150 years ago yesterday, President Abraham Lincoln released his draft Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." NPR has a brief exploration of some little-known history here, including this:
Via a Tweet from Ned Resnikoff, this letter from Karl Marx, congratulating President Lincoln on his re-election.
We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery. From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver? … The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
Is President Obama a descendent of the first American slave? According to a team of geneologists, working with Ancestory.com, Obama is an 11th generation descendent of John Punch, an African indentured servant sentenced to slavery. Moreover, these roots come by way of his mother, a white Kansan whose roots contain at least one African forebearer. The New York Timesexplains:
Paul Waldman's post about the uselessness of motives in evaluating politicians reminds me of a question a student asked me this week when assessing the Johnson administration. To paraphrase, my student said that his impression was that while LBJ may have signed two important civil rights bills, his motives for doing so were far from altruistic. My answer was that 1) this is right, but 2) I don't mean that as a criticism of LBJ.
Awhile back, I wasted an evening watching the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre, something that every former lit major should avoid. I loved the novel for its depiction of the vivid, rich inner life of a proud introvert who is passionately engaged in her life despite the fact that she knows it to be outwardly pathetic. The movie, unable to reproduce the character's inner liveliness, reduced the story to a melodramatic and utterly unlikely romance between a poor orphan and an arrogant nobleman. I had wasted marital chits on a movie that I hated as much as my wife knew she would. (Sports movies, here we come. Sigh.)
According to sociologist Kevin Bales, who founded and directs the new abolition group Free the Slaves, an estimated 27 million people are enslaved around the world today—more than were ever enslaved at any single time in history. The United Nation's International Labour Organization estimates are a more modest 12.3 million—which is still a shocking number of people forced to labor against their will, unable to walk away, for no compensation. Much of the reporting on this phenomenon has been on women forced to work in the sex trades. But the U.S.
There's a pretty vigorous discussion thread on my Bachmann post, but I want to follow up with a couple of points. Some folks argued that the fact that Bachmann endorsed the authors in question doesn't inherently mean she shares their distorted view of slavery. This is a mistake, as Ryan Lizza explains that to whatever degree she agrees with each individual point, she certainly agrees with the idea that slaveovers who refused to free their slaves might do so for "benevolent" reasons.
Months ago, there was a small controversy over Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann signing a pledge put forth by social conservatives in Iowa that stated "black child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA's first African American President."
Michele Bachmannsigned a really tone-deaf pledge from a conservative religious organization in Iowa that declares that:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.
Vivek Nemanalooks to a 2009 paper by Art Carden to explain the American South's historic economic underdevelopment:
Before the War, Southern social networks were based on hegemonic bonds relying on power imbalances and the threat of violence. The South was heavily invested in racial subjugation – slavery directly accounted for over a quarter of the GDP. The region spent an enormous amount of resources to justify slavery, hiring silver-tongued apologists like John C. Calhoun to spin slavery as humane. In this light, slavery was an economic institution that was designed for racially hegemonic society. [...]
Insofar that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has a glaring weakness -- aside from his uncanny resemblance to Boss Hogg -- it's his propensity for racial gaffes. In the last six months, Barbour has had to apologize for his praise of the Council of Conservative Citizens (the "uptown" Klan), crass racial "jokes," and overly rose-colored memories of his upbringing in the Jim Crow South.
10-year old student Nikko Burton was humiliated by his teacher during a mock “slave auction” at Chapelfield Elementary in Ohio. Burton, one of two black students in the class, was chosen to be a “slave,” while other students role-played as “masters” who inspected the “slaves” to see if they were fit for work.
“The masters got to touch people and do all sorts of stuff,” Nikko said, “They got to look in your mouth and feel your legs and stuff and see if you’re strong and stuff.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who said in a speech over the weekend that while slavery had been a "scourge," the framers of the Constitution "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."