Browsing "From Africa to America"
Nov 23, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

The North's Bloody Shirt of Imperialism

A chief advisor to Theodore Roosevelt regarding federal patronage for black Republicans, Booker T. Washington gained great influence with Negro newspapers by guiding placement of white business advertising to them. He and those he ensconced in federal jobs “wrote Republican propaganda and placed Republican (paid of course) advertisements in the Negro press during election campaigns.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The North’s Bloody Shirt of Imperialism

“Washington believed that Negroes belonged on the land rather than in cities, in the South rather than in the North. Now he called upon Negroes to “cast down your bucket where you are.” Southern whites, he said, would find his people “the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has ever seen.” Thus he seemed to endorse the doctrine of “separate but equal.” The next year the Supreme Court endorsed it too.

For three decades the ardor of the North for rights of Negroes had been waning. The Republicans no longer needed Southern Negro votes to win the Presidency.

And imperialist sentiment helped to swing Northerners into the anti-Negro camp. “If the stronger and cleverer race is free to impose its will upon “new-caught, sullen peoples’ on the other side of the globe, why not in South Carolina and Mississippi,” asked the Atlantic Monthly. Of the Northern reaction to Southern disenfranchisement of Negroes, the New York Times commented on 10 May 1900: “The necessity of it under the supreme law of preservation is candidly recognized.”

“No Republican leader, not even Governor Roosevelt,” exulted Senator Ben Tillman, “will now dare to wave the bloody shirt and preach a crusade against the [South] . . . The North has a bloody shirt of its own. Many thousands of them have been made into shrouds for murdered Filipinos, done to death because they were fighting for liberty.”

(Age of Excess, The United States from 1877 to 1914, Ray Ginger, MacMillan and Company, 1965, pp. 236-237)

Nov 15, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

Segregation in Africa

Langston Hughes visit to Africa in 1923 revealed a “European supremacy” system existing in the land of the black man.  In 1930 Hughes became president of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, established “for purposes of developing a wider race movement and bringing various classes of Negroes under [Communist] Party  direction. He received the NAACP’s Spingarn medal in 1960; the list of medal recipients is a virtual Who’s Who of black Communists.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Segregation in Africa:

“Along the West Coast [of Africa] we visited some thirty-two ports, from Dakar in Senegal to Loanda in the South. The Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, Lagos, the Niger, the Bight of Benin, and the Slave Coast, Calabar, the Kamerun, Boma up the Congo, where we were moored to a gigantic tree, and our last port, San Paola de Loanda in Portuguese Angola.

Singing boatmen on dark rivers, monkeys and bright birds, Capstan cigarettes in tins, hot beers, quarts of Johnny Walker and stone jugs of gin, barefooted black pilots guiding into reed-hutted ports . . . white men with guns under their belts, inns and taverns with signs up, EUROPEANS ONLY, missionary churches with the Negroes in the back seats and the whites who teach Jesus in the front rows . . . and the ships from the white man’s land anchored with lights aglow offshore in the starry darkness. Africa!”

(The Big Sea, Autobiography of Langston Hughes, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1986 (original 1940), pg. 106)

Nov 14, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

King Mussa's Procession

The African tribes and their kings were known for their dependence on slavery and slave trading. When European’s arrived with goods, the enslaved brethren of the African tribes were offered in exchange.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

King Mussa’s Procession

“The first West African state of which there is any record was called Ghana. The people were farmers and traders and metal-smiths. Their capital city, Kumbi-Kumbi, was an important trading center during the Middle Ages. From the Arab countries came caravans of wheat and fruit and sugar and textiles and brass and salt. They went back loaded down with rubber and ivory and gold and another product the Africans were able to turn out better and in greater quantity than any other people. As a matter of fact, they had monopoly. We refer to Negro slaves.

The next Negro kingdom of any consequence was called Melle and comprised roughly what is now French West Africa. It was ruled during the first thirty years of the 14th century by a free-wheeling fellow by the name of Gonga-Mussa.

A good Moslem, King Mussa made a pilgrimage to Mecca in the year 1324. He travelled in style. There were 60,000 people in his party, including 12,000 slaves. Five hundred men [were] marching at the head of the procession bearing staffs of pure gold. To finance the trip, King Mussa took along eighty camels loaded down with gold valued at more than $5,000,000!

(My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night! W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, page 19)

New England's Foul Traffic

Below, author Robert L. Dabney arraigns New England for perpetuating the slave trade and populating the American South with its “foul traffic.” He notes that “When the late Confederate Government adopted a constitution, although it was composed exclusively of slaveholding States, it voluntarily did what the United States has never done: it placed an absolute prohibition of the foreign slave trade in its organic law.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circ1865

 

New England’s Foul Traffic

“The government of Virginia was unquestionably actuated, in prohibiting the slave trade, by a sincere sense of its intrinsic injustice and cruelty. Mr. Jefferson, a representative man, in his “Notes on Virginia,” had given indignant expression to this sentiment. And the reprobation of that national wrong, with regret for the presence of the African on the soil, was the universal feeling of that generation which succeeded the Revolution; while they firmly asserted the rightfulness of that slavery which they had inherited.

[The Founders’] . . . were sober, wise and practical men, who felt that to protect the rights, purity, and prosperity of their own country and posterity, was more properly their task, than to plead the wrongs of a distant and alien people, great although those wrongs might be.

They deprecated the slave trade, because it was peopling their soil so largely with an inferior and savage race, incapable of union, instead of with civilized Englishmen. This was precisely their apprehension of the enormous wrong done the colony by the mother country . . . the colonies felt that the forcing of the Africans upon them was as much a political as a social wrong.

The contrast between the policy and principles of Virginia and of the New England colonies will be concluded with two evidences. Mr. Jefferson, the author [of the Declaration of Independence], states that he had inserted in the enumeration of grievances against the King . . . a paragraph strongly reprobating his arbitrary support of the slave trade, against the remonstrances of some of the colonies.

When the Congress discussed the paper, this paragraph was struck out . . . [with Georgia, South Carolina and Massachusetts opposing. Our Northern brethren . . . felt a little tender . . . for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. Thus New England assisted to expunge from that immortal paper a testimony against the slave trade, which Virginia endeavored to place there.

In the Convention of 1787, which framed the Constitution of the United States, [the question] concerning African slaves caused dissension. Upon the supreme right of the States over the whole subject of slavery within their own dominions, upon the recognition of slaves as property protected by the federal laws, wherever slavery existed, and upon the fugitive slave law, not a voice was raised in opposition.

[New England’s policy was] simply mercenary [and] prompted by her sense of her own interests, and not of the rights of the Negro. The people of that section renewed their activity on the African coast, with a diligence continually increasing up to 1808. Carey, in his work on the slave trade, estimates the importation into the thirteen colonies between 1771 and 1790 [at 34,000]; but that between the institution of the federal government and 1808, he places it at seventy thousand.

His estimate here is unquestionably far too low; because forty thousand were introduced at the port of Charleston . . . alone, the last four years, and within the years 1806 and 1807, there were six hundred arrivals of New England slavers at that place. [By] 1860, six hundred and twenty-five thousand more slaves in the United States than would have been found here, had not New England’s cruelty and avarice assisted to prolong the slave trade nineteen years after Virginia and the federal government would otherwise have arrested it.

In this illicit trade, no Virginian (and indeed, no Southern) ship or shipmaster has ever been in a single case implicated, although our State had meantime begun no inconsiderable career of maritime adventure. But adventurers from New England and New York were continually sharing the lion’s portion of the foul spoils.”

(A Defense of Virginia and the South, Robert L. Dabney, E.J. Hale & Son, 1867, pp. 53-60)

Canadian Slavery Mythology

Very few recall that African slavery existed in Canada until 1833, and that between 1787 and 1800 fugitive slaves fled south to New England and the Northwest (Michigan) Territory. Throughout the 1800s Canadians segregated schools and communities, as well as military units.

Canadian Slavery Mythology

“Canadian comments about American racial problems are further colored by the fact that few Canadians are well informed on Canada’s own Negro record. Cowper, in celebrating Justice Mansfield’s decision, thought that “Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.” This was adequate poetry but inaccurate current events, for “Mansfield” decision freed no substantial body of slaves, even in England, and in Imperial Britain they remained enslaved until 1834.

Yet today most Canadians assume that slavery in British North America was struck down unilaterally by colonial assemblies which, in fact, lacked power to move against such Imperial laws. A standard account of Ontario’s history, published in 1898, concluded that because of the passage of Simcoe’s Bill (which prohibited the import of slaves) in 1793, “Canadians can therefore claim the proud distinction for their flag….that it has never floated over legalized slavery.”

An extensive guidebook to Canada credits the entire Negro population of Nova Scotia to men “who came north as slaves from the British West Indian colonies . . . ,” ignoring totally the Maroon and Refugee elements. An attempt to plumb the character of Canadians found that the Negroes of the Maritime Provinces – 15,000 in all – were descendants of runaway slaves, when in truth not even half are such.

And one of Canada’s leading students of race relations, in writing specifically of discrimination against the Negro, asserts that slavery did not exist in British North America in the Nineteenth Century, although slavery was in fact legal until 1833. In short, there is no accurate historical memory in Canada of British North America’s own experiences with the Negro, and even a clouded awareness of an earlier Negro presence is slight.

In truth, only Canada West [Ontario] served to any considerable extent as a haven for fugitive slaves, but the whole of the Canadian nation later accepted a mythology arising from but one of its units.”

(The Canadian Negro: A Historical Assessment, Robin Winks, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, No. 4., October, 1968, pp. 290-292)

Jim Crow, Canadian Style

The popular underground railroad legend creates an impression that escaped slaves found freedom and social equality in Canada, and standard historical accounts lead Canadians to believe that passage of Simcoe’s Bill in 1793; slavery actually remained legal in British North America until 1833. Author Robin Winks of Yale University wrote: “Canadians did give refuge to thousands of fugitives, and the mythology of the underground railway, the North Star, and the lion’s paw naturally fed the later Canadian assumption that Negroes fared better in Canada than elsewhere.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Jim Crow, Canadian Style

“Canadian law drew no distinction between black and white in matters of citizenship, of which education was one. In practice, however, there were not infrequently some distinctions likely to be drawn, the whites preferring that Negroes should have schools of their own. When Benjamin Drew visited [Amherstburg, Ontario] in 1854 he found the Negro separate school having neither blackboard nor chairs. The whole interior was comfortless and repulsive. The teacher was a colored woman, apparently doing the best she could under the discouragement of poor surroundings and frequent absences of her pupils.

The coming of so many people of another race and color into southwestern Ontario was not pleasing to all the white inhabitants. Deep prejudice manifested itself at times and an occasional outburst in some newspaper reflected the feelings of an element of the population. The Amherstburg Courier of October 27, 1849, prints a resolution of the district council passed on October 8 of that year, protesting vigorously against the proposed Elgin settlement which was planned by Reverend William King as a home for fugitives from slavery.

This resolution, which appears to have been instigated by a local politician, Larwill, resident in Chatham, declared that “there is but one feeling, and that is of disgust and hatred, that they (the Negroes) should be allowed to settle in any township where there is a white settlement.”

The resolution proceeded to ask for a disallowance of sale of lands to Negroes, suggested a poll tax on Negroes entering the country, asked for an enactment against amalgamation and a requirement that Negroes shall furnish good security that they will not become a burden. It was also suggested that it would be well to ascertain whether it would be impolitic to allow them the suffrage.

Dr. Samuel G. Howe, who visited [Amherstburg] in 1863 to investigate conditions….[was told by a Mr. Park of the town] that the Negroes were part of them indolent and part industrious. They tended to neglect their own poor and begged more than the whites. A Captain Averill who was interviewed said that the Negroes were satisfactory as sailors, “the very best men we have,” but they were never made mates and none owned ships of their own.”

(Amherstburg, Terminus of the Underground Railroad, Fred Landon, The Journal of Negro History, Vol. X., No. 1, January 1925, pp. 5-8)

Canadian Negro Slaves

“In my article on “The Slave in Canada,” printed in The Journal of Negro History for July, 1920, (Vol. V, No. 3), several instances of Negro slavery in Canada were given. The latest is mentioned in Le Bulletin des Recherches Historiques for October, 1927, (Vol. XXXIII, No. 10), at p. 584. I translate it from the French the article referred to. Honorable William Renwick Riddell, Justice of Appeal, Ontario.

A Singular Gift:

“In July, 1748, Jean-Pierre Roma, Commandant for the (French) King at the island of St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), on his passage to Quebec, made a singular gift to his friend, Fleury de la Gorgendiere, (the younger). He gave him a mulatto girl, five months old and named Marie.

The gift made to Mr. Fleury de la Gorgendiere is explained by the fact that the mother of the child, the slave of Roma, died in giving it birth. Roma not being able to charge himself with raising the orphan, preferred to give it to M. Fleury de la Gorgendiere.

The deed of gift was drawn up by the Notary, Jean-Claude Panet, July 15, 1748; and in it is the stipulation that in case of the death of Fleury and his wife, the mulatto will return Mdll. Roma (her grandmother). If she cannot take her it is stipulated that she will receive her freedom.

Such sales of the creatures of God may seem curious – they were, however, according to the customs of the time and were made almost in every country.”

(Journal of Negro History, Cater G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, page 207)

New York's Notorious Slave Ships

In the post-Revolution era, African slavery was waning as cotton production was a laborious task and not worth cultivating on a large scale until Eli Whitney of Massachusetts revolutionized the industry in 1793. Thereafter, New England mills could not live without raw slave-produced cotton, Manhattan lenders ensured plantation owners that money was available for plantation expansion, and New England slavers continued to import the labor supply.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

New York’s Notorious Slave Ships

“In the decade 1850-1860 Great Britain maintained consulates in six Southern ports: Norfolk, — changed to Richmond in 1856 – Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans and Galveston.

[Consul G.P.R.] James [in Norfolk and Richmond] . . . considered that Virginians were very kind to their slaves and that slavery was an injury to masters rather than Negroes. One of the proprietors of the Richmond “slave warehouse” was, wrote his son Charles later, an “unmistakable Yankee,” said to be very humane to his charges, “but the business was regarded as infamous.  I heard a respectable man denounced for accepting his hospitality.”

At Niagara Falls, James saw a runaway Negro belonging to one of his Norfolk neighbors; he had found it difficult to make a living and was cold and he begged the consul to ask his owner to take him back.

[Consul] Henry G. Kuper of Baltimore gave assurance that the slave trade was being extensively carried on by many American citizens, especially in New York . . . with the connivance of Spanish authorities in Cuba where most of the cargoes were conveyed . . . Consul Edward W. Mark wrote from Baltimore that at any moment twenty vessels might be found under construction at that port, admirably adapted for the slave trade. Some were built expressly for the trade by “respectable houses,” which would not enter the trade themselves but merely executed the orders they received.

Mark believed, however, that in Baltimore little countenance was given to the trade. It was carried on rather “from New York and the eastern parts of the Union . . . and generally by New England and foreign firms.”

[In 1858 Consul] Molyneaux of Savannah told the story of a Charleston mercantile house . . . which proposed to send the ship Richard Cobden . . . on a [suspicious] voyage to Africa to bring “free emigrants” to a United States port. The collector of the port appealed to United States Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb who pronounced the proposal illegal.

About the same time the Lydia Gibbs, a vessel of one-hundred and fourteen tons of Northern build, sailed from Charleston under one Watson, a Scotchman naturalized in the United States. He took it to Havana where it was sold to unknown persons for $12,000.  Watson was to receive $6,000 more if he escaped detection, and in addition a certain percentage of the slaves he should succeed in landing in Cuba.

[In July 1858 Charleston Consul Robert Bunch] wrote that the brig Frances Ellen had cleared from Charleston for Africa, supposedly to engage in the slave trade; that the firm of Ponjand and Lalas, two Spaniards, which sent it out, was believed to be regularly engaged in this traffic [and] intended to land five or six cargoes in Texas . . .

In December, 1859, the South Carolina legislature received from the New York assembly a set of resolutions passed by the latter body, condemning the slave trade and urging the Southern States not to connive at or encourage the odious traffic.  South Carolina returned the resolutions to the senders without comment and Bunch, though agreeing with the New York sentiments, dryly noted that the action was not “happily received,” “as it is notorious that, during the present year, at least ten slavers have been fitted out in New York for one in the entire South.”

(The South in the 1850’s as Seen by British Consuls, Laura A. White, The Journal of Southern History, February 1935, excerpts, pp. 29, 31, 36-41)

Oct 27, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

Prejudices of the Northern States

Radical Republican Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts petitioned Lincoln to allow his State agents to seize captured South Carolina slaves and count them as Massachusetts soldiers under his State quota – thus avoiding the conscription of white Massachusetts men and keeping captured blacks out of his State.  For the same general purpose Andrew obtained 400 well-paid California men to serve as the Second Massachusetts Cavalry regiment.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

Prejudices of the Northern States

“In the house of them who felt so keenly their mission to call others to repentance, how fared it with the Negro?  In the general laws of Massachusetts (compiled in accordance with a resolution of February 22, 1822) it is provided: “That no person being an African or Negro, other than the subjects of the emperor of Morocco” – (and certified citizens of other States) “shall tarry within the Commonwealth for a longer time than two months.”

In case of such prolonged stay, if after warning and failure to depart, “it shall be made to appear that the said person has thus continued in [Massachusetts] . . . he or she shall be whipped, not exceeding ten stripes, and ordered to depart, and if he shall not so depart, the same process shall be had and inflicted, and so toties quoties.” In March, 1788, this was one of the “perpetual laws of the Commonwealth.”

When war raged for freedom, how was it then?  In September 1862, General [John] Dix proposed to remove a “number of [Negro] contrabands” from Fortress Monroe to Massachusetts.  To this Governor Andrew replied: “I do not concur in any way, or to any degree in the plan proposed” [and that you will be deprived] “of the strength of hundreds of stout arms, which would be nerved with the desperation of men fighting for liberty.”

But the Negro, despite all the invocations to do so, had never offered to fight for liberty; did not then offer.  At that time no Negro had ever sat upon a jury; none trained in the militia; none trained in the militia of Massachusetts.  Why should the Negro be ambitious to die for Massachusetts?

The war governor proceeds: “Contemplating, however, the possibility of such removal, permit me to say that the Northern States are of all places the worst possible to select for an asylum . . . I would take the liberty of suggesting some Union foothold in the South.”

In this same month, the adjutant-general [Dix] inquired of the army of the West: “What is to be done with this unfortunate race . . . You cannot send them North.  You all know the prejudices of the Northern States for receiving large numbers of the colored race.  Some States have passed laws prohibiting them to come within their borders . . . look along this river (the Mississippi) and see the number of deserted plantations on its borders. These are the best places for these freed men.”

Ever, as with the constancy of natural causes, exercised in some other man’s house, on the banks of some far-off, ancient river.  On these terms who would not be an altruist?

“In the State where I live,” said John Sherman, on April 2, 1862, “we do not like Negroes. We do not disguise our dislike.  As my friend from Indiana (Mr. Wright) said yesterday, “The whole people of the Northwestern States, are, for reasons, whether correct or not, opposed to having many Negroes among them, and that principle or prejudice has been engraved in the legislation of nearly all the Northwestern States.”

(Leigh Robinson’s Address, 18 December, 1909, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 36, 1908, pp. 319-321)

Oct 27, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

Slaves Freeing Themselves from Freedom

Often mislabeling homeless black refugees in the South as “loyal,” Northerners saw them as easily-acquired and underpaid mercenaries who would help them subjugate the American South. Most of them were not so easily mislead, knew what their new friends had in mind, and simply wanted to go home to be left alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

Slaves Freeing Themselves from Freedom

“At Hilton Head, in March 1862, it was proposed to organize out of certain loyal blacks, within easy reach, a patriotic Negro brigade.  But this reinforcement so little appreciated the intended honor that the vigilance of a strong picket of white soldiers was necessary to prevent the escape of the slave to his master.

With their Enfield rifles and other military equipments, one-third of the nucleus did, in fact, decamp. [Northern] General [David] Hunter’s force succeeded in recovering at least five of these refugees from freedom.  “Taken when fleeing toward the mainland, occupied by rebels, they were placed in irons and confined at the Rip Raps [along the shore]”

Fugitives from freedom, encountering every peril to escape therefrom, by some fugitive freedom laws are pursued, overtaken, loaded with irons and threatened with worse if they make further efforts to free themselves from freedom. It may be, in cold iron outline, is imaged something of deeper import – “the name of freedom graven on a heavier chain.”

(Leigh Robinson’s Address, 18 December, 1909, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 36, 1908, pg. 320)