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07 March 2013


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Fascinating stuff, thanks for sharing.


The average American has a limited knowledge of our history. Misstatements, sworn to be fact, are common. Only through effort, and reading something beyond market tabloids, can we begin to understand.

This was an excellent article, and I'll be reading more of Dr. Gates.


It has come to my attention that at one time or another during the course of human history, every people, every race, every nationality have owned slaves and been owned as slaves. A corollary to this is that unarmed people are owned more often and for longer periods of time than are well armed people.
A people who allow their public servants to be better armed than themselves carry the earned sobriquet of slave. A God of the Copybook Heading denied by the current American people.

Alba Etie

Those who don not learn from history are doomed to repeat it ..


Did black ppl own slaves ? Not if you watch Django Unchained they did'nt.
My dad laughs when he hears tales of his trans-Atlantic 'relatives" breaking down in tears when they visit Elmina Castle.
Yes. Black ppl owned slaves. They still to this day in Africa. Relatives, tribal kinsman and women. Kids selling peanuts, fruits, eggs and whatnot at traffic junctions throughout Africa are in some form of bondage. It may not involve chains but they are obligated to work and receive nothing for their labour. In Mauritania, apparently, the more classical definition of slavery still exits.

Mark Logan

An excursion west of the Mississippi, in regards to the peculiar institution, if anybody is interested. Lots of interesting things about that.


U of Washington's Quintard Taylor. He doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable either.



Yes. The whole thing about the South being a zone of unmentionable evil based on slavery is both ignorant and self-serving on the part of some Black ppl and professional Northerners here. Thank God for honest men like you and doctor Gates. Another such was Doctor Smith at American University. On CNN last night Jesse Jackson, in Caracas for Chavez' funeral, said that Chavez wasa good man while the first fifteen presidents of the US were not because they were slaveholders. pl


Jesse 'blubbing' Jackson is regarded in these parts as a televisual black victim for hire. Kinda like what Sharpton is like for any controversial racial issue (black) in the US. You know when Rev? Jackson is advocating for a 'New Africa', money has been spent. Him and that former Atlanta mayor.
Funnily enough, Nigerian politicians find the going easier with DC when Republicans are in office. You know, the party who does'nt have a black candidate. Funny that.
Africans generally don't give a fig's leaf about slavery unless they can make money from exploiting the emotional distress it causes your darker-skinned citizens.
What is carefully avoided in discussing slavery is that Africans acted as procurers of slaves for the white slave traders. We raided other villages and traded them to the slave merchants. For mirrors, top hats, muskets (we call them Dane guns), night-shirts etc. in the Nigerian Delta region, part of the traditional clothing is a long night-shirt type fashioned ensemble. What's the word I'm searching for ? Complicity. That' s it ! Black complicity in trading their kinfolk and owing them.


But I didnt realise this was controvertial. I thought it well established that black people owned slaves in Africa and North America. The few memoires of freed slaves which exist make it very clear that blacks in North America did not merely own slaves but occasionally dealt in them. The literature does suggest that away from the coasts in Africa, slaves were far better treated, than they were on the coasts or in the new world.

I refer anyone curious to "the interesting narrative of olaudah equiano"




Oh, yes, Harry. It is not established at all. The idea that there was a class of free Blacks in the ante-bellum south, some of whom owned slaves is completely obscured by the received narrative here that the South wasthe moral and actual equivalent of the Gulag or Nazi labor camps. This narrative has been necessary since the end of the WBS for the purpose of justifying a war of forced reintegration on the basis of Northern domination. you are quite right about that. The disdain with which the South is still treated in the media is epitomised by the vicious nonsense of "works of art" like "Django Unchained." Tarantino boasts of the fact that the screenplay is entirely a product of his fevered imagination and that it does not matter if the story has any factual basis since it is "politically true." God bless Dr. Gates and those like him. pl


I remember meeting Jesse Jackson at a Michigan Minority Development Commission event some years ago. After his speech I asked some minor question about his time with Dr. King. The condescension rolling off the man was a bit of a shock, though I'm sure if I had not been white at least he would have been polite. Then there's that fine son of his and his $750,000 of campaign fraud. Of course he only stole from the campaign…...


I hear Al Gore is a SOB too.


Dear lord! "Political truth" sounds to me like a line Goebels might have coined to justify anti-semitic propaganda. Anyway, I assure you anyone who has bothered to read anything about this must already be familiar with the points made in Dr. Gates' work.


That would not surprise me at all. I'm a bit less naive than I once was. On a bright note a Detroit jury just convicted Kwame Kilpatrick. Hopefully he'll be in jail a long, long time.


That African Americans held slaves in antebellum United States has long been an established fact. As Henry Gates noted Carter G. Woodson, the same individual heralded the "Father of Negro History Month," in 1924, published a book discussing free black owners of slaves. The main reasons why black ownership of slaves seems to be an "Amazing Fact" is that the mainstream tends to pay little attention to African American scholarship. But, a miniscule number African Americans owning slaves did not suggest that slavery was a benevolent system. It wasn't. The number of slave revolts, slave escape attempts, escaped slaves, and the hundreds of thousands that fought for or served the union forces underscored that reality.


mark of ohio

"that slavery was a benevolent system" Nobody said it was. You are talking to yourself. BTW there were around 200,000 black soldiers in the Union Army but with the exception of the Crater and the assault on Battery Wagner at Charleston they really did not see a lot of action in major batlles and in those two they were defeated. The same thing hapened in the fighting east of Richmond in 1864. Generally they were not trusted by federal commanders and "mainly served as garrison troops in rear areas" wiki on USCT. The many African-Americans who worked for the Union Army were paid. That's why they worked.


I guess I'm one of the ignorant as until seeing Dr. Gates mentioned on this blog I had never heard of his work. As to 'political truth', in the US that tends to bury things - like the history of the eugenics movement, especially tidbits like California leading the nation in the number of women sterilized. But it sure is easier to mention Goebbels and anti-semitism. That tends to shut of conversation.

Here's a little background on eugenics for the curious.


This is hard to swallow. Because the focus has been that we blacks were enslaved in this country. But money and economy were booming. I find it hard that a freed black person could walk the streets unmolested by the white counterparts. What stopped the town from taking over a freed black person and stealing his farm and slaves....I wish there was more information. How did this happen was this unique or expected conduct for a freed slave to won a farm etc.



"Some slaveholders were black or had some black ancestry. An African former indentured servant arrived to Virginia in 1621, Anthony Johnson, became one of the earliest documented slave owners in the mainland American colonies when he won a civil suit for ownership of John Casor.[153] In 1830 there were 3,775 such slaveholders in the South who owned 12,760 slaves,[154] 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.[155] For example, Andrew Durnford of New Orleans was listed as owning 77 slaves.[154] 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.”[156] 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 men, 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.[157]

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.[158]

African American history and culture scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote: "...the percentage of free black slave owners as the total number of free black heads of families was quite high in several states, namely 43 percent in South Carolina, 40 percent in Louisiana, 26 percent in Mississippi, 25 percent in Alabama and 20 percent in Georgia."[159]

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.”[160] 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.”[161]

The historian James Oakes in 1982 notes that “[t]he 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.”[162] 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.’”[163]

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 percent of black slaveholders were of mixed race, but nearly 90 percent of their slaves were classified as black.[164] He also noted the number of small artisans in Charleston who held slaves to help with their businesses." quoting the wiki linked to below.


Lisa - I think this story is one of the great neglected fields of study in US history. IMO many Blacks do not comprehend the complexity of the situation with regard to the status of people of color in the ante-bellum US. pl



"What stopped the town from taking over a freed black person and stealing his farm and slaves....I wish there was more information. How did this happen was this unique or expected conduct for a freed slave to won a farm etc."

It was against state law just about everywhere to seize a free person and enslave them. Were these laws ever violated? They certainly must have been, but in general free blacks were fairly secure. They must have been or they would have left the slaveholding states. They were free to do so. Many skilled workers in the towns were free Blacks; masons, carpenters, coopers, teamsters, blacksmiths, etc. They were part of the local social scene. It was not unusual for free Blacks to own rural property.
"Black Masters" is an interesting study of the Ellison family of SC who were wealthy planters. pl

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