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What this discussion can be...

#145: Apr. - June 2016 (Non-Fiction)
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LevV

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Re: What this discussion can be...

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Robert Tulip wrote:

LevV wrote:
I too look forward to delving deeper into the life and times of Booker T Washington. I recall reading the book many,many years ago and dismissing Washington as an 'Uncle Tom'.

Uncle Tom is an interesting example of mythical evolution. Starting from Stowe’s book which Lincoln said caused the Civil War by creating sympathy for abolition, Tom began as something of a Christ figure who humanized the suffering of slavery for white audiences. Precisely because of the power of this myth, Tom was then captured by racists in a countermyth, to become the pathetic stock figure of excessive subservience in blackface minstrelry. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is as a result sometimes still misperceived through the distorting hostile lens of ideological nostalgia for slavery.

The theme of “acting white” whereby blacks shame each other for being successful is a cultural development that Up From Slavery rejects. BTW’s effort in walking across Virginia with no money to get to school, and his fervent energy in educating himself after a childhood without contact to literacy, could readily be denigrated as acting white. Many would admire his focus on individual self-improvement. Others might drag him down for his effort to stand out of the crowd and achieve practical results for himself and his race.
Of course, you're right historically. In fact, it gets even more interesting with white Southerners and many Blacks having opposite views during the same historical period. Apparently, the Daughters of the Confederacy lobbied Southern legislatures to outlaw performances of Uncle Tom's Cabin, because, they insisted, the play slandered the South in its harsh depiction of slavery. The truth about slavery remained a political battleground where the Uncle Tom that was too submissive for many blacks seemed, at the same time, deeply dangerous to Southern whites.
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DWill

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Re: What this discussion can be...

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I recall Stowe's book a little dimly, but one aspect that probably seems unacceptable today is depicting a range of slave owners from the purely evil to the benevolent. The institution itself was, of course, evil, so to write of any slave owner in sympathetic terms can seem an outrage. Yet, we must assume (mustn't we?) that some people who owned other human beings were more enlightened than others. It does seem absurd to say this, I admit, from the present day, but it might be historically true. Unfortunately for the non-brutal slave owners, their relative kindness can be compared to people who treated their work animals well vs. those who were hard on them.

It's tough to be objective about slavery. The tendency is to reject any nuance in favor of blanket moral condemnation. That is the 'right" attitude, but it may get in the way of objectivity.
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Taylor

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DWill wrote:It's tough to be objective about slavery. The tendency is to reject any nuance in favor of blanket moral condemnation. That is the 'right" attitude, but it may get in the way of objectivity.
Emphatic positioning nullifies debate, The problem is that no matter how enlightened or benevolent the owner, there was still the crack of the whip. I think the key there is, as Ken Stamp puts it, is that, benevolence was the rare exception, so, I think that the venue of debate and with whom the debate is happening determines objective and subjective levels. The key is honesty, both sides need to have more than a low level understanding of history, For those in possession of higher levels of study, I'd question whether there would be much of a debate on absolutes.


Lerone Bennett, Jr. has in his book "Before The Mayflower" a chapter titled "The Life and Times of Jim Crow" He dates Jim Crow as far back as 1832, by 1839 there was a book "The History of Jim Crow"
by 1841 there was in Massachusetts, a Jim Crow railroad car, Its exact genesis is unknown, what is known is that there was early on a minstrel aspect that evolved through the time of Stowe and reconstruction. C. Vann Woodward in his book "The strange Career of Jim Crow" according to Bennett, "has shown that so long as blacks were slaves, so long as they posed no threat to the political and economic supremacy of whites, people were content to live with them on terms of relative intimacy. But when the slave became a citizen, when he got a ballot in his hand and pencil and paper, there were demands for laws and arrangements that would humiliate him and keep him in his place". (separate but equal ?)

1896; Plessy v. Ferguson, the supreme court said State laws requiring "separate but equal" accommodations for blacks were a "reasonable" use of state police powers' adding: "the object of the fourteenth amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based on color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a comingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either".
Justice Harlan dissented, calling the decision "as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case". This at the time of Booker T's rise in prominence.

Lerone calls the "cornerstone's" of turn of the 20th century Jim Crow "interracial eating and intermarriage". When I study black history, what I discover among a long list of exceptional accomplishment is white fear and greed, from the 17th century we have the creation of the roots of that modern greed, the fear was the invention to perpetuate that greed. There has been made a boogeyman and his bones are wrapped in dark skin.

Re-reading some material on my bookshelves, reading some new materials related to this discussion, thinking of personal experience's past and present, having spent the better part of my lifetime trying to understand the black experience, I'm reminded again of how much I admire black American's.
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DWill

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Re: What this discussion can be...

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Taylor, I hope you will be part of the discussion. You seem to have a deep background in the subject. I live in the Old Dominion, Virginia, in a county that was more than half slave before the war. Tidewater planters relocated to this part of the Shenandoah Valley (I'm not entirely sure why), bringing their slaves with them.
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There are shades of Robert Wright in how I think about slavery. It seems to me that slavery has roots that go far back in our history, and was firmly established in the ancient world when war was commonplace and the spoils of war included slaves. Many ancient writers discuss slavery as perfectly natural and even necessary for social stability. Gradually slavery has become more repugnant in civilized society, perhaps as western ideals became more focused on the idea that all men are created equal. Robert Wright might argue that the institution of slavery was too zero sum to survive the evolution from a tribal world to the grand nation-states that emphasize equality over dominion and subjugation.

The move to abolish slavery probably started hundreds of years ago, but it seems to have got some traction in the mid 1700s on both sides of the Atlantic. Thomas Paine was a founding member of the first anti-slavery society in America in 1775. The Quakers in England were against slavery in the 1700s and the idea of abolishing slavery appears in some of British Romantic literature, especially with the two Williams—Wordsworth and Blake.

Blake, who knew Paine, wrote the poem, Little Black Boy in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. This poem was written from the perspective of a black boy, who internalizes his mother's teaching that the skin color of blacks shows that they are closer to the Sun, a metaphor for God, as a result of their greater suffering on earth. The poem ends on a bittersweet note.

The Little Black Boy

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child:
But I am black as if bereav’d of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree
And sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say.

Look on the rising sun: there God does live
And gives his light, and gives his heat away.
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning joy in the noon day.

And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.
Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

Thus did my mother say and kissed me,
And thus I say to little English boy;
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear,
To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.
And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.
-Geo
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Taylor

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DWill wrote:Taylor, I hope you will be part of the discussion. You seem to have a deep background in the subject. I live in the Old Dominion, Virginia, in a county that was more than half slave before the war. Tidewater planters relocated to this part of the Shenandoah Valley (I'm not entirely sure why), bringing their slaves with them.
Thanks, you compliment me, but I'm not certain I deserve to much credit as I am mostly relying on the limited material in my possession.

This past February I had a discussion with another Booktalk regular in which it was commented that slavery was written into the Constitution a statement to which I disagree with, but I'm not always certain of myself, so I've been checking it out because I wanted to be certain. That really is the crux of my interest. Those five underlined words are my focus, The problem is finding out whom the authority is as to whether those five words are the truth of the matter. The original constitution did not block slavery, in fact the way I read article one section two, Slavery was left to the states to manage. Ultimately there was a north-south divide, Its the subtleties of that divide that give us answers to the question of those five words. For me there're not easy to gloss over or wrap my arms around. I'm finding that much of it really does come down to colonial charters, both pre and post revolution, (the study of which takes large amounts of time, I'm not working on a doctoral thesis but I see the work involved if I use this topic as example) for me it suffices to think that by post revolution its too late, slavery is a cat that's out of the bag.
Among the many idea's such as ones you've proposed, cotton and tobacco and their roll in slavery we get only partial answers. For instance both commodities you mentioned were money makers, why? because of wage free labor, which was also a commodity.
Mind you, we are still not the USA, we're still colonies and as colonies we had to changed charters to comply with independence from Britain. Simultaneously the process of dehumanizing Africans had been rolling along, they were becoming chattel. In the midst of all this was changing values regarding indentured servitude and the growing mulatto demographic.
Some Georgia history: Georgia was a British buffer toward the French to the west south west, Georgia was also a buffer to the Spanish in the deep south, Louisiana and Florida respectively. The British charter for the state of Georgia prohibited slavery, post revolution the newly independent Georgia colonist changed their charter to legalize slavery. It was, in the beginning, a states rights issue, It had to be, otherwise there is no good ol USA. I see a very nasty compromise in the articles of federation, this during the supposed enlightenment. To be certain as Geo points out, there were many people who were anti-slavery but in my head their hands were tied, The repugnance of slavery was a no win. How did Geo put it? Zero Sum. I do not imagine these early authors of all our most important documents were naïve to the point that they were not aware of potential downsides, they new the hard road ahead. Ugly decisions are never easy to make. So was slavery written into the Constitution? I haven't read the remainder of Up From Slavery but at this point I don't feel strongly that I will find my answer there.
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That may have been me you had the discussion on slavery with - that usually trips my trigger. If you take the phrase "slavery was written into the Constitution" to mean slavery was required by that document, then I agree that's not correct.
The original constitution did not block slavery, in fact the way I read article one section two, Slavery was left to the states to manage.
As you imply, perhaps a better way of stating it is the original Constitution required slavery to be permitted. Obviously you're aware the Constitution never would have been approved otherwise. To that extent slavery was "written in" by our Founding Fathers, it unequivocally COULD NOT be banned!

I'm not gonna do a lot of research for you, but will recommend that you read Chapter 3 titled "The Silence" in Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. It is astonishing what is enshrined in our Constitution prior to the 1st amendment! Few Americans are aware of this.

No, this book by Booker T. Washington will not answer your questions about slavery - as the title states, he is literally 8) moving onward and upward from slavery and encouraging everyone else to do the same. Americans now must also look back fearlessly in order to counteract the fairy tales we tell ourselves.
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DWill wrote:It's tough to be objective about slavery. The tendency is to reject any nuance in favor of blanket moral condemnation. That is the 'right" attitude, but it may get in the way of objectivity.
I don't get it, what is the "objective" stance on slavery? Are you with brother bob, who justified it all by claiming if parents were prevented from selling their children into slavery they would starve to death?
Taylor wrote:The problem is that no matter how enlightened or benevolent the owner, there was still the crack of the whip.
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Taylor

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LanDroid wrote:I'm not gonna do a lot of research for you, but will recommend that you read Chapter 3 titled "The Silence" in Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. It is astonishing what is enshrined in our Constitution prior to the 1st amendment! Few Americans are aware of this.
Ellis in his intro tells us that "with all the advantage of hindsight and modern racial attitudes as a moral guide, the revolutionary generation decided that the risks outweighed the prospects of success; they quite self-consciously chose to defer the slavery question by placing any discussion of it out-of-bounds at both the national and federal levels."

I pulled that quote from the link you provided, I'll get the book, I wouldn't expect all my research provided but a hand out now and again is permissible and appreciated. Thanks.
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LanDroid wrote:perhaps a better way of stating it is the original Constitution required slavery to be permitted
LanDroid wrote: it unequivocally COULD NOT be banned!
LanDroid wrote:Chapter 3 titled "The Silence" in Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis.
I'm just finishing reading the Ellis book, In it Ellis makes the case for LanDroid's points quite clearly and based on this reading I am prepared to think that Landroid (Ellis) are right.

Slavery was written into the Constitution.

The Supremacy clause of article six still leaves me with some doubt, but in the case of slavery it appears to have been toothless.
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