A brief Summary to Encourage Educating Yourself
Slavery in the colonies & U.S.A. 1619 – 1865
- 1619 – 1807 – Legal abductions/murder of African people
- roughly 10% – 30% of people died on the boats during the Atlantic crossing (the crossing became know at the “middle passage” – approx. 2 million people killed if you include all American colonies)
- FOR GERMAN STUDENTS, this is an excellent summary of Germany’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.
- Enslaved people in the United States and Americas had no more rights than farm animals. In fact, the first legal case brought against a Slave Owner for abuse was brought under ‘animal welfare.’
- Enslavement was hereditary – children of enslaved people were born enslaved
- Rape, torture, and murder were common but slave owners were protected, by law, from the consequences of their abuse.
- The people who founded the USA owned slaves and evidence of their crimes against enslaved people is often overlooked because our history tells us that was NORMAL for rich white families to have slaves. However, owning slaves meant abusing slaves – there are no ‘good’ slave owners. Enslaved people are hostages.
- Thomas Jefferson, for example, raped one of his enslaved woman, Sally Hemmings, for years (starting when she was 14), and she had 6 children as a result. She, herself was the half sister of Jefferson’s wife and also born from sexual assault of her mother by Jefferson’s father-in-law. DNA tests proved the claims by Ms. Hemming’s descendants in 2000. Until then, the white descendants (and historians) refused to believe the claims of paternity. There is an attempt to rewrite Jefferson’s brutality by claiming there was a reciprocal romantic relationship. However, Thomas Jefferson did not leave any indications of love toward Ms. Hemmings in his many written works nor did he free Ms. Hemmings before he died. She was enslaved as the property of the Jefferson family until her death.
- By 1807 – there were 3 million enslaved people in the USA. In some states, enslaved people outnumbered free white people. At this time, A law was made allowing POTUS to use the military against people in the country (in case of a slave uprising). This law was enacted in 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and President Trump, in May 2020, referred to this law when threatening Black Lives Matter protesters with military violence.
- Excluding those who died in transit from Africa, It is estimated that 17 Million people were killed over the extent of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (from the 1500s until the 1800s including south and central America)
- Statues across Europe stand in honor of some of the men responsible for these deaths. Europe benefited tremendously from the transatlantic slave trade, including Germany.
- 1619 – 1807 – Legal abductions/murder of African people
- 1804 – All Northern states had voted to abolish slavery
- 1861 – 1865 – the United State of the Confederacy was formed and a civil war was fought. The single defining issue that all confederate states shared was the right to own human beings as slaves. The Confederacy only existed for FIVE years. Yet in 2020, thousands of American claim that the symbol of the confederacy (its flag) is a cultural legacy of the south – it never was. It was propaganda for slavery and white supremacy. It was not a celebrated symbol after the war.
1865 – 1877 Reconstruction
Foundations of legal white terrorism in the USA
- The country was devastated by the war (over 600,000 men killed).
- There was political conflict about the rights of freed people – Abraham Lincoln intended freed people to have civil rights; he was assassinated.
- The white supremacist vision won by the end of reconstruction.
- The Republicans pushed (and failed) to secure the protection of freed people, but African-American men were given the rights to vote and hold public office (African-American women did not get the right to vote until 1965). Democrats wanted to create laws limiting freed-people’s civil rights.
- The Ku Klux Klan (a terrorist organization) was created as a direct response to black men being given the right to vote and hold office. Most of the first elected black officials were run out of office, terrorized, and/or killed.
- Many massacres of freed-people occurred in southern states at this time in addition to lynchings of individuals. The deadliest was in Louisiana. In June 2020, at least 4 Black men were found hanged in public spaces – police declared these hangings suicides. After huge public outcry, these deaths are being investigated (1 has been confirmed as a suicide) – you can see why the images of black men hanging in public is enough to bring up dark pain and fear in Black American communities.
- More than 1,500 male African-Americans were elected to public office during reconstruction. 17 African-Americans served in Congress between 1870 and 1898. Many were threatened and left their office out of fear, many were murdered.
- Though slavery was made illegal by the 13th amendment, it had a BIG loophole “except as punishment for crime.” States throughout the south immediately began drafting laws guaranteed to lead to the arrest of Black people, who were then put back to work as enslaved people in all but name. The roots of today’s mass incarceration are in those Black Codes.
Jim Crow – 1877 – 1960’s
- Layer upon layer of laws were created to codify white supremacy in America. (here is a taste of the list)
- During this time, confederate monuments were erected across the country, celebrating confederate leaders, the same people who betrayed the country to demand white supremacy. Many times, the creation of these monuments was a direct response to progress on civil rights for Black Americans.
- The KKK continued to work to terrorize black citizens from exercising their rights. Massacres of thousands ofBlack Americans continued, many murders happening just before elections to assure that Black Americans lost their democratic rights. To this day, we do not know how many Black Americans were murdered by white supremacists in massacres in the post-reconstruction U.S.
- Early 1900’s Blackface became popular and had the effect of defining ‘whiteness’ and demonizing “blackness” (really, don’t wear Blackface, ever). “Jim Crow” was a derogatory name for Black Americans made famous in a song preformed by a white man in blackface.
- These laws and policies assured that African-Americans met with obstacles guaranteed to keep them from acquiring education, wealth, and security. As a result of these laws, black families TODAY have, on average about 10% of the wealth as white families.
- You can try to read an in-depth analysis of the impact on black families here.
- In 1948, the Dixiecrat party was created as a response to desegregation efforts. it was a short-lived political party in the south, but their main symbol was the confederate flag. This is when some white Americans decided that represented southern culture rather than genocide.
- 1964 – the Civil Rights act was passed that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled the the ‘sex’ clause also protects LGBTQ people.
- On March 7, 1965, six hundred activists set out on a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery to peacefully protest the continued violations of African Americans’ civil rights. When they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, hundreds of deputies and state troopers attacked them with tear gas, nightsticks, and electric cattle prods. The event, which the press dubbed “Bloody Sunday,” was broadcast over television and splashed across the front pages of newspapers and magazines, stunning and horrifying the American public.
- The voting rights act of 1965 was passed. The bill outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests, and other practices that had effectively prevented southern blacks from voting. At this time, black women were officially free of restrictions on their vote.
- After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, there were massive protests and riots across the country. The military briefly occupied the United States at this time, utilizing the law of 1807 intended to stop a slave rebellion.
- a week after his assassination, the civil rights act of 1968 was passed. This was intended to fill in some gaping holes in the 1964 legislation. The interpretation of many parts of this act are still under scrutiny today.
- Richard Nixon ran for President in 1968. His campaign used the “Southern Strategy” to play on racism in the southern states to turn the southern states toward the Republican Party (it had been larger Democrat) by, essentially, promising to protect white Americans from Black Americans. This strategy has been part of the Republican Party strategy ever since.
1970’s to now
Mass Incarceration continues the historical trauma of Black Americans
- Though, on paper, all Americans were guaranteed the same rights, active discrimination continued in many aspects of life for African-Americans – harassment, employment discrimination, health disparities, police brutality (and under- and over-policing), banking discrimination, and more have been well documented over the past decades.
- Black Americans are 13% of the population yet make up 40% of the prison population.
- Black Americans are policed more (stopped by police), abused by police more, and killed by police more than all other ethnic identities.
- What can be perceived as draconian punishments for certain crimes (those committed by people with less money and education) in the U.S. is.a result of criminal justice system not being rooted in criminal justice but rather in the rotten legacy of slavery.
- After Jim Crow laws were finally outlawed, oppressive banking practices called Redlining continued to assure that Black families were denied opportunities to acquire wealth. When the subprime mortgage bubble collapsed in 2008, it disproportionally hit Black families because the predatory industry targeted such families.
The brief summary above is not the history of America that children are taught in schools even in 2020. At the same time, these children grow up in an American culture that is marinated in biases against black people (not just black Americans). Though overt racism is not acceptable in many circles, implicit bias is alive and well in many aspects of life.
For example, because of the protests over the murder of George Floyd by police, major drug stores in the U.S. publicly promised to stop locking up beauty products for black women (in 2020!!! This was a thing!!). Because of the protests, the U.S. Marine Corp banned the confederate flag on its bases (because, apparently, it had been perfectly acceptable until 2020). Other small, but daily harassments, are suddenly being addressed because they have a cumulative impact on the lives of Black Americans, and the reason it is changing is because white Americans (and corporations) are admitting that they know it is hurting people (it is an “Amy Cooper” moment for organizations – they admit their understanding of systemic racism).
Death by a thousand cuts – the daily life of Black Americans is a series of cuts and micro aggressions. If they are lucky, it is only that. If they are unlucky, they can have a much harder time finding jobs, much harder time getting financial support, or, in the worst case, they can be killed by police in broad day light and have their murder broadcast across the world. Yet even with the worst case scenario happening almost weekly, many white Americans do not believe there is a problem with racism in America. Some of these white Americans are in positions of significant power and believe, falsely, that problems for African-Americans ended with slavery.
Don’t forget the Genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas was happening at the same time….
Between 1492 and 1600, it is estimated that approximately 56 million native Americans died as a result of the European contact (murder, disease, etc). So many people were killed that is may have impacted CO2 levels enough to cause a mini ice-age in the early 1600’s. War and genocide continued through the development and expansion of the United States across the content. One of the ways that settlers across the U.S. destroyed the native population was by the systematic slaughter of an important part of their food supply, Bison (Buffalo). It is estimated the 30 – 60 million were destroyed between 1800 and 1900.
The stories of the happy “Indian” is another lie you have been told about the history of the U.S. They were at war with the white man from the beginning as they defended their very existence. By the 1900s, they had been reduced to just 10% of their population. Today, there are approximately 5 million descendants of indigenous people living in the U.S. Many treaties were made with the remaining native people who were forced to be relocated to small lands called ‘reservations’. The U.S. government continues to violate treaties with native Americans today.
Like African-Americans, Native Americans have significant rates of poverty and poor health as a direct result of long term racist policies that persist today.