardless of which person was telling the truth, the fact that the courts even considered the possibility of Morrison being a slave demonstrates that white slaves were a part of southern slavery by the start of the Civil War.   Some of the escaped slaves whose narratives were published before the Civil War mentioned having seen white slaves.    Harpet’s  Weekly in January carried a picture of  slaves recently freed by the Union armywho were white.

The Truth About Slavery – Part 1

February 25, 2019

The Truth  About Slavery – Part 1

Many  Americans believe slavery only involved white people owning black people.  They believe the master race was white and the slave race was black.  North American slavery actually involved relatively rich people,[e.g. land owners]  owning poor people who might or might not be of the same color.

There were two types of forced laborers brought to North America:  indentured  servants and permanent slaves.   Most of the primarily Irish indentured servants were forced to travel to North America, but some were volunteers.  The first Africans were treated as indentured servants but were eventually treated as permanent slaves.  Members of the two groups worked together and the historical account indicates there was sufficient sexual contact between the two to produce a hybrid group of permanent slaves whose members could be  called “black Irish”.

Unfortunately,the fact that most  slaves were black and most owners were white led to a belief among some whites that this situation meant blacks are inferior to whites.   This belief began during the slave era in part as a way to justify treating some people as slaves in an otherwise free country.

The first  Africans arrived in Jamestown in 1619 only 14 years after the founding of the settlement.  During the two centuries of the Atlantic slave trade only about 500,000 additional Africans were imported into North America.   Britain led the way to ending the Atlantic slave trade in 1807 and the United States quickly followed to outlaw the importation of slaves without prohibiting the internal slave trade
Initially North American forced laborers were white temporary slaves called “indentured servants” who served for a specified term such as 5-10 years.   The first Africans who arrived at Jamestown were treated as indentured servants   . Anthony Johnson arrived in 1620 and received some land from the Virginia colony  after he was freed.   In 1651 he  owned five indentured servants (four white and one black.  man named John Casor, was  considered a permanent slave).

The term “indentured servant” is deceptive because during their period of indenture “servants”  could be brutally mistreated like regular slaves.  Some owners treated much cheaper Irish indentured servants  worse than ;lifetime slaves.  Africans cost from 20-50 pounds Sterling compared to about 5 pounds Sterling for an Irishman.

Owners could even choose who  servants would mate with like  they were breeding  horses. Owners might use whites to breed lighter colored  slaves to be  sold.  Raising slaves for sale would become a signaficant part of the plantation economy. Light colored females would eventually be sold as “fancy slaves” to be prostitutes or concubines who might command a higher price than a prime field hand.

Many servants were children  picked up from London   streets.  The exploitation of children in the North American workplace would continue into the 20th Century.

Europe didn’t have a large enough population to support large scale agriculture in the Western Hemisphere when colonization began.  The British used the colonies to relocate the Irish, but Ireland only had a population of 1.5 million.  The Spanish use of African slaves had begun before the discovery of land available for settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Africans had been capturing, enslaving and selling each other for thousands of years  before Christopher Columbus discovered a huge new market for African slave traders.   Africans continued to enslave each other after the end of North American slavery.  There are reports that Africans still practice slavery.

The career of  Englishman John Newton demonstrates not only that whites could be slaves, but that those who engaged in the slave trade could also be slaves.   Newton was a sailor on a slave ship whose shipmates sold him to a West African slave trader because  they didn’t get along with him.   A friend of Newton’s retired ship captain father arranged to free Newton. Newton evenstually got a position as the captain of a slave ship.  A religious experience convinced Newton to become a Christian minister and become active in the movement to abolish slavery.  He wrote the popular hymn “Amazing Grace” which according to gospel singer Larnelle Harris uses a west African sorrow chant for the melody.

Remember the Alamo Walls

February 8, 2019

As a Vietnam Vet I know that physical barriers  can limit the number of uninvited “guests”   Even a barrier as relatively flimsy as concertina wire can discourage unwelcome  visitors.

The Texas Revolution demonstrates the potential benefits of walls.    The Battle of the Alamo was an epic defensive battle with Texas army co-commanders James Bowie and William B. Travis.
attempting to hold the walled Alamo mission they were using as a fort against  a vastly superior Mexican army under the command of  President General Antonio López de Santa Anna

Marty Robbins celebrated the defender’s efforts in “the Ballad of the Alamo”.

“One hundred and eighty five
Holdin’ back five thousand
Five days, six days, eight days, ten
Travis held and held again.”

The Alamo’s   walls helped Travis hold the fort until Gen. Santa Anna  decided to accept the high casualties needed to take the fort.  :Later at the Battle of San Jacinto Texas Gen. Sam Houston easily defeated Santa Anna because Santa Anna didn’t have walls to protect his men.

The post office I was assigned to in Vietnam was initially located at a small compound south of Phu Cat AFB called Camp Fidel.  Even though the enemy wasn’t likely to attack us instead of the Air /Force’s jets, our commanders knew we had to guard our perimeter all night because the enemy wouldn’t pass up an easy target.

Do the Brainless Wonders in Congress Know What Happened on 9/11/01?

February 5, 2019

Do they know that a mere 19 men who had infiltrated our country hijacked four airliners and used them to destroy the World Trade Towers and damage the Pentagon? Current Congressional leaders are even more brainless than leaders in November, 1941, who thought the country could avoid World War II by being neutral. They hadn’t yet experienced an attack by an enemy. Today’s leaders have..

The government didn’t know of a potential terror threat when the 9/11 hijackers entered the country. Today the government is more careful about who it allows in. Suspected terrorists cannot come in at monitored points of entry. They have to find entry points that aren’t closely monitored such as along our southern border. Coming in that way allows them to bring weapons and high explosives.
Those who claim there isn’t a crisis need to explain when the terror crisis that began on 9/11 ended. Americans didn’t realize there was a terror crisis until a plane hit the second tower.

Our enemies haven’t announced an end to their war. Maybe they haven’t attacked our homeland because they prefer to concentrate on defending their homeland. Maybe our law enforcement agencies have been preventing their attacks. Or maybe they are secretly preparing a surprise attack like the Germans did before the Battle of the Bulge or the Viet Cong did before the 1968 Tet Offensive. If they think they can mount a surprise attack, we may not know until it begins.