The American Grace  

jamestown 1

The first documented “20 and Odd” Blacks that arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in August of 1619 are not known to have been immediately enslaved.

Almost from the beginning there was a bifurcation of the black population in America.  The blacks who came to America in colonial times were divided into two distinct categories. The social status of one group was fundamentally different from that of the other (Porter 1943:4). One of those groups, the “elite”, has traditionally been much smaller in number than the other, but nevertheless extremely important. The larger group has always been the underclass. Elite blacks generally have had certain limited rights, similar, though rarely equal,  to those of European immigrants of the same economic rung. The underclass has had much fewer rights and, at times, none at all. A dichotomy. What was the basis of this differential treatment? Skin color? Not entirely. And not initially.
The criteria for dividing the two classes have shifted from time to time. The three basic determinants, wealth, skin color and acculturation, generally operate in unison; but at various times in history each has taken its turn as the dominant co-factor. In recent times the dividing line between the two generic classes, has been defined primarily by relative wealth. In earlier times skin color was the primary basis of class differentiation; but, in even earlier times, the basis of division was cultural, specifically, religious.

In the early 17th century, when blacks first arrived in colonial America, Europeans considered all non-Christians, black and otherwise, anathema to their way of life and oppressed  and dehumanized them on that basis; especially those like the West Africans, who worshiped nature and ancestor spirits in contradiction of biblical stricture. On that basis, un-acculturated Africans were denied fundamental rights. However, the first blacks to come to colonial America were not animists. They were blacks who were acclimated to Western culture; whose acceptance of Christianity, in fact, guaranteed them, in the early 1600s at least, rights similar to those of the European. During the first half of the 17th century, the treatment of all servants, red, black and white, was very much the same (Lawrence-McIntye 1984:7).

In general, blacks did not arrive in North America directly from Africa. Most came indirectly; many from other colonies, the West Indies in particular; and since blacks had been among the European population since at least the middle ages, some undoubtedly came from Europe itself. Furthermore, the first black arrivals to colonial America were not slaves, at least not in the sense that the term would take on later. Their status was that of  “indentured servant“.  At the time of their arrival atJamestown, Virginia, in 1619, slavery as an institution did not exist on the northern continent. Though black slavery was long established in the West Indies and South America, it would be another 50 years before it would be instituted in North America. At first glance the difference between  slave and indentured servant may not seem important. The one critical difference, however, was length of servitude . During this grace period before the arrival of slavery, black indentured servants, like their white counterparts, were kept for a finite period of time and then freed, often being assigned land in the same way that whites were (Franklin 1988:53).

These first black bondsmen  were treated much the same as whites, and even intermarried or, at the very least, interbred with them. There was apparently no inordinate emphasis on racial origins. And according to the common law at that time, the offspring of these original freed indentured servants were also free.

Hence the descendants of black servants who completed their terms of indenture became the nucleus of a growing population of mixed-race, free individuals in the Chesapeake area (Virginia, Maryland). These early African-Americans, black and mulatto, lived in relative harmony among their white neighbors (evidently intimately so) until about 1660.


There was a relatively sudden shift in the colonial governments’ attitude towards blacks and mulattoes in the second half of the 17th century. It was during this period that slavery as a full-blown institution was established in the continental colonies. Black slavery, as it currently existed in other New World colonies, was brutal and dehumanizing system (Franklin 1988:53-63). The supposedly innate inferiority of blacks made them natural slaves. The slave was further dehumanized by the Commercial Revolution, which propagated “the ruthless exploitation of any commodities that could be viewed as economic goods”, including, and even especially, the slave (Franklin 1988:28). The enormous labor demands of a burgeoning industrialism made the slave trade a lucrative business. African slaves were bought and sold like cattle, often branded (Bennett 1982:49) and had virtually no rights:

…they were whipped…separated from loved ones, deprived of education, terrorized, raped, forced into prostitution and worked beyond the limits of human endurance (Fogel 1984:107).

The adoption of such a system by colonial America, would inevitably adversely effect the preexisting free black and mulatto population, but not necessarily to any extensive degree. This social segment had managed to coexist with slavery in every other instance throughout the New World. Heretofore, in every other slave driven society founded by Europeans, an intermediate free black (predominantly mulatto) class was recognized, allowed certain rights (most importantly freedom), and in some cases even prospered, some becoming slave owners themselves. One might have expected colonial America to develop a similar relationship with its free black and mulatto population, in which case this group might have retained the rights it had acquired during the American grace.

Instead, there was a precipitous decline in the social and economic status of free blacks and mulattoes and a steadily increasing curtailing of their rights. This drastic decline was caused by the arrival of chattel slavery to the colonies, true enough. But something new was added. Along with the North American style of slavery came a unique and persistent impulse to reduce all blacks, including mulattoes, to the status of slaves; to insist on enslavement as the natural condition of all blacks. This phenomenon occurs no where else in new world colonies and is therefore not a byproduct of black slavery. This change in attitude was mainly due to the simultaneous emergence of an overarching concept in Western thought, the doctrine of white supremacy. Racial slavery and white supremacy were in fact intimately intertwined and both burgeoned simultaneously in colonial America.

At this particular juncture the philosophy behind slavery shifted its emphasis; from the the doctrine of black inferiority to its corollary, the notion of white superiority. The American colonizers began to think of themselves as the heirs to a “manifest destiny”. They were a chosen people, the descendants of the ancient Aryans, the legendary pure white race who, by virtue of innate superiority, were destined to triumph over all other races.

They could and did see themselves as the most vital and energetic of those Aryan peoples who spilled westward, “revitalized” the Roman Empire, spread throughout Europe to England, and crossed the Atlantic in their relentless westward drive (Horsman, 5).

54 responses to “The American Grace  

  1. “This phenomenon occurs no where else in new world colonies and is therefore not a byproduct of black slavery. This change in attitude was mainly due to the simultaneous emergence of an overarching concept in Western thought, the doctrine of white supremacy.”

    White susceptibility is neither sufficient to explain the infectiousness of white supremacy; white supremacy served to quell the cognitive dissonance of mercantile ruthlessness in New Israel. Black slavery was black gold. Blacks were sacrificed to a white manifest destiny, a destiny which even at the birth of the nation was threatened. Their suppression was thus not only a commercial concern, but a national security concern, too.

    The exploitation of Africans basically took place thousands of miles away. And thus it became easier, it seems to me, for Londoners to have a more civilized attitude. It became easier for William Hogarth, the painter, to invest Africans with a kind of humanity that was marginally absent in terms of the consideration and contemplation of many in the colonies. And I think this also helps to generate the schism between the metropolis London and the mainland provinces that ultimately leads to an eruption causing a unilateral declaration of independence in July 1776. Increasingly, Londoners were coming to see the colonists as being rather uncivilized with regard to their maltreatment of Africans. This was particularly the case when the colonists showed up in London itself and would engage in beating enslaved Africans on the streets of London and this did not go down very well amongst the Londoners. It did not go down very well amongst the British subjects, generally. I do think that this is a factor amongst many that creates this yawning gap — in some cases wider than the Atlantic Ocean — between the colonies, on the one hand, and the colonial master in London, on the other.

    The future of the Anglo-New-World depended heavily on their black gold and the developing contest between master and subject colony justified the colony’s brutalization of it’s own subjects.

    • the gerald horne link; it’s well worth reading, and even carefully. his book got high praise from BAR, natch.

      i spent time reading the whole wiki entry on manifest destiny, as i was about to argue that it was based on the concept that ‘god’ (or providence) had ordained ____, but especially expansionism and war with mexico. but it was largely the democrats of the time who pushed the notion, and it was the whigs who pushed back against it. the ‘shining city on the hill’ origin is helpful to know, as well.

      • The cognitive dissonance (of lust for liberty versus competitive exploitation of blacks) was inflamed by that political dissonance, thus the profligate resort to white supremacy and manifest destiny as rhetorical defense.

        The virality of white supremacy comes from material circumstance as well as the psychological condition of a people (the memory, in a sense, of prior material circumstances.) To resolve the attractiveness in a race-consciousness is a mystification. For one, race consciousness has a development process (this dissonance being an example.) For another, it shrouds the historical dynamic in the illusion of rational choice, the dogma of The Enlightenment.

        Freedom-of-choice is a powerful mask in crapitalist “democracies” (your choices drive “the market” so your choices are to blame for its brutality) and thus a useful religion. (I resist digressing to the revolutionary manipulation via information it hypocritically masks today.) These rationalizations are the produce of fraud.

        • i guess i understand you, *if* by cognitive dissonance you mean the original psychological definition that there is discomfort balancing those two (or more) opposing/contradictory impulses. then all manner of psychological defenses can kick in, and when political rhetoric aids and abets those comforting new constructs, we have white supremacy, aryan supremacy, yada, yada.

          when science aids and abets it, we have eugenics, ‘the bell curve’, ‘black brains are 33% smaller than white brains’; ‘no wonder they are lazy, stupid, and often dangerous criminals’. in this time period, for far too many, we have the underlying meme of ‘weaponized blackness’ (h/t ché Pasa), as apparently it went in haiti, dominican republic (iiirc) from your salon link.

          this bears a lot of consideration: “For another, it shrouds the historical dynamic in the illusion of rational choice, the dogma of The Enlightenment.” thank you.

          • The cognitive dissonance, within individuals, between a principle of liberty and a principle of accumulation, was overwhelmed by those political dissonances. The squeaky wheels used rhetoric to inflate their advantage, which rhetoric polluted the minds of those not so advantaged by it.

            The individual “is motivated to try to reduce this [cognitive] dissonance—as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it.” In other words, the individual will “lie to” and deprive himself. Cognitive dissonance explains the failure of individuals to act “rationally” as auto-exploitation, in other words, by bringing techniques of social exploitation to the self.

            However, that rationality itself is an ideology, a dream, a delusion, to deflect from the dominant social exploitation. The masters’ ideologic auto-biography is polluted by deception just as their political sermons are.

      • Gosh things are difficult without a mouse. I was going to sit down and address some of the comments, after being away all day. I left my mouse somewhere. Using the fingerpad, I had almost finished this first comment when an incidental rub of my finger across the pad caused the page to vanish and the start screen to appear. Lost the comment. So I’m a little frustrated and going back to bed. So not able to get back as soon as I had hoped. Tomorrow I shall retrieve my mouse.l

      • gerald horne. great link! im going to incorporate him in the rewrite.. One thing I have to consider, now that Abagond has reminded me of the arrogance of the English is whether the new racial purity orientation of the English colonists might be due to the fact that they are northern European. Before the 17th century the slave trade was dominated by southern Europeans (Spain, Portugal) which had a longer history of interaction with Africans.

    • Pressed for time. Back later. But in the meantime, is this a quote? Who from?

    • “Blacks were sacrificed to a white manifest destiny, a destiny which even at the birth of the nation was threatened. Their suppression was thus not only a commercial concern, but a national security concern, too.”

      Tru dat. Mulattoes in particular were a threat to white supremacy. They threatened the notion of racial purity because they could infiltrate the white race. The newly emerging Aryanists could not permit that. Hence they sought through judicial means (various decisions declaring free blacks (mulattoes) had no rights) to eliminate the intermediate racial category.

      • Probably the race paranoids flourished because of the economic necessity of black slavery, IOW the racist virulence and economic power were co-exploitative.

        “The one-drop rule was made law, chiefly in the U.S. South but also in other states, in the 20th century—decades after the Civil War, emancipation and Reconstruction. […] From the late 1870s on, white Democrats regained political power in the former Confederate states and passed racial segregation laws controlling public facilities, and laws and constitutions from 1890 to 1910 to achieve disfranchisement of most blacks. Many poor whites were also disfranchised in these years, by changes to voter registration rules that worked against them, such as literacy tests, longer residency requirements and poll taxes.”

        “In the 1880s and 1890s a radical political movement of workers and small farmers – the Populists – emerged in the Midwest and the South. For a time it appeared that black tenant farmers and small white farmers in the South might be able to make common cause against large landowners and Southern elites. At its height the Populists appeared to pose a potentially serious challenge to the dominant political parties of the period and even to the interests of dominant classes. Racial conflict eventually tore apart the agrarian unity of the Populists and contributed to the decline of the movement overall.”


  2. thank you, nomad. more tomorrow, including a question or two. if the images i added aren’t appropriate, either say in comments, or feel free to delete them yourself. i reckon you know how. ;-) if not, i’ll help.

  3. Well, the footnotes are a little askew. From my unfinished dissertation. I have got to excavate my bibliography from 20 year old files. I have no idea what Horsman is at the moment. Back later.

  4. this is altogether funny from your john hope franklin link:

    “Of course, there is no book on African-American history for which the election of Barak Obama as the first African-American president of the United States provides a more fitting and hopeful ending. As Dr. Franklin said in an interview fi lmed by Duke University shortly after Obama’s nomination, ‘It’s an indication of the willingness as well as the ability of this country to turn a significant corridor toward full political equality. . . . I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime.”

    and not just cuz he forgot the C in barack. ;-) but ask the Disposable Rabble Blacks about their corridor of full respectability’.

    i…er…spent some time this morning reading different essays and definitions on both ‘white supremacy’ and ‘race as a social construct’, and of course they are related. but wot, ho? i liked this in the wiki:

    “The term white supremacy is used in academic studies of racial power to denote a system of structural or societal racism which privileges white people over others, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. Legal scholar Frances Lee Ansley explains this definition as follows:

    By “white supremacy” I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.

    This and similar definitions are adopted or proposed by Charles Mills, bell hooks, David Gillborn, and Neely Fuller Jr. Some anti-racist educators, such as Betita Martinez and the Challenging White Supremacy workshop, also use the term in this way. The term expresses historic continuities between a pre-Civil Rights era of open white supremacism and the current racial power structure of the United States. It also expresses the visceral impact of structural racism through “provocative and brutal” language that characterizes racism as “nefarious, global, systemic, and constant.” Academic users of the term sometimes prefer it to racism because it allows for a disconnection between racist feelings and white racial advantage or privilege.”

    allows for a disconnect

    but of course, in order to justify chattel slavery, genocide, sociocide, and other barbarities against any group, one must take pains to paint them as less than human, meaning the group in power who mean to codify the power, spread the propaganda abroad, as we see now in so many films and on teevee.

    but you’ll no doubt see that this quote ballasts some of your contentions here:

    ” The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer attributed civilisational primacy to the White race:

    ‘The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmans, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want and misery, which in their many forms were brought about by the climate.’

    and that’s why they deserve to be Rulers. ;-)

    • Thus Schopenhauer advantageously (exploitatively) anchors exploitation (hierarchy) in geography.

      “Allows for a disconnection between racist feelings and white racial advantage or privilege” in order to demonstrate the feelings arise from exploitation … and that the feeling of superiority is an exploit as well.

    • thanks, thanks, thanks. i was completely unaware of Schopenhauer . ill be adding him in as i resume this project. that’s the part i need to flesh out. how this white supremacy ideology emerged.

    • Yay, I found the Horsman citation.

      Race and Manifest Destiny
      The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism

      Reginald Horsman

      excavation continues…

      • hooray! thing is, there’s probably a whale of a lot more history on this subject than there was twenty years ago, and THD’s list of what’s likely online now might be a good trail to follow, as well, if you have any trouble reading dead tree now. (i cannot.)

        • Yeah, I’ll be updating references. The basic thesis will remain the same though. And of course this is only a portion of a much longer exposition, establishing the background for a history of black American art. When I started out to study them I discovered the early ones were very…well, white. Hence, I had to investigate the history of the mulatto in order to understand their origins.

          Made a few adjustments. Removed “pagan”. Could not find the original Lawrence-McIntye 1984 reference. Think it was a preliminary essay for this book.

          Criminalizing a race : free blacks during slavery

          Author: Charshee Charlotte Lawrence-McIntyre
          Publisher: Queens, N.Y. : Kayode, 1993.

  5. lol.

    (i hate to admit that i’ve spent all my recent time between chores to read herr schopenhauer’s wiki.) zounds

    • To Schopenhauer, the Will is a malignant, metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena; an evil to be terminated via mankind’s duties: asceticism and chastity.

      Asceticism and chastity are not observable phenomena? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

      Where does this incoherent obfuscation come from? None other than The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary.

      Schopenhauer’s distress apparently eludes capitalist perspicacity.

      • the will determines the world. and the will is predetermined by what amounts to genetics.

        but his perceptions of the role of women doubles back on itself later, if one believes da wiki.

        but: at least he was one philosopher who talked about the missing elephant: Sex! and really, love, so…lol, what fun. love what he said about homosexuals, come to think of it. ‘at least they can’t breed’, as i remember it. but then, it was the late 1800s…so. well….

        • Mankind’s duty of worldly renunciation includes renouncing the Will to improve, no?

          Sounds like a guilty conscience to me.

    • Schopenhauer described himself as a proponent of limited government. […] so long as government [“leave each man free to work out his own salvation”], he would “prefer to be ruled by a lion than one of [his] fellow rats” — i.e., by a monarch, rather than a democrat. Schopenhauer shared the view of Thomas Hobbes on the necessity of the state, and of state action, to check the destructive tendencies innate to our species.

      His fellow white supremacist rats?


  6. nomad, your link to this failed, and i can’t find it online, though similar things seem to be in for-pay ScribD whazzits: “the first blacks to come to colonial America were not pagans. They were blacks who were acclimated to Western culture; whose acceptance of Christianity, in fact, guaranteed them, in the early 1600s at least, rights similar to those of the European.”

    do you remember why that was, from whence they came, or what? were not many or some of them muslim offshoots, even in sub-saharan africa. again, i’d thought i ‘d read that, but with my memory…most all bets are off.

    i also have memories of claims that west indies island slave families were kept together, opposite of slavery in the u.s. was that true, i wonder, and how much did it matter in the greater scheme of things. was it just a way to say “our slaves are happier”? and i wonder who wrote that history.

    • Yeah. I am going to change the language on that. Probably not use the word Pagan. At some point too I intended to briefly mention Muslim slavery. In particular contrast how the offspring of a Muslim slave owner and his slave was free (as I recall) whereas the offspring of a white slave owner and slave was a slave.

  7. Before there was black slavery in the Americas, there was the enslavement of the indigenous peoples, and that began with Columbus. The Spanish soon found that enslavement in one’s one country runs afoul of local knowledge of how and where to escape and who will shelter you. It was not long before indigenous slaves were exported beyond their cultural knowledge. And African slave taken from Portuguese territory or traders were imported into the Indies. The Spanish in the Indies worked out the system of slave plantations that used work gangs for export crops, which did not become solid institutions until the introduction of sugar cane from Brazil by the Dutch in the mid-1600s. When the English woke up to colonization and empire (Drake, Hakluyt, Ralegh among the big promoters), the Virginia colony was the first sort-of success, Barbados the second, and the wresting of Jamaica from Spain through privateers the third. Of those Barbadoes became the most successful quickly, soon inventing modern management and accounting techniques for overseeing work gangs of slaves and managing financial accounts. For their time they were huge organizations with multiple functions, and in some historians’ views formed the basic practices of factory industrialism later introduced into the textile factories of Britain.

    By the 1660s and 1670s, Barbados was close to platted out and new settlers had difficulty finding suitable land of any size to raise sugar. Propitiously, the newly restored Charles II decided to reward his supporters by granting them a colony in the Americas, fittingly named after himself – Carolina. And the eight new proprietors of this continental-width land grant found willing colonists in Barbados, settling a site named after the king, Charles Town, in 1670. Alan Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717 describes how the continuing Indian slave trade changed from Spanish to English hands and set the forms for the African slave trade in Carolina and the legal framework that allowed the frontier to work against the interests of indigenous peoples, Africans, and common whites to the advantage of a small group of whites who styled themselves as “gentlemen”. The frontier that the South Carolina Assembly was carried forward through Jackson’s policies and Polk’s policies to frame how the frontier unfolded across the southern half of the current United States, stealing Indian land in order to work (by then) cotton plantations with stolen African-American labor and easy often repudiated financial promises.

    But we have gotten away from the color marking of the three classes that those laws of the 1680s or so created: indigenous “Indian” (red), enslaved African “Negro” (black), nominally free European (white). Those were classes roughly based on stereotypes of skin color as class markers. Racial stories came later and accelerated with the growth of anthropology and Darwin’s two books in the 19th century. Until the speculations of folks like Thomas Jefferson on human differences, there was no attempt to make the classes seem rational; everyone knew who was who, if not by appearance by knowledge of their biography or geography (“place”). That is, society was local and small. “Race” and “racial types” as formal categories had yet to be invented as rationalizations.

    The sudden shift in the colonial government’s attitude came about as work gang agriculture came to be applied in large scale plantations in Viriginia and Maryland for tobacco raising and in Carolina for the newly introduced rice culture. (The planters of Charles Town even bought slaves only from the rice-growing areas of the Niger River in order to steal the technology as well. They did the same when they diversified into indigo.) Both of these plantation economies existed in the Tidewater and coastal areas of Virginia and Carolina.

    Meanwhile in the backcountry, European traders with Indians were continuing to purchase indigenous slaves from other indigenous peoples and stirring up wars between towns to have avenging raids produce more slaves. They were also selling European goods on collateral with the land as collateral–whose laws you followed determined who was cheating who. And the Carolinian government had the arms to force their laws to be determinative.

    That is brief is pretty much how the frontier in the Southern US worked as it swept westward from the Savannah River.

    After the American Revolution, a few evangelical religions called on their members to free their slaves. A few did. That ended abruptly when Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin made upland cotton profitable in the backcountry. And then it was that cotton plantations immediate followed the movement of the frontier in the South.

    During the period 1790-1830, some slaves were granted some latitude to work their own trades, even occasionally buying their freedom. Those were minor exceptions to the overseer-managed large plantations. As for the majority of slaves on small farms, their treatment varied widely but still operated in a culture in which the farmer’s own children were whipped, and all slaves were considered to be children relative to their masters.

    After the closure of overseas slave trade in 1808, the internal slave trade replaced it, booming with the opening of the Old Southwest (most of Georgia, Alabama, Mississipi, Florida, Louisiana) in the 1820s. After the Nat Turner slave rebellion that killed 50 or so whites in the vicinity of Jerusalem, Southampton County, Virginia in 1830, the laws became more precise about inheritance, which was a stand-in for color. The fugitive slave laws became color-typed, even allowing free Negroes and Indians to be impressed into slavery. And all whites were suspicious of unknown Negroes wandering near their communities, even with owners’ passes.

    From 1830-1860, selling cotton from the Old Southwest became more profitable than it was in the old coastal cotton states. The Carolinas and Virginia planters increasingly turned to raising slaves of the domestic slave trade as their primary profit center. Large plantations engaged in this sort of operation would have several work gang organizations, each with an overseer, several blacksmiths, a wheelwright, and a wagonmaker. Slave traders would lead chain gangs of slaves on foot from plantation to market and from market to plantation, “reallocating labor resources” within largscale-capitalist agribusiness units. By 1860, there was enough consolidation of assets that certain planters stood out, among them Duncan Cameron of North Carolina (900 slaves in 1860 only in NC; he had plantations in other states), Wade Hampton of South Carolina.

    During this period, slave traders could opportunistically impress free blacks and mulattoes into slavery because (1) there was a strong demand with ever more land opening to cotton (2) fugitive slave laws, especially after the Dred Scott decision, allow it, (3) the trader by impressment reaped all of the profit.

    In 1863, the domestic slave trade bubble crashed. Other than that, the planters were not ruined. Those with other investments soon were the captains of industry and finance in the “New South” (Henry Grady’s era) or their children were.

    Others fought a guerrilla war and a legislative war to reclaim their power. Part of that war was to establish segregation between blacks and whites so as to allow discrimination against blacks, which allied poor whites as co-conspirators with the rich whites. This was the point, roughly in the 1890s that who what black and who was white became a major legal and cultural issue. Who could be rented to, who could be served at a whites-only establishment, who could go to the white school became contentious issues of discernment in areas where there were at least some people of unknown backgrounds.

    But neighborhoods were desegregated, particularly well-to-do neighborhoods; you want your landeress, cook, and domestic servants in easy walking distance of your house. Besides they lived in a “black” house and you lived in a “white” house. And any stranger to your town could tell which was which.

    The larger and more anonymous the settlement, the more the appearance of being black and being white became an issue. Within the segregated framework, those communities that were more open to differences became the place in which status by variation of skin tone became important and “passing” became an option out. That couldn’t work where people knew who your mother and father were.

    Racial typing could often be used politically. For example in the 1870 census of Southern states, there is the high likelihood that in contentious counties, those who were cool or even lukewarm to the Confederacy were classified “Mulatto” by some census takers.

    • holy crow, tarheelDem; it’s downright scary to a knot-head like me that you can rattle all that off from memory. whooosh.

      i hadn’t realized that indigenous slavery was that prolific, though. and yes, escaping to the swamps and bayous created many creoles and other mixes. even indigenous/black, of course. that was one of the glorious things i learned and explored after watching some of the ‘Treme’ series.

      nor had i known that the ‘one drop’ rule that nomad had reminded us of was actual policy in so many states and locales. and that miscegenation and ‘cross-race’ sex laws were on the books in some states until the late 1960s.

      • What is very interesting is how recent those one-drop laws tended to be.

        I guess this is a heads up. My current armchair reading is:
        Stephen Budiansky, The Bloody Shirt: Terror after Appomattox

        Michael A. Bellisiles, 1877: America’s Year of Living Violently

        Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford, Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South

        From my first skimming, all recommended.

        For the pdf inclined. John Richard Dennett, The South As It Is, a travel report through the South in 1866 by a correspondent for The Nation is available on internet archive. A first-rate primary source on damage and attitudes. Several downloadable formats. Plus online presentation.

        • good thing they’re all being made into films, eh? i can wait for da movies…hooooray! ;-)

          induns at the carmel mission defaced the mission’s junipero sera statue.

          “The mission said a statue of Serra and other historic statues in the courtyard were toppled. Photos posted on the mission’s Facebook page appeared to show the words “Saint of Genocide” scrawled on a stone. ”


          • “The Bloody Shirt: Terror after Appomattox” would make several gripping movies about US Army/elected Republicans/African-American elected officials coping with terrorist rebellion covered up by the entire town. Systematic murder of black elected officials and advocates for Republican government in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina is the focus (from actual contemporary government records and records of Congressional investigations). Key figures are Adelbert Ames, Albert T. Morgan, Prince R. Rivers, Lewis Merrill, James Longstreet, Martin Witherspoon Gary, Matthew G. Butler, and Benjamin R. Tillman.

            Giggle them. You might find some of the plot.

    • Thanks. Lot’s of useful information

    • As I said, the early 17 century until about 1660 when slavery really got going was a grace period; a couple of generations, 1620 or so to 1660. There was no slavery, in the systematic sense. Mulattoes in in the Chesapeake area (Virginia, Maryland) were unfettered during this period. The blacks and mulattoes that descended from this early mulatto population were not slaves and their descendants were not slaves. They formed the nucleus of the free black population that would develop in this new slave nation.

      In fact it is not even clear whether those first black arrivals were slaves or from Africa. Heck they could have been African immigrants who had been living in Britain and they have been second or third generation African immigrants. As I noted, blacks have been living among Europeans since at least the middle ages.

      • I mean:
        There was no slavery in the English colonies.

        Heck they could have been African immigrants who had been living in Britain and they [may] have been second or third generation African immigrants.

        • There was the attempt at indigenous slavery from the very beginning of the English colonies. It was not backed with law, but it is likely that what did in the English colony at Roanoke Island and the Spanish mission on Chesapeake Bay was the attempt to enslave indigenous people for use or for export on ships visiting those ports in their brief lifetime. And it is known that the Spanish “explorers” who reconnoitered the Atlantic coast were also capturing slaves both for interpreters/guides and for sale. Transferring the idea of indigenous slavery to African slavery was not that big a jump mentally and offered some practical advantages.

          The attitudes of the settlers, and especially the more well-to-do among them was exploitative from the get-go.

      • I’m not nearly so familiar with Virginia history as with that of the Carolinas, but IIRC, it was Bacon’s rebellion in 1676, by some historians thought to be a black-white-red fusion against the aristocracy and by others an appeal to roll back more indigenous land that triggered the creation of race-based law in Virginia. It was done piecemeal and not a total system until the 1700s. Even then, enforcement advanced slowly, the last and most rigid coming only after the Nat Turner rebellion in 1830.

        Lerone Bennett Before the Mayflower says that the 1619 ship was Dutch. That means it was likely Dutch slave traders poaching on the Portuguese slave trade in West Africa during a time of Portuguese weakness.

        The idea that they might have been servants sold to (indentured to) English, Dutch, or other European masters is possible for transportation from Europe, but highly unlikely on a Dutch slaver.

        • If it was a Dutch slaver bringing slaves directly from Africa, language barrier and all, that would certainly make a difference in the way these first black arrivals were treated.It would be harder to assimilate them than acculturated blacks from Europe. Dutch eh? Maybe it was not a slaver and simply a transporter of Dutch or other immigrants. I am reminded that contemporary 17th century Dutch artist Rembrandt and nearby Flemish painter did some beautiful images of black neighbors. No word on the status of these sitters but it indicates that blacks, even if they were servants, lived among Dutch and Flemish communities. In addition, blacks could reach some pretty high status as servants in the Europe of the 17th century.

          Juan de Pareja, the mulatto servant of the great Velazquez went on to become an artist in his own right.

  8. Comrade Sourpuss:

    W.E.B. Du Bois warns that empire was the primary tool used to break the working class in Europe and later in the United States. As workers organized and fought for rights and fair wages, the masters of empire started to shift production to countries more easily controlled, countries inhabited by “darker peoples.” This is a shift that is largely complete.

    Hierarchy within Empire brings hierarchy all round. Easy to see why, with sentiments like Ali’s bruited, “I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a ‘nigger’,” The Fink Tank decided there was a Crisis of Democracy.

  9. Prime Minister David Cameron has been reminded of his family’s links to slavery as he faces calls for Britain to pay Jamaica millions of pounds in reparations ahead of his first official visit to Kingston on Tuesday.

    Academics and politicians in Jamaica have demanded the PM issue an apology for the hundreds of years during which Britain enslaved and “extracted wealth” from the island’s people.

    In an open letter to Cameron published in the Jamaica Observer, historian Sir Hilary Beckles reminded the PM that his ancestral family benefited from slavery on the island through General Sir James Duff, Cameron’s cousin six times removed.

    Downing Street has dismissed Jamaica’s call for reparations on the grounds slavery took place under a different government, hundreds of years ago.

    In a cutting letter to the PM, Beckles reminded Cameron of his family’s own involvement in Jamaican slavery.”

    • It was my understanding that the planters had their debts socialized when they couldn’t compete any longer. The banks as well as the planters’ ancestors should be dunned for reparations.

      Good luck. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

      Might as well ask the Queen to sit down for a spliff.

      • The planter politics in most of the Southern states was a matter of low taxes, few internal improvements except to facilitate export of the trade crops, and a freewheeling banking system that frequently collapsed in panic, having the effects of socializing their debts without the messy legal formalities. That’s “descendants” not “ancestors”. The ancestors are hanging around with John Brown’s Body.

        • “the effect of socializing” meaning their investors lost their investment. With the Brits, the investors got reimbursed when Caribbean slavery was abolished, as I understand.

          Jah, descendants. I should put more errors in.

      • Dunning for reparations 150 years after emanicipation even if it were politically possible (asking the Queen for a spliff is more likely) runs into the practical difficulty of the genealogical documentation involved in assessing the amount and target of the dun. The Duncan Camerons or Wade Hamptons of the American South are the easy cases. The multitudes of slaveowners with 1-5 slaves likely account for a good third or more of that reparative debt. Like most phenomena of this kind, it likely forms a long tail distribution. No doubt there are historical studies that already describe the distribution without describes which whos are in which part of the distribution.

        That slaveowner theft has already been socialized as an externality and the profits privatized in the personal wealth of the 1%.

        • The talk of reparations in a neoliberal environment, when the 1% doesn’t pay it’s fair share, would be redistribution among the serfs. How often do the repairers of this injustice recognize the injustice of their repair?

          A little less evil with progress, huh?

    • Now there’s a case where the practical genealogical difficulty I mentioned above has been partially solved. Who of Cameron’s relatives is this bill split among?

      Did Duff only have interests in Jamaica and none in Ireland?

  10. Back to the security of the nation justifying the suppression of the humanity of blacks. The prime objective of a secure union entailed leadership neglect of the human rights of blacks. It was the crisis of the exploiters of slaves forming their own geographical union, threatening not only dis-unification but future antagonism, that crystallized the “Union” resolution to engage civil war. What becomes inevitable must be dealt with before it becomes deadly.

    So you have Lincoln in a eulogy to Henry Clay quoting Jefferson:

    I can say, with conscious truth, that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. The cession of that kind of property [slaves], for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation, and expatriation could be effected; and, gradually, and with due sacrifices I think it might be. But as it is, we have the wolf [the slave-holding states] by the ears and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.

    In this sense too, blacks paid for the Union. A puppy wolf pack was a source of national strength but the South, uniting on the backs of slaves, forced the “Union” to defeat their incipient union. The North’s White Solicitous indirectly profited from the Negro internment camps (during economic war) but their National leadership only responded (and begrudgingly) when civil war loomed. Note also that Jefferson’s compensation for the Negro slaves’ labors is expatriation!

    Just as profit and stability take precedence over principle, it controls ideology. The contagion of “white supremacy” soothes the North’s own cognitive dissonance: it casts as humanitarian imperialism the maintenance of a “Union” wholly dependent on exploitation of blacks.

    Was not the US unique in that it was an orphaned “New Israel”, that both abundance and paranoia selected the -isms it succumbed to?

    • “HOUSTON (KTRK) — Book publishing giant McGraw-Hill is saying it will rewrite a textbook after a Pearland mother voiced concerns on YouTube about the portrayal of slaves as immigrant “workers” in her son’s school book.”

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