Archive for the ‘slavery’ tag
The maker of the video doesn’t mention it, but Exodus 21:20-21 makes a pretty strong case against anyone who claims that the slavery and/or indentured servitude found in the Bible were actually benevolent systems:
Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
In other words, flog or otherwise maim your slave all you want — male, female, it makes no difference — just be sure that you keep them alive so the abject misery can continue.
Purchased at McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies, and More.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has determined in a recent report that nonbelievers can be killed for their nonbelief in seven states. If you think religion is bollocks, you may want to avoid these: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Of course, as this article from Slate points out, the hostility toward nonbelievers does not just persist in radical Muslim theocracies. Right here at home, seven states — what is it with religious people and their fascination with the number seven? Yahweh‘s favorite number, no doubt! — ban atheists from holding public office. These bastions of reason and logic include Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Many of these, as you will notice, were, unsurprisingly, in the old Confederacy, including my home state, which can pride itself on being the first to leave the Union and the last to rejoin.
Just out of curiosity, I did a little fact checking on Tennessee, and as plain as day, here is the statute right there in the current state Constitution (ARTICLE IX. DISQUALIFICATIONS):
§ 2. Atheists holding office
No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
I think it’s also curious that not only does a person have to be a believer to hold public office, belief in a future state is also required. Why would the latter part be included? Perhaps so that if and when this public servant inevitably fails his constituents in some way or another, he and they can take comfort in the thought that they will one day walk on sunshine with Jesus, free from the trappings of this world and its tough decision-making. No, the state wouldn’t want any nonbelievers in office approaching life on the notion that they had better get it right the first time and that there are no cop out solutions like prayer if, by chance, they happened to make life for millions of blacks a living hell for generations after they were supposedly emancipated, or if they allowed hordes of KKK members and other racists to run rampant in the South, scarring innocent women and children for decades. No, they might say: “It’s all permissible as long as we teach those people about the good news of the gospel; my mistakes as a racist, oppressive public servant in the South and their misery and the misery of their children can all be scrapped because one day we will be reconciled under the warm glow of heaven.”
The man-made, extensively debated, committee assembled, legislatively enacted Bill of Rights contains more useful morality in its first adopted amendment than we find in all 10 commandments combined. — Steve Shives
As if I needed more books that I may never get around to reading:
The literature anthology at the top and “Perspective on Culture” were in the free bin. The others were no more than $4 apiece. Thank you, McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies, & More, and of course, my obscure reading tastes.
My body’s rackin’ with pain,
I ‘lieve I’m a chile of God,
And this ain’t my home,
‘Cause Heaven’s my aim. — slave hymn
The relationship between plantation owners in the antebellum South and their slaves provides a glaring example of how passages in the Bible have been cherry-picked by various groups to justify all kinds of actions and ideologies. Probably most consequential and most detrimental to human decency are passages that either condone slavery or provide rules that govern the master-slave relationship. One of the areas of study in which I am most interested is antebellum America because it is in this era that the issue of race was the most tense and had a critical capacity to, and indeed did, rip the nation apart. It also in this period of American history that Christian doctrine was pulled in opposite directions to justify, or at the least to validate, the existence of slavery at one end of the spectrum, and on the other end, to rail against the peculiar institution.
“Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in Antebellum America” by Albert Raboteau, explores how African born slaves and their later American descendants came to view Christianity in this country, how some adopted the relatively “new” religion that wouldn’t have been terribly foreign to their forefathers in Africa because of various related elements and how slave religion in America evolved its own unique method of worship that was — and one is hardly surprised at this — often mocked or at least described in derogatory terms by white observers.
The issue of national sovereignty of the United States over the states is “indistinct, simple, and inflexible. … It is an issue which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory.” — Abraham Lincoln, 1864
“If Lincoln had been a failure, he would have lived a longer life.” — James McPherson on John Wilkes Booth’s promise to “put him through” while listening to a victory speech from Lincoln on April 11, 1865
Unlike other Lincoln biographies, which typically focus on his stance and political efforts to abolish slavery, his assassination, his humble upbringings and other topics, few, as McPherson points out, have delved specifically into Lincoln’s role as commander in chief. He was in the War Department, for instance, sending off messages and commands to his generals in the field almost more than he was anywhere else in his four-year tenure. He was the only commander in chief whose entire presidency up to that point was bookended by war. He guided the nation through the most perilous and bloody era it has ever known. This book tackles the challenges Lincoln faced in dealing with his often-slow-moving generals (i.e. McClellan, Hooker and Rosecrans), riots in New York, black troops in the military and the long effort to defeat Lee and capture Richmond, Atlanta, Vicksburg and other Confederate strongholds.
The book depicts a president intricately involved with the movements of his troops on the battlefield. Lincoln was not a military scientist, so he studiously took up the task of self-learning strategy and often dictated to his generals how he wanted Lee’s and other armies to be pursued and quelled. Unfortunately for Lincoln, McClellan and numerous generals in succession often languished in the field, constantly asking for more troops and supplies before they could proceed, all the while, Lincoln goading them to get moving. One of the most disappointing failures of McClellan was his dilly-dallying in letting Lee escape in the Shenandoah Valley campaign.
One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.
Anyone who has studied the Civil War in depth well knows that the causes of America’s bloodiest four years on record are and have been in much contention during the 150 years since the first shots rung out at Fort Sumter (April 12 will mark 150 years since the Confederacy fired on Sumter). I’m under the firm belief, however, and in agreement with Lincoln, that while smaller issues were astir at the time (states rights, the different economies between the North and the South, western expansion, etc.) the only substantial dispute was, indeed, slavery. Or, as one of my professors at Clemson University once mused:
Both slavery and anti-slavery caused the Civil War.
True enough, many in the North were just as racist as folks in the South, Northern ships were often used in the slave trade and the North, to some degree, did benefit economically from the peculiar institution. But, we should remember that Lincoln did not initially wish to end slavery. If nothing else, he wanted to save the Union, and at the most acute level, the Civil War began because the Confederacy attacked a federal fort. Lincoln’s abolitionist tendencies only came later. All that said, slavery was at the heart of the war, and nearly all other concerns were sub-issues implicitly bound up with the one big issue. Of this we can be certain: in the days leading up to Election Day 1860, the word “secession” was already on tongue of many, if not most, Southern leaders if Lincoln were to take office. For good reason then, Lincoln used almost his entire first inaugural address to discuss the slave question and the divided nation in March 1861.
As I’ve nearly finished reading, “John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights,” one of the most important questions about the raid on Harpers Ferry remains: did enslaved blacks living in the area around the federal arsenal respond favorably or not to Brown’s plan to first, liberate slaves in the area and then have them fight alongside whites for the end of slavery in the country?
The plan, as outlined by author David K. Reynolds, was to seize control of the arsenal and its weapons, head to local plantations, free local slaves, arm them and allow them to fight for their freedom with their white supporters. The growing number of whites and blacks would seek refuge in the Appalachian mountains, where they would conduct a type of guerilla warfare against the federal forces that were sure to come. They would conduct rogue operations across the countryside to enlist more and more slaves to the cause, thus growing their numbers and their influence. Eventually, as Brown schemed, the South would grow weak-kneed, and Congress would eventually enact legislation to overthrow the peculiar institution in the States.
The main question was this: Would slaves trust Brown, a white man, and rush into an insurrection or would they recoil to the familiarity of the plantation and the comfort of their families and friends therein? They were, after all, being asked to trust a white man, probably the only white man they had met in their entire lives to have claimed to be on their side. The riddle, at least for them: was he really on their side?
The Reynolds bio is a fine contribution and has done a great deal to advance the popular misunderstandings and biases that have reigned as a result of older, biased works. On the other hand, Reynolds himself followed certain conventions in his writing that are likewise problematic, including the quotation you feature. It is absolutely not a given that enslaved people did not respond to his efforts in Virginia, or that he “misread” the black community. If Brown misread blacks, it was that segment of educated, elite leaders to whom he appealed for assistance. …
As to the enslaved people, I refer you to Osborne Anderson’s 1860 booklet, A Voice from Harper’s Ferry … He says that blacks turned out enthusiastically, and would have greatly supported Brown had he not gotten himself bogged down in gunfighting in the town.
Osborne Anderson was one of Brown’s black raiders on the Ferry, and his first-hand account seems quite important when thinking about this question. Following is a passage from his pamphlet, “A Voice from Harper’s Ferry,” in which Osborne notes that “hundreds” of slaves were ready had Brown adhered to the original plan, left the arsenal and took to the mountains (He lingered for too long inside with the prisoners).
Here’s an excerpt:
OF the various contradictory reports made by slaveholders and their satellites about the time of the Harper’s Ferry conflict, none were more untruthful than those relating to the slaves. There was seemingly a studied attempt to enforce the belief that the slaves were cowardly, and that they were really more in favor of Virginia masters and slavery, than of their freedom. As a party who had an intimate knowledge of the conduct of the colored men engaged, I am prepared to make an emphatic denial of the gross imputation against them, They were charged especially with being unreliable, with deserting Captain Brown the first opportunity, and going back to their masters; and with being so indifferent to the work of their salvation from the yoke, as to have to be forced into service by the Captain, contrary to their will.
On the Sunday evening of the outbreak, we visited the plantations and acquainted the slaves with our purpose to effect their liberation, the greatest enthusiasm was manifested by them –joy and hilarity beamed from every countenance, One old mother, white-haired from age and borne down with the labors of many years in bond, when told of the work in hand, replied: “God bless you! God bless you!” She then kissed the party at her house, and requested all to kneel, which we did, and she offered prayer to God for His blessing on the enterprise, and our success. At the slaves’ quarters, there was apparently a general jubilee, and they stepped for- ward manfully, without impressing or coaxing. In one case, only, was there any hesitation. A dark-complexioned free- born man refused to take up arms, He showed the only want of confidence in the movement, and far less courage than any slave consulted about the plan. In fact, so far as I could learn, the free blacks South are much less reliable than the slaves, and infinitely more fearful. In Washington City, a party of free colored persons offered their services to the Mayor, to aid in suppressing our movement. Of the slaves who followed us to the Ferry, some were sent to help remove stores, and the others were drawn up in a circle around the engine-house, at one time, where they were, by Captain Brown’s order, furnished by me with pikes, mostly, and acted as a guard to the prisoners to prevent their escape, which they did.
It is true then that some in the press misrepresented what had happened. As Reynolds notes, the Chambersburg (Pennsylvania) Valley Spirit, a Democratic paper at the time, had this to say:
Brown’s expectation as to the slaves rushing to him, was entirely disappointed. None seem to have come to him willingly, and in most cases were forced to desert their masters.
As a Democratic paper (Remember that Democrats in the mid-19th century were nearly, if not wholly, in favor of the continuation of slavery), it’s understandable that the paper would make such a claim.
But here is a Harper's Weekly (a politically moderate publication) columnist who witnessed John Brown answering questions after the raid. Brown
confidently expected late reinforcements from Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and several other Slave States, besides the Free States—taking it for granted that it was only necessary to seize the public arms and place them in the hands of the Negroes and nonslaveholders to recuit his forces indefinitely. In this calculation he reluctantly and indirectly admitted that he had been entirely disappointed.
Reynolds, in his analysis, does note that some blacks did join Brown’s numbers during the raid:
To be sure, there were instances of black who joined the liberators enthusiastically. Osborne Anderson [See the previous comment from DeCaro above] recalled that Lewis Washington’s coachman, Jim, fought ‘like a tiger’ and was killed in the battle against the proslavery troops. Anderson also said he met some slaves along a mountain road who joined Brown’s force when they learned of its mission.
Still, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that most of the blacks responded with indifference or fear. When Cook took some eleven freedmen with him to the schoolhouse to meet Owen and the others, it was not long before all of the blacks had fled back to their farms. In fact, the defense lawyers for Brown and his confederates cited the blacks’ fear or apathy in an effort to refute the charge of inciting insurrection. One of John Brown’s attorneys used this argument, and John Cook’s lawyer, Daniel Voorhees, made it central to his case. Far from endangering slavery, Voorhees argued, the raid supported it. Witness the outcome, he said. A supposed Moses appears and promises freedom to the slave, but “the bondsman refuses to be free; drops the implements of war from his hands; is deaf to the call of freedom; turns against his liberators, and, by instinct, obeys the injunction of Paul by returning to his master!”
To be awakened late at night by whites, in consort with blacks, who offered weapons for liberation must have been a baffling experience for many of them.
Besides the few blacks who reportedly joined Osborne Anderson on the road, none are known to have volunteered to join Brown’s group.
And in questioning after being captured, Brown was asked by Virginia congressman Alexander Boteler:
Did you expect to get assistance here from whites as well as from the blacks?
Then, you have been disappointed in not getting it from either?
Brown, with “grave emphasis,” as Reynolds notes:
Yes. I — have — been — disappointed.
Thus, while it is true that he misread black abolitionists and other white supporters in the north, it seems that by his own admission, he did not receive the support he had expected from blacks in the area either. Or to restate my response to DeCaro:
I think the point Reynolds may have been getting at what was that while some (slaves in the area) were enthusiastic supporters of Brown, Brown’s assumption that droves (i.e. “hundreds”) would turn out to fight against slavery was an overestimation on Brown’s part since most of them had been beaten down, sometimes physically, or at the least, socially and emotionally, for decades and generations by white people. It must have not been an easy thing for many of them to willy-nilly trust a white man who claimed to want to fight with them to end slavery.
So, while Anderson may have been correct in saying that hundreds from plantations were poised to rise up, it seems peculiar that, if they were so enthusiastic about the plan, why they wouldn’t have simply joined Brown at Harper’s Ferry, added to the numbers there, beat back the resistance Brown had faced, and then helped Brown and company make their escape, visit more plantations, head to the mountains and so on. Brown and company held the arsenal for a remarkably long time with such a skeleton crew. Hundreds more might have tipped the scales in their favor.
Along with the Salem Witch Trials, slavery, the Crusades, hysterical quarrels in the Middle East, 9/11 and many others, we can add yet another episode to the violent and unethical path that religion has dug since its invention.
We know you’re gay. And God hates gays. You won’t be raping anybody in the county and God’s going to make sure that you burn in hell.
This gay advocate site found it poignant to note that the message made a reference to rape, as if to paint gay people as vile fornicators who will hit anything that moves. This is a disgusting notion, of course. As the site says:
Note the reference to raping. Registered christian hate groups use the discredited lie that Gay men rape children to incite violence against our community. These same hate groups claimed that black men were raping white women to stir violence against the African American community half a century ago.
Of course, black people could be accused of almost anything because they had few, if any, rights prior to the 1960s. Here’s one case from Wikipedia:
In Duluth, Minnesota, on June 15, 1920, three young African American travelers were lynched after having been jailed and accused of having raped a white woman. The alleged “motive” and action by a mob were consistent with the “community policing” model. A book titled The Lynchings in Duluth documented the events.((1))
In the 1930s, communist organizations, including a legal defense organization called the International Labor Defense (ILD), organized support to stop lynching. (see The Communist Party USA and African-Americans). The ILD defended the Scottsboro Boys, as well as three black men accused of rape in Tuscaloosa in 1933. In the Tuscaloosa case, two defendants were lynched under circumstances that suggested police complicity. The ILD lawyers themselves narrowly escaped lynching. The ILD lawyers aroused passionate hatred among many Southerners because they were considered to be interfering with local affairs. In a remark to an investigator, a white Tuscaloosan was quoted, “For New York Jews to butt in and spread communistic ideas is too much.”((2))
Here’s more on the anti-gay record of the religious in America. The fact that there are, or ever have been, hate groups specific to any religion says something about religion itself: that when a person thinks that they have God or Allah or the Bible or the Koran on their side, what we might normally call immoral actions now become sacrosanct with a full accedence from heaven. This, of course, stands in direct opposition to Dostoevksy’s much-trumpeted point about atheism, that without God, everything is permitted.
I don’t know of any modern thinker who has yet to articulate it thusly, but we can say it without compunction: with God, anything, absolutely anything, is permitted.