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What Your Social Studies Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Slavery

April V. Taylor

The new book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making of American Capitalism,” by Edward Baptist has incited an onslaught of controversy regarding his examination of the slavery and suffering of generations of Black people who were bought and sold and the economic wealth and power that was made possible from their exploitation.  Baptist is a history professor at Cornell University, and his new book takes a different approach than Social Studies texts that cram 250 years of history into a few menial chapters by writing from a narrative perspective of individual voices of slaves and using economic data to paint a very personal and clear picture of slavery and its consequences.

Baptist makes five fundamental points about slavery that many Americans are not taught.  The first one is that slavery was a key catalyst for the formation of American wealth and power.  He asserts that the expansion of American capitalism happened, “on the backs of enslaved human beings,” and that multiple financial innovations such as bonds and mortgages grew out of the American slave trade.  To quote Baptist, “The idea that the commodification and suffering of forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear.  Yet it is the truth.”  Historian Seth Rockman points out that Baptist has broken new ground by connecting, “the day-to-day violence of plantation labor to the largest macroeconomic questions of the West’s economic takeoff in the 19th century.”  Baptist estimates that nearly half of the economic activity in the U.S. in 1836, which was more than $600 million, was derived in one way or another from cotton produced by a million or so slaves.  This means 6 percent of the total population of the U.S. was responsible for nearly half of the economic activity of the entire country.

One may wonder how something like that was even possible, but Baptist answers that question, by uncovering the fact that cotton quotas that were enforced by brutal whippings continued to increase until slaves reached picking speeds that pushed the limits of physical possibility.  Another key component of slavery’s contribution to capitalism that is overlooked by American textbooks and teachers is the fact that slavery was not just responsible for enriching the South; it was also an integral part of driving the Northern industrial revolution.  Had it not been for the huge volumes of cotton being produced in the south, textile mills would not have had raw material to process.

One of the most blatant lies perpetrated by American textbooks is that Southern states seceded in an attempt to defend the, “abstract constitutional principle of ‘state’s rights.'”  Baptist points out that participants at every Democratic national convention, “made it explicit: they were seceding because they thought secession would protect the future of slavery,” and therefore guarantee the South’s continued economic growth.

Baptist’s work will surely add to the information presented by such historians as Walter Johnson from Harvard, who wrote “River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom,” and Craig Steven Wilder from MIT who wrote “Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.” Together these three authors connect the dots of how slave labor, London bankers, Northeast factories and the creation of Ivy League universities gave way to America being one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.  Maybe one day American textbooks and Social Studies teachers will take note.

 

SOURCE

april

7 Comment

  1. Sorry none of this is any thing new, black people have know this for most of their lives, this information has been handed down from generation to generation. People of color know who owned their ancestors what state they lived some of them even took their master last names and to this day can trace the master's family ( such as the William Chilton family, part of my family tree from slave Sara Williams ) and trace the vast wealth the family has amassed from owning slaves, in which the Chilton family of course disavows any relationship to and no knowledge of being related to people of color. Therefore they owe nothing to those who did all of the heavy lifting so that the Chilton's cold prosper and live very comfortable.

  2. What is important about this book is not that Black people already knew but that the world needs to know about America. I am also finding that a lot of educated young Blacks have put their heads in the sand and believe that since "they" are successful in this society that everyone else (Blacks) can be the same. Not knowing that in many cases they are but "tokens" and as a whole the powers at large will never allow equality in wealth across the board. Slavery built this country and modern day economic slavery keeps this country status quo.

  3. The empirical data has always been there and the scholarship has been either ignored or tabled. Like most it doesn’t take a Harvard PHD to understand the basic principle of what happened. The question that will always be pondered is how to apply a 21 century remedy to a practice that was acceptable 3 centuries ago. Let’s face it all major civilizations have used the institution of slavery to advance an economic position . It is no different than a person criticizing the poor about accepting government benefits when there are people who have jobs/careers as government workers or contractors

  4. Thank you Dr. Edward Baptist of Cornell University. You've written in great specific detail that which I've always known, expressed verbally, written / referred to in brief regarding the undeniable, indisputable fact that the forging of America as a world empire, her industries, Wall Street banks, / all of the long-term advantages of the so-called "elite rich white ruling class" to "white middle class" were literally created, developed, / built on 400+ years of enslaved Africans' / their descendants' 24/7 horrific, brutally enforced, exploited / bloody physical labor, tremendous psychological mental health degradation, deception, murder, rape, diluted, divided, long still discriminated against, well oppressed, torn / destroyed family generations, cover-up of original ancient history, religions / overall culture. Such blatant facts are utterly inescapable nor will this truth ever be able to be conveniently swept away by the white race in America, Europe, Caribbean, South America, Africa, her Middle East / in Israel nor should this heinous crime / its still lingering overall highly negative / destructive impact ever be forgotten by any black men, women, / teenagers in America, Africa, nor elsewhere worldwide on earth. We must never, ever forget the brutal, horrific life suffering / sacrifices of our elders / ancestors. We must always be in awe of / always honor their strength given to them / to us through them from Almighty God. We must never, ever forget it.

    WHAT YOUR SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER DIDN’T TELL YOU ABOUT SLAVERY
    BY APRIL / OCTOBER 24, 2014 BLACK HISTORY, BLACK MEN, BLACK NEWS, EDUCATION, LATEST POSTS, NEWS 3 COMMENTS
    April V. Taylor

    "The new book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making of American Capitalism,” by Edward Baptist has incited an onslaught of controversy regarding his examination of the slavery and suffering of generations of Black people who were bought and sold and the economic wealth and power that was made possible from their exploitation. Baptist is a history professor at Cornell University, and his new book takes a different approach than Social Studies texts that cram 250 years of history into a few menial chapters by writing from a narrative perspective of individual voices of slaves and using economic data to paint a very personal and clear picture of slavery and its consequences.

    Baptist makes five fundamental points about slavery that many Americans are not taught. The first one is that slavery was a key catalyst for the formation of American wealth and power. He asserts that the expansion of American capitalism happened, “on the backs of enslaved human beings,” and that multiple financial innovations such as bonds and mortgages grew out of the American slave trade. To quote Baptist, “The idea that the commodification and suffering of forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.” Historian Seth Rockman points out that Baptist has broken new ground by connecting, “the day-to-day violence of plantation labor to the largest macroeconomic questions of the West’s economic takeoff in the 19th century.” Baptist estimates that nearly half of the economic activity in the U.S. in 1836, which was more than $600 million, was derived in one way or another from cotton produced by a million or so slaves. This means 6 percent of the total population of the U.S. was responsible for nearly half of the economic activity of the entire country.

    One may wonder how something like that was even possible, but Baptist answers that question, by uncovering the fact that cotton quotas that were enforced by brutal whippings continued to increase until slaves reached picking speeds that pushed the limits of physical possibility. Another key component of slavery’s contribution to capitalism that is overlooked by American textbooks and teachers is the fact that slavery was not just responsible for enriching the South; it was also an integral part of driving the Northern industrial revolution. Had it not been for the huge volumes of cotton being produced in the south, textile mills would not have had raw material to process.

    One of the most blatant lies perpetrated by American textbooks is that Southern states seceded in an attempt to defend the, “abstract constitutional principle of ‘state’s rights.'” Baptist points out that participants at every Democratic national convention, “made it explicit: they were seceding because they thought secession would protect the future of slavery,” and therefore guarantee the South’s continued economic growth.

    Baptist’s work will surely add to the information presented by such historians as Walter Johnson from Harvard, who wrote “River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom,” and Craig Steven Wilder from MIT who wrote “Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.” Together these three authors connect the dots of how slave labor, London bankers, Northeast factories and the creation of Ivy League universities gave way to America being one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. Maybe one day American textbooks and Social Studies teachers will take note."

  5. I could’ve used this book back in high school when the so-called history teacher preached the value of slavery.

  6. I adore your wordpress internet template, wherever would you download it from?

  7. I want to show my thanks to you just for rescuing me from such a predicament. Because of searching throughout the world wide internet and coming across thoughts that were not beneficial, I thought my entire life was properly more than. Living without the approaches to the issues you

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