1619 is commonly cited as the date slavery first arrived in “America.” No matter that historians mostly consider the 1619 date a red herring. Enslaved people were working in English Bermuda in 1616. Spanish colonies and forts in today’s Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina had enslaved Africans throughout the mid-to-late 1500s: in fact, a slave rebellion in 1526 helped end the Spanish attempt at settling South Carolina.
The presence of Spanish power continued to inhibit English settlement of the deep south basically until the Revolutionary War. In some sense, the 1526 San Miguel de Guadeloupe rebellion cleared the way for English settlement of South Carolina.
But before 1526, slavery was already ongoing in the eventual United States. The earliest slave society in our present country, and our most recent slavery society, was in Puerto Rico. The island’s Spanish overlords were enslaving the Taino natives by 1500. By 1513, the Taino population had shrunk dramatically due to brutal violence and disease. Thus, Spain brought the first African slaves to Puerto Rico.
Chattel slavery in Puerto Rico continued, despite many “Royal Graces” easing life for free blacks and sometimes promising eventual emancipation, until 1873. Even then, slaves had to buy their own liberty. It’s not clear when the last slave was free in Puerto Rico, but it would still have been a fresh memory in 1898 when the United States gained control from Spain.
Slavery in America did not begin in 1619. It began in 1513. Any argument for a 1619 date implicitly suggests that the American project is an inherently Anglo project: that other regions, like Texas, California, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico, have subordinate histories that aren’t really, truly, equal as American origin stories.
But even if the title were correct, what’s the true propose of this project? Stone gives the answer earlier in the piece.
It isn’t mostly about helping Americans understand the role played by plantation agriculture in American history. It’s mostly about convincing Americans that “America” and “slavery” are essentially synonyms.
Previously, I’ve discussed the Civil War and whether (or not) present-day black Americans should be grateful to our country and to those who fought on the Union side. A lot of people didn’t like my conclusion.
True freedom fighters have the clean conscious of God. May that be enough for them.
And at the same time, however, this country has no need to pay for its past sins. This very same Civil War was America’s trial by fire, its conviction, and its sentence — something that American leaders chose.
But, it seems as if all too many are intent on keeping everyone angry about hardships none of them had to bear. All the New York Times want to do is make itself the drum major of the anger and vengeance parade.
And what if America and slavery are synonymous? What then? Oh, yes, reparations.
Reparations, just like every other government program, will become just another cistern for politicians to wet their beaks. How do you think they all get rich?
Because that’s the true purpose of all this — to create another means for our money to become theirs.
By the way, what about those Spaniards?
UPDATE: For some strange reason, people seem to think I’m unaware of the world history of slavery. I am not.
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