Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

Slavery’s Heavy Hand

In an earlier post, I mused about the notion of the “heavy hand of history,” the idea that long-past conditions pull us in certain directions even generations after the fateful events. One of the very earliest users of the phrase, in 1944, was an eminent psychologist who was trying to understand the situation of African Americans 80 years after Emancipation.

Slave Family 1862_LC-USZCN4-280

Now, a just-published study reinforces the point, showing that the deeper a southern county’s immersion in slavery in 1860, the greater the black-white inequality in that county in 2000.


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Was Slavery, Is Slavery

A recent story on plans across the South to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the secession that sparked the Civil War reported that its advocates dismissed the issue of slavery as irrelevant.


One planner said “our people were only fighting [the Civil War] to protect themselves from an invasion and for their independence.” Another, while “not defending slavery, which he called an abomination, [said] ‘But defending the South’s right to secede, the soldiers’ right to defend their homes and the right to self-government doesn’t mean your arguments are without weight because of slavery’ . . .”

Such efforts to deny that slavery brought on the Civil War come from the Right, but they eerily connect to similar denials from the Left. Both positions are wrong. It was slavery; it still is slavery.

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Juneteenth: Race? Slavery?

Juneteenth celebrates the announcement of emancipation in Texas on June 19, 1865.

source: jessamyn's photostream

Its 145th anniversary prompts reflection on how race and slavery got entangled early in American history. In those days, being black and being a slave did not necessarily go together. That association developed and then tightened over several generations.

The almost accidental entanglement of African origin and slavery has shaped our understanding of race ever since. And now the two are being disentangled, which raises tricky questions such as: What explains the disadvantages of African Americans?; Who should benefit from affirmative action?; and Is Barack Obama is really “black”?

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