Reading Material: Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America

Just a quick hit because I’m sort of busyish. This essay by Barbara Jeanne Fields is freakin fascinating as all get out. 24 pages and definitely worth your time:

Probably a majority of American historians think of slavery in the
United States as primarily a system of race relations—as though the
chief business of slavery were the production of white supremacy
rather than the production of cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco. One
historian has gone so far as to call slavery ‘the ultimate segregator’.
He does not ask why Europeans seeking the ‘ultimate’ method of segregating Africans would go to the trouble and expense of transporting them across the ocean for that purpose, when they could have achieved the same end so much more simply by leaving the Africans in Africa. No one dreams of analysing the struggle of the English against the Irish as a problem in race relations, even though the rationale that the English developed for suppressing the ‘barbarous’ Irish later served nearly word for word as a rationale for suppressing Africans and indigenous American Indians. Nor does anyone dream of analysing serfdom in Russia as primarily a problem of race relations, even though the Russian nobility invented fictions of their innate, natural superiority over the serfs as preposterous as any devised by American racists.

Published in: on 4 November, 2009 at 04:00  Leave a Comment  
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