The South Doesn’t Own SlaveryRoundup
tags: slavery, White Supremacy
The violent furor that erupted this summer over the removal of Confederate monuments in several cities was a stark reminder that Americans remain trapped in the residue of slavery and racial violence. In confronting this difficult truth, our attention is naturally drawn to the South. And rightfully so: The South was the hotbed of race-based labor and sexual exploitation before and after the Civil War, and the caldron of a white supremacist ideology that sought to draw an inviolable line between whiteness and blackness, purity and contagion, precious lives and throwaway lives. As the author of three histories on slavery and race in the South, I agree that removing Confederate iconography from cities like New Orleans, Baltimore and Charlottesville, Va., is necessary and urgent.
However, in our national discourse on slavery’s legacy and racism’s persistent grip, we have overlooked a crucial fact: Our history of human bondage and white supremacy is not restricted to the South.
By turning the South into an island of historical injustice separate from the rest of the United States, we misunderstand the longstanding nationwide collusion that has produced white supremacist organizers in Fargo, N.D., and a president from New York City who thinks further research is needed to determine the aims of the Ku Klux Klan. Historians of the United States are continually unearthing an ugly truth: American slavery had no bounds. It penetrated every corner of this country, materially, economically and ideologically, and the unjust campaign to preserve it is embedded in our built environments, North and South, East and West. Detroit is a surprising case in point.
Detroit’s legacy is one of a “free” city, a final stop on the Underground Railroad before Canada, known by the code word “Midnight.” Yet its early history is mired in a slave past. Near the start of the Revolutionary War, William and Alexander Macomb, Scots-Irish traders from New York, illegally purchased Grosse Isle from the Potawatomi people. William Macomb was the largest slaveholder in Detroit in the late 1700s. He owned at least 26 black men, women and children. He kept slaves on his Detroit River islands, which included Belle Isle (the current city park) and Grosse Isle, and right in the heart of the city, not far from where the International Underground Railroad Memorial now rises above the river view. When Macomb died, his wife, Sarah, and their sons inherited the family fortune, later becoming — along with other Detroit slaveholding families — among the first trustees of the University of Michigan. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Conservatives are pressing Trump to demand North Korea return the USS Pueblo
- Scholars say it’s time to rethink the way the Holocaust is taught
- Prison records from 1800s Georgia show mass incarceration’s racially charged beginnings
- It’s the 50th anniversary of the day Trump left college and (briefly) faced the draft
- Hitler Did Not Escape to the Moon or Argentina, He’s Still Dead, Study Concludes
- Chapel Hill’s Jay M. Smith says school administrators are scared of academic freedom
- Yuval Noah Harari: Brexit will not halt drive to 'human unification'
- When did the Census begin to ask about citizenship?
- As historians and New York City educators, here’s what we hope teachers hear in New York City's new anti-bias training
- Historian's new book backs Taika Waititi's claims New Zealand is 'racist as f**k’