Monday, June 1, 2015

Slavery, Segregation, Solutions, and No Gratitude Part 1 of 5

Here is such and important article that I have received permission from the Author to post his work in a five part series. In honor of the importance of this article I will be posting a portion of it each day.

Slavery, Segregation, Solutions, and No Gratitude
Part 1
by Rev. Dr Paul Samson

I wrote this little essay to help me clear up my own bewilderment about racial issues. I hope it will also be useful to others
My brow is furrowed, and I have question marks colliding with each other in my brain. Oh, where to begin? Research is always a good way to reduce the number of question marks!


I think it is safe to say that most people know white people did not start slavery. Slavery is an ancient institution, as old as the human race. I suspect that every ethnic group on the planet has, at one time or another, been enslaved or owned slaves.
The specific instance of slavery experienced by some American blacks had its roots in black tribal chieftains selling their own people to slave traders, or selling captured prisoners of war. In fact, raiding another tribe to sell those who were captured was a commonplace way for black chieftains to acquire wealth.
The slave traders were mostly Arabs. The Arabian slave markets sold black slaves to white ship owners, who then transported their “cargo” to those who used slave labor. Of all 1,515,605 families in the 15 slave states in the US in 1860, nearly 400,000 held slaves (roughly one in four), amounting to 8% of all American families. So, at the apex of slavery in the United States, only 8% of American families owned slaves, and some of those slaves were owned by black Americans.


Some slaveholders were black, or had some black ancestry. In 1830 there were 3,775 such slaveholders in the South who owned 12,760 slaves, with 80% of them located in Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. There were economic differences between free blacks of the Upper South and Deep South, with the latter fewer in number, but wealthier, and typically of mixed race. Half of the black slaveholders lived in cities, rather than the countryside, with most in New Orleans and Charleston. Especially New Orleans had a large, relatively wealthy free black population (gens de couleur) composed of people of mixed race, who had become a third class-between whites and enslaved blacks-under French and Spanish rule. Relatively few slaveholders were “substantial planters.” Of those who were, most were of mixed race, often endowed by white fathers with some property and social capital. For example, a black man, Andrew Durnford of New Orleans, was listed as owning seventy-seven slaves. According to Rachel Kranz: "Durnford was known as a stern master who worked his slaves hard and punished them often, in his efforts to make his Louisiana sugar plantation a success.”

The historians John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger wrote:

A large majority of profit-oriented, free black slaveholders resided in the Lower South. For the most part, they were persons of mixed racial origin, often women who cohabited or were mistresses of white or mulatto men. Provided land and slaves by whites, they owned farms and plantations, worked their hands in the rice, cotton, and sugar fields, and like their white contemporaries, were troubled with runaways.

The historian Ira Berlin wrote: “In slave societies, nearly everyone – free and slave – aspired to enter the slaveholding class, and upon occasion some former slaves rose into slaveholders’ ranks. Their acceptance was grudging, as they carried the stigma of bondage in their lineage and, in the case of American slavery, color in their skin.” Free blacks were perceived “as a continual, symbolic threat to slaveholders, challenging the idea that ‘black’ and ‘slave’ were synonymous.” Free blacks were seen as potential allies of fugitive slaves, and “slaveholders bore witness to their fear and loathing of free blacks in no uncertain terms." For free blacks, who had only a precarious hold on freedom, “slave ownership was not simply an economic convenience but indispensable evidence of the free blacks' determination to break with their slave past, and their silent acceptance – if not approval – of slavery.”
The historian 
James Oakes in 1982 notes that, “The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of black slaveholders were free men who purchased members of their families or who acted out of benevolence.” After 1810 southern states made it increasingly difficult for any slaveholders to free slaves. Often the purchasers of family members were left with no choice but to maintain, on paper, the owner-slave relationship. In the 1850s “there were increasing efforts to restrict the right to hold bondsmen, on the grounds that slaves should be kept ‘as far as possible under the control of white men only.”
In his 1985 statewide study of black slaveholders in South Carolina, 
Larry Koger challenged the benevolent view. He found that the majority of black slaveholders appeared to hold slaves as a commercial decision. For instance, he noted that in 1850 more than 80% of black slaveholders were of mixed race, but nearly 90% of their slaves were classified as black. He also noted that a number of small artisans in Charleston held slaves to help with their businesses.


Robert M. Grooms, in "The Johnson Family: African-American Owners of White and black Slaves," has revealed the fact that blacks owned white slaves in America. He also notes that a legal precedent for life-long slavery in America was established by a black slave owner with regard to one of his black slaves.

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