From The 1619 Project, EPISODE TWO: “Rape was so prevalent during slavery that today 1/4 of the genetic makeup of Black Americans can be traced back to Europe through the paternal line.”
Colonial governments made descent of children of enslaved women matrilineal in order to ensure that any children they bore were slaves (even the mixed race children, say, of their owner).
The episode goes on to examine the lopsided health care that contemporary Black women receive, tying the shameful conditions directly back to slavery.
FACT: Black women die in childbirth at THREE TIMES the rate of white women.
FACT: Black infants die at TWICE the rate of whites babies, a discrepancy that disappears when the OB is Black.
FACTS: Black patients are under-treated for pain, as if there were biological differences between Black and white people. Furthermore, their life expectancies are shorter and they’re often blamed for their health issues.
Slave owners always had an economic interest in the reproduction of their slaves, but after Congress banned the importation of Africans in 1808, it became an even more important way to preserve and build wealth.
In the amazing novel WASH, by Margaret Wrinkle, the white slave owning protagonist hires out the enslaved character named Wash for the purpose of procreation. Keeps meticulous records. Is paid for the “exchange.” One of many poignant moments occurs towards the end when Wash burns that ledger and lets those flames then take a barn down.
I know from my research that in South Carolina in the mid-eighteenth century, slave owners believed that breeding Africans with Native Americans would produce stock better adapted to winters.
And BTW, another source of wealth for early colonizers as to round up, kidnap, and sell Native Americans to slave markets in the West Indies. Native Americans were not favored as slaves in South Carolina because they had family in the area and knew the landscape better than anyone, heightening the chances of their escape.
Even though I’ve read about some of the most horrific forms of torture employed by slave owners and have had to really think about the heartless mercantile interests of slave owners trafficking in black bodies, I also recoiled at the dog-killing.
Does this mean I care more about dogs than about the enslaved?
Of course not.
I thought Washington’s dog-killing was an extreme and sadistic act meant to deprive his slaves of the comfort and companionship of their pets. The Frontline article though seems confirming of the tweeter’s assertion — that he was acting out of economic self-interest. The dogs were killing his livestock, perhaps?
Anyway, I didn’t spend a lot of time reading the comments because I knew the dumping on the WW would, in this instance, bother me. It’s NOT EITHER / OR.
And BTW, sometimes it’s evident that people DO care more about pets than the people involved. Take the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It seemed then that there was a lot of attention paid to the stranded animals and maybe not enough attention paid to the ravages of New Orleans’ largely Black parishes. Also, that the recovery effort was so botched could have been viewed through a lens of racism and generally wasn’t.
Another EITHER / OR that I’m thinking about and will come back to post about sometime soon is: how the fact that race is a scientific fiction across the board (not just for white people, in other words) can coexist with our profound acknowledgment that race as a social construct is profoundly and persistently problematic.
Collages are 2022 creations made to visual prompts from Paris Collage Collective.
Labor Day seemed an appropriate day to visit the new display marking the Middle Passage down on Long Wharf, Boston. It is yards from the Atlantic and the site where Africans were unloaded from ships and sold.
I took a lot of pictures, so that I could read later. Why? Parking fees were obscene. I set my timer for 35 minutes, determined not to pay more than $18. But we didn’t really want to pay even that, so we didn’t dally. Made it back in under twenty minutes. High fives at the parking pay kiosk.
Most of the business along Long Wharf these days is tourism.
Almost all of the marker’s text was devoted to highlighting local luminary African Americans, like Phyllis Wheatley (blogged about here). I expected the narrative to reveal the horrors of the slave trade, so this surprised me a little. Did you know, for example, that the Guinea ships could be smelled from four miles off, so vile was the hygiene and carnage? Or that a loss of life in the neighborhood of ten percent was an acceptable margin in terms of turning a profit?
If you read my Facebook post on this yesterday, you’ll have seen the LONG laundry list of ways that the North profited from slavery, pictured below.
Next time we go, I’ll bring flowers and we’ll look for on-street parking.
Glymph, Thavolia. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.*
Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2008. Print.*
Haulman, Kate. The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011. Print.
Hart, Emma. Building Charleston: Town and Society in the Eighteenth-century British Atlantic World. Charlottesville: U of Virginia, 2010. Print.*
Higginbottom Jr., A. Leon. In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, The Colonial Period. New York, Oxford University Press, 1978. Print.
Hoffer, Peter Charles, Cry Liberty, The Great Stono River Slave Rebellion of 1739. Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.*
Hurmence, Belinda. Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember: Twenty-seven Oral Histories of Former South Carolina Slaves. Winston-Salem, NC: J.F. Blair, 1989. Print.*
Hurmence, Belinda. My Folks Don’t Want Me To Talk About Slavery. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2013.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Barnes & Noble, 2005.
Joyner, Charles W. Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community. Urbana: U of Illinois, 1984. Print.*
Kenslea, Timothy. The Sedgwicks in Love: Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage in the Early Republic. Boston: Northeastern UP, 2006. Print.
Krebs, Laurie. A Day in the Life of a Colonial Indigo Planter. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003.
Legrand, Catherine. Indigo, The Color that Changed the World, New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print..
LeMaster, Michelle, and Bradford J. Wood. Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories. Print.
McCandless, Peter. Slavery, Disease, and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.
McCarthy, B. Eugene, and Thomas L. Doughton. From Bondage to Belonging: The Worcester Slave Narratives. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2007. Print.
McCurry, Stephanie. Masters of Small Worlds. Oxford University Press, 1995.
McKay, Nellie Y. (editor). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harriet Jacobs. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2001. Print.
McKinley, Catherine E. Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World. New York: Bloomsbury, 2011. Print.
Mueller, Pamela Bauer. Water to My Soul: The Story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney. Jekyll Island, GA: Pinata Pub., 2012. Print.
Mullin, Michael. Africa in America: Slave Acculturation and Resistance in the American South and the British Caribbean, 1736-1831. ACLS History E-Book Project. 2004.
Myers, Amrita Chakrabarti. Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011. Print.
Nelson, Louis P. The Beauty of Holiness. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2009.
Northup, Solomon, and D. Wilson. Twelve Years a Slave Narrative of Solomon Northrup, Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841 and Rescued in 1853 from a Cotton Plantation near the Red River, in Louisiana. Auburn: Derby and Miller, 1853. Print.
Pinckney, Eliza Lucas, and Elise Pinckney. The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney. Ed. Marvin R. Zahniser and Elise Pinckney. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina, 1997. Print.
Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History. New York: Viking, 2007. Print.
Rhyne, Nancy, and Sue Alston. John Henry Rutledge: The Ghost of Hampton Plantation: A Parable. Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Pub., 1997. Print.
Rhyne, Nancy. Tales of the South Carolina Low Country. John F Blair Pub, 1982.
Rivers, Larry Eugene. Slavery in Florida, Territorial Days to Emancipation. Florida: University Press, 2009.
Rogers, George C. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. Norman: U of Oklahoma, 1969. Print.
Rucker, Walter C. The River Flows On. LSU Press, 2008.
Russell, Franklin. The Okefenokee Swamp. Time-Life Books, 1986.
Rutledge, Archibald. Home by the River. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1941. Print.
Rutledge, Sarah. The Carolina Housewife. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 1979. Print.
Smith, Mark M. Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina, 2005. Print.
South Carolina Slave Narratives. S.I.: Native American Book, 2009. Print.
Stuart, Andrea. Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Print.
Twitty, Michael W. The Cooking Gene. HarperCollins, 2018.
Vernon, Amelia Wallace. African Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press. 1993.
Walsh, Lorena S. From Calabar to Carter’s Grove. Rutgers University Press, 2001.
Williams, Frances Leigh. Plantation Patriot; a Biography of Eliza Lucas Pinckney. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967. Print.
Wood, Peter H. Black Majority; Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion. New York: Knopf;, 1974. Print.
Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners. Vintage, 2012.
Zacek, Natalie. Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670-1776. New York: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.
Eliza Lucas – PhD Thesis
Yonder, by Jabari Asim
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
Yellow Wife: A Novel, Sadeqa Johnson
The Book of Night Women, Marlon James
The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins
Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks
Kindred, Octavia Butler
Sapphira and The Slave Girl, Willa Cather
Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
The Good Lord Bird and Song Yet Sung, by James McBride
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Water to My Soul, Pamela Mueller
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill
Underground Airlines, Ben White
Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
Nostalgia, Dennis MacFarland
Plantation Patriot, Francis Leigh Williams
The Indigo Girl, Natasha Boyd
The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehesi Coates
Movies / TV
The Civil War (Ken Burns)
John Adams – HBO series
Daughters of the Dust
Twelve Years a Slave
Tours / Historic Sites
Boone Hall Plantation
The Charleston Museum Drayton Hall Magnolia Plantation — both the enslaved cabin tour and the big house tour Magnolia Cemetery McLeod Plantation Middleton Place Aiken-Rhett House Old Charleston Jail Rebellion Farm : for a weekend of indigo dyeing in a pole barn with Sea Island Indigo Stono Slave Rebellion Marker Sullivan Island Wappoo Plantation Marker
Faneuil Hall Middle Passage Ceremony, August 13, 2015 The Granary Burial Grounds (where John Hancock’s ‘servant’ Frank is buried, as well as Crispus Attucks) Mt. Auburn Cemetery (burial sites of Harriet Jacobs and Mary Walker) The Jackson Homestead The Royall House and Slave Quarters (spent a night in the quarters with The Slave Dwelling Project)
I “attended” a three hour seminar with Anne Lamott this weekend. I’ll probably be talking about it for a while. She went over many of the tools explicated in her famous book on writing, Bird by Bird, but first let me say how happy I was to hear that she includes research in writing time!
Here’s a little taste of the rabbit hole I went down this week for my novel.
“Wherever Africans were enslaved in the world, there were runaways who escaped permanently and lived in free independent settlements. These people and their descendants are known as “maroons.” The term probably comes from the Spanish cimarrón, meaning feral livestock, fugitive slave or something wild and defiant.”
Smithsonian article about The Great Dismal Swamp and its long history of maroon communities. Written September 2016 by Richard Grant featuring the archeology of the intrepid Dan Sayers.
“By downplaying American marronage, and valorizing white involvement in the Underground Railroad, historians have shown a racial bias, in Sayers’ opinion, a reluctance to acknowledge the strength of black resistance and initiative.”
It is well known that researching the history of the enslaved is difficult, partly because there are so few primary sources. But there’s also the business of who is writing the available histories. Much white ignorance and racial animus infects secondary sources.
Even in the instance of the Federal Writers’ Project, which collected first person accounts from Black survivors of slavery, the narratives are inherently unreliable because they were recorded by white people.
Think: white person with a clipboard.
Think: Black person talking to a white person with a clipboard.
Even with the best of intentions, we can assume that white minds listening to Black thoughts and speech applied some kind of filter. And we can also assume that Black speakers shaped what they said in some way because of their white audience.
Enslaved people had little by way of possessions. A community in a remote swamp likely owned or collected even less than those dwelling “on the street” (a common naming for a collection of slave quarters).
Slave communities are nevertheless of great interest to archeologists, as evidenced by Dan Sayers in this article and by recent excavations at Monticello and Mount Vernon.
My research has also turned up references to maroon communities in the swamps north and west of Charles Town (Charleston). It seems that these groups may have initially been comprised of Natives, who then welcomed fugitive slaves. The Smithsonian article posits the idea that whites fleeing indentured servitude also found their way to some of these remote areas.
Update on Second Edit of my novel: the sagging middle is getting slashed (good example of another thing Lamott talked about, the famous advice to “kill your darlings”) and the ending is being expanded.
I’m back to the pin board for the final year of chronology. (Lamott also uses this visual trick, by the way, though she tapes pieces of paper around her entire living room).
It’s important to have a map of your story SOMEWHERE. I can’t keep it all in my head. For some stretches, this pin board had every chapter pinned to it, color-coded by POV. After a while the directory in Word on my laptop served as an outline, because I put each chapter in a separate word doc and used a consistent naming protocol that arranged them chronologically.
A second edit is so, so important, Lamott said, so much so that she won’t show her work to anyone until she’s done one. (oops!)
Before the second edit comes what she calls “the shitty first draft.” That’s a liberating shorthand for all kinds of things, but perhaps mostly as encouragement to forgo perfectionism or debilitating ideas about inspiration at the outset. To borrow Nike’s slogan: Just Do It.
The heat has been brutal. Today a little less so. Do you know what it’s like walking a dog on paved sidewalks in 97 degree heat?
And lastly, I call yesterday a good day. How unfamiliar the sensation of relief twinned with hope! Biden and Harris both gave great speeches. You can view on YouTube (August 12).