It’s not often that I’m surprised about something that I thought everybody knew…and then find out that practically nobody knew it! The United States had a period in its history when slavery was permitted. Thankfully, we saw the wrong in this situation and corrected it through the Emancipation Proclamation. That happened in the 1860’s but there are people, places and things where slavery is a big business, and I’ll get to that in a minute or two.
Did you know, for example, that during the period when slavery was allowed, that blacks owned slaves? I’ll bet a LOT of you didn’t, and it wouldn’t surprise me that you don’t know because THAT is not taught in our history books. While I’m at it, it may come as another surprise that in MANY schools throughout America, American history is not taught at all…if any history is being taught. America, it seems to me, has been divided into two “camps”. There are the “don’t know and don’t care” folks, and then there’s the “I don’t believe you, but I’ll find out” group. The latter is the one I associate with, if you wanted to know.
Getting back to the 1660’s…and this is probably one of the biggest gaps in MY education…slavery in the United States was, apparently, started by a black man! From what I can gather, one Anthony Johnson, a black man, went to court and won the case, which entitled him to OWN a man named John Casor. Casor then became the FIRST permanent slave in America. There you go, all of you Black Lives Matter people, chew on that for a bit.
Here’s another tidbit that may have gone unnoticed in all the hubbub about bringing down statues and monuments. Robert E. Lee, the brilliant general and Southerner, was not FOR slavery, per se. In an 1856 letter to his wife Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee called slavery “a moral and political evil.” Yet he concluded that black slaves were immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially and physically.
Since we’re dealing with facts, here’s another one…the fact is large numbers of free Negroes owned black slaves; in fact, in numbers disproportionate to their representation in society at large. In 1860 only a small minority of whites owned slaves.
One might conclude then, that a lot of history is so much hokum, when the other side of the coin is not shown. In the rare instances when the ownership of slaves by free Negroes is acknowledged in the history books, justification centers on the claim that black slave masters were simply individuals who purchased the freedom of a spouse or child from a white slaveholder and had been unable to legally manumit them. As a matter of FACT, Justus Angel and Mistress L. Horry, of Colleton District, South Carolina, each owned eighty-four slaves in 1830. In fact, in 1830 a fourth of the free Negro slave masters in South Carolina owned ten or more slaves; eight owning thirty or more!
Uh-oh…are we destroying the myth of the pre-Civil War South here? Is Scarlett not a real person? Did Rhett not say “damn”? I’m getting carried away here, I think. It is important in anything dealing with history to only deal in facts, and that’s what we’re about. Of the blacks residing in the South, 261,988 were not slaves, so that seems like a goodly chunk of the Southern population to me. Records show that in New Orleans over 3,000 free Negroes owned slaves, or twenty-eight percent of the free Negroes in that city. Did you read that? Negroes owned slaves…black men and women! Dang, this gets more and more confusing because the popular story about the Civil War is that it was fought over slavery (that wasn’t the true reason, by the way), and it would appear that slavery was rampant even among the black people!
Ready for another brain-shattering FACT? The statistics show that, when free blacks disproportionately became slave masters, the majority of slaveholders, white and black, owned only one to five slaves. More often than not, and contrary to a century and a half of bullwhips-on-tortured-backs propaganda, black and white masters worked and ate alongside their charges; be it in house, field or workshop. It just makes good economic sense, at least to me, that you don’t injure people that are working for you and making money for you. To be sure, I believe that when slaves ran, and were caught, they were punished…how severely I don’t honestly know.
In 1860, there were at least six Negroes in Louisiana who owned sixty-five or more slaves The largest number, 152 slaves, were owned by the widow C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards, who owned a large sugar cane plantation. Another Negro slave magnate in Louisiana, with over 100 slaves, was Antoine Dubuclet, a sugar planter whose estate was valued at (in 1860 dollars) $264,000, so if you’re good with money figures you could probably estimate (as I did) that his worth now would be about 5 million dollars.
Oh, before I forget…what was the real reason for “the war between the States” as the North called it? Research says that it was whether or not the Federal Government had jurisdiction over the states…but it’s easier to say it was over slavery.
Parting shot: History, good, bad, or indifferent, unchangeable.
Image: By H. Tees, West Point, Mississippi – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c20752. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6843095