Incorrect Facts Regarding Race and Slavery

As was recently shown, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, with its central claim that police around the country are hunting and killing innocent black men, is a lie.

Yet the BLM myth is enmeshed within a larger narrative, a narrative of eternal White Racism. And couched within this tale are distortions and outright crucially false ideas of slavery.

In the interest of that “honest discussion” of race that the Eric Holders and Barack Obamas of the world claim to want, I submit considerations without which no such discussion can be had.

One glaringly inconvenient truth that, odds are, few folks of any race are aware is that the very first legal slave owner in America was one Anthony Johnson—a black man.  More specifically, Johnson was an Angolan who himself had been an indentured servant in the colony of Virginia before he became a tobacco planter himself.  One of the African indentured servants who worked Johnson’s 300 acre plot of land was John Casor.

When Casor had completed his seven year term of service to Johnson, he asked to be freed. Johnson refused. The latter did, however, agree to lend him out to a local white colonist, Robert Parker. Yet not long after having made this agreement Johnson had a change of heart and took Parker to court where he charged him with having robbed him of his “negro servant.”

In 1655, a white court sided with the black African over a white man and, in addition to making him pay damages to Johnson, ordered Parker to return Casor to Johnson.

However, Johnson v Parker issued a dramatic legal change: While making his case, Johnson, in referring to Casor, insisted that, “Thee had ye Negro for his life.”

Casor became the first legally recognized slave in the American colonies.  Johnson, then, was the first slave owner.

And Casor did in fact spend the rest of his natural existence toiling for his master.

Johnson was the first American slave owner, black or white.  Yet he certainly wasn’t the last black man in America to own slaves.  Joseph E. Holloway, a professor of Pan-African studies at California State University, is among those who note that there were thousands of black slave owners during the antebellum period.  But Holloway also reveals some other startling—politically incorrect—facts:

Relative to their numbers in the population (27 million according to the 1860 census), a miniscule number of whites owned slaves.  Eight million whites lived in the South, but of these, fewer than 325,000 owned slaves.  What this means is that only 1.4 percent of the total white population consisted of slave owners, and only 4.8 percent of the white Southern population did so.

In glaring contrast, in this same year, there were 4.5 million blacks living in America, and 500,000 blacks in the South. Over half of these—261, 988—were freed men.  In the city of New Orleans alone, more than 3,000 blacks owned slaves.  That is, 28 percent of the free black population consisted of slave holders.

In 1830, the Census Bureau notes that free blacks owned more than 10,000 slaves in the states of Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina.  As Halloway remarks, “Large numbers of free Blacks owned black slaves in numbers disproportionate to their representation in society.”

In some cities during some decades in the 19th century, more than 75 percent of the free black population was comprised of slave holders, and some of these black masters owned property in slaves that rivaled that of some of their wealthiest white counterparts while far exceeding that of most slave owners.  The widow C. Richards and her son, to cite the most notable example, owned 152 slaves.

Some other interesting—racially incorrect—facts:

For four decades (1630-1670), those Africans who became freedmen owned white indentured servants.

The majority of urban black slave owners were women.

Virtually all of the black slave masters were mulattoes who not only enslaved their darker brethren, but refused to marry or even attend church with freed men of darker hue.

This last fact, you can bet, is a particularly troubling one for the light-complexioned Holder and Obama.

But there are others.

Europeans didn’t get involved with African slavery until the 15th century—very late in the game, historically speaking.  For at least the preceding 800-900 years, Arab Muslims had been trafficking in African slaves—all, of course, as even Obama’s friend and black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates is at pains to show, with the cooperation of African leaders who had been enslaving their fellow Africans for even longer than this.

In their Peoples and Empires in West Africa: West Africa in History, 1000-1800, George T. Stride and Caroline Ifeka show that while slavery was endemic throughout the continent, there were several groups like, to note just some examples, the Oyo, Kaabu, and the Imbangala peoples that were particularly ruthless and brutal at enslaving.  Some African slave holders, as the black American thinker Thomas Sowell has noted as well, used their slaves as human sacrifices in religious rituals.

In his Black Rednecks, White Liberals, in a chapter titled, “The Real History of Slavery,” Sowell’s commentary on the brutality of Arabic Muslims’ treatment of African slaves is particularly difficult to digest.  Muslims, he says, “marched vast numbers of human beings from their homes [in Africa] where they had been captured to the places where they would be sold, hundreds of miles away, often spending months crossing the burning sands of the Sahara.”

Sowell adds: “The death toll on these marches exceeded even the horrific toll on packed slave ships crossing the Atlantic.”

But it wasn’t just scores of black Africans who were brutalized by Muslim slave traders. As books like Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, The Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 and White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives confirm, so too were millions of white Europeans and, in the 19th century, white Americans.

After all, it’s not for nothing that the very word “slave” derives from the experience of mass enslavement suffered by the Slavs, i.e. white people.

These are some racially inconvenient truths that neither President Obama nor any other RIC representative would ever want included in an “honest discussion” of race and “racism.”

There are, though, others that will be noted at a future time.  

Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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