“The fallacy of 1619 begins with the questions most of us reflexively ask when we consider the first documented arrival of a handful of people from Africa in a place that would one day become the United States of America. First, what was the status of the newly arrived African men and women? Were they slaves? Servants? Something else? And, second, as Winthrop Jordan wondered in the preface to his 1968 classic, White Over Black, what did the white inhabitants of Virginia think when these dark-skinned people were rowed ashore and traded for provisions? Were they shocked? Were they frightened? Did they notice these people were Black? If so, did they care?”
“This amazing story tells the events of these men, women and children, who were kidnapped from their native land in West Africa, enslaved in Ouidah, a coastal town in the Kingdom of Dahomey, the current day coastal country of Benin, and brought to America on what is believed to be the last slave ship, the Clotilda. Through their resilience, they not only survived the horrific Middle Passage, but the American Civil War, the reconstruction of Alabama, and the Jim Crow period, but they also fought to preserve their African memories, culture, and community over the generations. “For out of the bowels of slave ships they rose, and their descendants are, in the powerful words of Langston Hughes: Still Here.”After the Emancipation Proclamation, the newly freed Africans tried, but failed to return to their beloved homeland Africa. The story describes the group reuniting from various plantations, alongside American-born, formerly enslaved men, women and children. The Africans bought land and founded their own settlement, which came to be known as Africatown.The Founders appointed tribal leaders and governed Africatown according to customary African laws, spoke their own regional language, kept their own customs, used African irrigation and gardening techniques, and built their own social structures. The people of Africatown formed their own self-sufficient world.Marine archaeologists and researchers from Search, Inc. have confirmed the location of the schooner Clotilda-the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans from Benin, West Africa into the Mobile Bay. The search team discovered the schooner in a remote area of Alabama’s Mobile River.”
A cast iron bust of Cudjo Lewis, one of the last survivors of the slave ship Clotilde, can be found in front of the historic Union Missionary Baptist Church in Africatown. (Graveyardwalker (Amy Walker) Wikimedia Commons )
“The excitement and joy is overwhelming,” says Woods, in a voice trembling with emotion. She is 70 years old now. But she’s been hearing stories about her family history and the ship that tore them from their homeland since she was a child in Africatown, a small community just north of Mobile founded by the Clotilda’s survivors after the Civil War.The authentication and confirmation of the Clotilda was led by the Alabama Historical Commission and SEARCH Inc., a group of maritime archaeologists and divers who specialize in historic shipwrecks. Last year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) joined the effort to help involve the community of Africatown in the preservation of the history, explains Smithsonian curator and SWP co-director Paul Gardullo.”
“After the Emancipation Proclamation, the newly freed Africans tried, but failed to return to their beloved homeland Africa. The story describes the group reuniting from various plantations, alongside American-born, formerly enslaved men, women and children. The Africans bought land and founded their own settlement, which came to be known as Africatown.”
The Full Story:
By: Ivory A. Toldson
Persons of Black African ancestry live as citizens, foreign nationals, and indigenous populations on every continent as a result of immigration, colonialism and slave trading. Today, most Black people in the Americas are the progeny of victims of the transatlantic slave trade. From 1619 to 1863, millions of Africans were involuntarily relocated from various regions of West Africa to newly established European colonies in the Americas. Many different African ethnic groups, including the Congo, Yoruba, Wolof, and Ibo, were casualties of the transatlantic slave trade. The Black American population is the aggregate of these groups, consolidated into one race, bound by a common struggle against racial oppression and distinguished by cultural dualism.
Importantly, the historic legacy of Black people in the Western Hemisphere is not limited to slavery. The Olmec heads found along the Mexican Gulf Coast is evidence of African colonies in the Americas centuries before Columbus arrived in the Caribbean. Black people were also responsible for establishing the world’s first free Black republic, and only the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, with the Haitian Revolution. In the United States, almost 500,000 African Americans were free prior to the Civil War and were immensely instrumental in shaping U.S. policy throughout abolition and beyond. Post-Civil War, African Americans influenced U.S. arts, agriculture, foods, textile, language, and invented technological necessities such as the traffic light and elevators, and parts necessary to build the automobile and personal computer. All of these contributions were necessary for the U.S. to become a world power by the 20th Century.
Racism and oppression are forces that have shaped the experiences and development of Black people worldwide. Although European colonialists initially enslaved Black people because of their agricultural expertise and genetic resistance to diseases, they used racist propaganda to justify their inhumane practices. During periods of slavery and the “Scramble for Africa,” European institutions used pseudoscience and religion (e.g. the Hamitic myth) to dehumanize Black people. The vestiges of racism and oppression survived centuries after propaganda campaigns ended and influence all human interactions today.
Today, racism is perpetuated most profoundly through the educational system. Black students are taught to revere historians, such as Columbus, who nearly committed genocide against the native population of the Dominican Republic; and Woodrow Wilson who openly praised the Ku Klux Klan. Although many of these facts are not well known and purposefully disguised in history texts, children often leave traditional elementary and secondary education with the sense that aside from a few isolated figures (e.g. Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman) Black people had a relatively small role in the development of modern nations.
Survey data often indicate that African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality of any given mental or physical disorder, are more deeply impacted by social ills, and generally have the lowest economic standing. While some of the data are accurately presented, rationales are usually baseless and findings typically lack a sociohistorical context. In addition, studies on African Americans unfairly draw social comparisons to the social groups that historically benefited from their oppression.
Historical distortions accompanying dismal statistics have resulted in many educators and counselors perpetually using a deficit model when working with Black students. The deficit model focuses on problems, without exploring sociohistorical factors or institutional procedures. Persons of Black African ancestry have a distinguished history, are immeasurably resilient, and have developed sophisticated coping mechanisms throughout centuries of oppression. Appreciating and celebrating a Black people’s legacy, contextualizing problems, and building on strengths instead of focusing on deficits are universally appreciated counseling strategies, which merit greater prudence when working with Black children.
IVORY TOLDSON is the Deputy Director of White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges; Universities; Associate Professor at Howard University and Editor in Chief of The Journal of Negro Education
What Was the 2nd Middle Passage?
100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: A second forced migration of slaves wasn’t transatlantic.
Editor’s Note: For those who are wondering about the retro title of this black history series, please take a moment to learn about historian Joel A. Rogers, author of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof, to whom these “amazing facts” are an homage.
(The Root) — 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro No. 16: What was the second Middle Passage?
Thanks to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by David Eltis and David Richardson, we know that about 388,000 Africans were transported directly to the United States over the course of the slave trade, which ended officially in 1808. This brutally cruel and disruptive phase of the trade, as all American schoolchildren should be taught, is known as “the Middle Passage.” But what is often left out of many survey courses is the second Middle Passage, and that dark chapter in American history involved far more black people than were taken from Africa to the United States. It was also uniquely cruel and brutally destructive. And it unfolded during the era when cotton was “king.”
That second forced migration was known as the domestic, or internal, slave trade: “In the seven decades between the ratification of the Constitution [in 1787] and the Civil War ,” the historian Walter Johnson tells us in his book Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, “approximately one million enslaved people were relocated from the upper South to the lower South … two thirds of these through … the domestic slave trade.” In other words, two and a half times more African Americans were directly affected by the second Middle Passage than the first one.
When we think of the image of slaves being sold “down the river” on auction blocks — mothers separated from children, husbands from wives — it was during this period that these scenes became increasingly common. The enslaved were sometimes marched hundreds of miles to their destinations, on foot and in chains. Indeed, the years between 1830 and 1860 were the worst in the history of African-American enslavement.
Why? Because of the unprecedented growth of the cotton industry. Until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and had it patented in 1794, cotton harvesting was extremely labor-intensive. The cotton gin is deceptively simple: It just separates cotton fibers, or “lint,” from the seeds. Before the cotton gin, one person could clean five or six pounds of cotton a day; using the cotton gin, one person could clean a thousand pounds of cotton a day! The effects were immediate and dramatic: As the historian Ronald Bailey explains in an article for Agricultural History, in 1790, the United States produced 1.5 million pounds of cotton; in 1800, it produced 35 million pounds of cotton! By 1830, that figure had grown to 331 million, and by 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, cotton production had grown to 2,275 million pounds.
The more money the planters made from cotton, the more cotton they wanted to grow. The more cotton the planters wanted to grow, the more slaves they needed to grow the cotton. The world’s desire for cotton — and the Southern planters’ and Northern industrialists’ desire for profits — seemed insatiable.
Meanwhile, since the slave trade from Africa was ended in 1808, slaves in the Upper South had become extremely valuable commodities. Their owners, whose tobacco plantations were no longer, say, sufficiently profitable, sold them south, in droves. As Ira Berlin concludes in The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations, “the internal slave trade became the largest enterprise in the South outside of the plantation itself, and probably the most advanced in its employment of modern transportation, finance and publicity.”
Most of us are familiar with the dreadful Trail of Tears, which in 1838 removed the last of the Chickasaw, the Cherokee, the Creek, the Choctaw and the Seminoles from the region of the South known as the “black belt,” resettling them to “Indian Territory,” which became the state of Oklahoma in 1907. Ever wonder why this was necessary? In a word, cotton. These Native American people were living on what was perhaps the richest cotton soil in the world. And their removal, following the Louisiana Purchase, created a scramble to settle their lands and raise cotton, leading to one of the greatest periods in economic expansion and profitability in American history.
The number of slaves needed in the new states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, where cotton reigned, increased by an average of 27.5 percent each decade, demanding that entire families be relocated from plantations in the East and Upper South. As Steven Deyle points out, “Southern slave prices more than tripled,” rising from $500 in New Orleans in 1800, to $1,800 by 1860 (the equivalent of $30,000 in 2005).
Of the 3.2 million slaves working in the 15 slave states in 1850, 1.8 million worked in cotton. No wonder the dominant motto of the era was “Cotton is King!” Cotton produced by slave labor was so profitable that it would take a costly Civil War, and the loss of more than 600,000 lives, to end it.
As always, you can find more “Amazing Facts About the Negro” on The Root, and check back each week as we count to 100.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief ofThe Root.
The UN International Day of Remembrance of Slavery Victims and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Monument to Slaves; Credit: © Shutterstock
On 25th March each year the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of Slavery Victims and the Transatlantic Slave Trade honours the lives of those who died as a result of slavery, or who experienced the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade.
The day also presents an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of racism and prejudice.
During the period of around 400 years from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries between 15 million and 17 million African men, women and children were transported against their will across the Atlantic to North, Central and South America. Millions more died during the course of the journey.
The captives were brought from the coasts of Africa in cramped and unhygienic slave ships and 96 % of them were landed at ports in South America and the Caribbean Islands.
Between 1501 and 1830, four Africans crossed the Atlantic for every one European. The legacy of this is plainly evident today, with many millions of people throughout the Americas who are all of African descent.
This inhumane trade is now universally regarded as being one of the worst ever violations of human rights, with some experts believing that the effects of this trade are still being felt in the economies of some African countries.
The first anti-slavery statement was signed in Germantown, Pennsylvania by a group of Dutch and German Quarters in 1688 and this was followed by similar disapproval by English Quakers who began to promote reforms. From the 1750s a number of Quakers in Britain’s America colonies began to express their opposition and called on Quaker slave owners to improve the conditions of their slaves, to educate them in reading and writing and Christianity and to gradually emancipate them.
The British abolitionist movement came into being in 1783 after an informal group of six Quakers presented a petition to Parliament, signed by over 300 Quakers. Individuals and organisations began to correspond and books, pamphlets and newspaper articles were part of the effort to raise awareness of the cause. This was the beginning of perhaps the first and certainly the largest humanitarian movement that had ever been seen.
It was becoming clear to the international community that this sort of trade was no longer to be tolerated. Although the trade had previously been accepted without question, the Anglo-American abolitionist movement began to gain more support. In 1791 the British campaigner William Wilberforce introduced his first Parliamentary Bill to abolish slavery. This was easily defeated, but he tried again the following year, and the next, and the next, until in 1807 the British Parliament finally voted to abolish the slave trade throughout its maritime power.
Abolition itself followed slowly as agreements had to be established with the various semi-autonomous colonial governments. Further British Parliamentary legislation followed and in Britain the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833, ending slavery in Canada, the British West Indies and the Cape of Good Hope.
By now the abolitionist movement was gaining momentum. Within ten years slavery had also been abolished in India and in 1848 it was abolished in French territories.
1st January 1863 was the day of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. This stated that: “all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of the state, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free”
Slavery was officially abolished in the United States on 1st February 1865 as a result of the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. President Lincoln was anxious that the Emancipation Proclamation should not be seen as a temporary measure made during the Civil War. Yet in spite of all the good intentions, racial segregation continued throughout most of the following century and racism continues to remain an important issue.
The United Nations International Day of Remembrance of Slavery Victims and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is an occasion to consider the causes, consequences and lessons to be gained from the transatlantic slave trade. The theme for 2013 is Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation when tribute will be paid to all those who worked tirelessly to overturn the acceptance of the slave trade as an institution that was legitimate and moral.
International Day of Remembrance of the Victims
of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Theme for 2013: “Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation”
For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history.
The annual observance of 25 March as the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade serves as an opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, and to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.
This year’s theme, “Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation,” pays tribute to the emancipation of slaves in nations across the world. This year is particularly important with many key anniversaries, including 220 years since France’s General Emancipation decree liberated all slaves in present-day Haiti; 180 years since the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 ended slavery in Canada, the British West Indies and the Cape of Good Hope; and 170 years ago, the Indian Slavery Act of 1843 was signed. Slavery was also abolished 165 years ago in France; 160 years ago in Argentina; 150 years ago in the Dutch colonies; and 125 years ago in Brazil.
2013 is also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States, which declared that, on 1 January 1863, all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.