Whipping's Brutal Efficiency/an Argument for Slavery Reparations

     Most people feel, at best, annoyed when the idea of slavery-reparations enters conversation. The knee-jerk, defensive postures include the 'no one in my family'...no one alive now or for generations either owned slaves or benefited from it.
     The problem with that response is that it can be only half right, so before we rest too quickly in too-comfy and yet quite likely ahistorical assuaging conferred by generations of white-privilege, consider five arguments from Cornell's Edward Baptist in new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books).
     First, slavery was the key driver of the formation of American wealth and not simply a medieval moral and economic aberration that would have inevitably run out of time, given the success of Northern (and Southern) wage labor. Dr. Baptist argues that slavery was the very heart of American capitalist development. Economic data from the Southern slaveholder and Northern industrialist classes evidence, he shows, "...more than $600 million, or half the total economic activity in the United States in 1836, derived...from cotton produced by the million-odd slaves  --  just six percent of the total...population." By 1850, slaves' work-output was 20% of the nation's wealth ($1.3 billion.
     Second, slavery was more efficient than free labor, Dr. Baptist shows, upending a common understanding. Cotton-picking quotas increased regularly and were, largely, adhered to as a result of whippings. "A study of planter account books that record daily picking totals for individual enslaved people on labor camps across the South found an increase" from 1811 to 1860 [just before the Civil War] "of 361 percent". Free wage laborers were much slower. "Many enslaved...pickers in the late 1850s had peaked at well over 200 pounds per day", yet "in the 1930s, after a half-century of massive scientific experimentation...to make cotton more pickable, the great-grandchildren of the enslaved picked only 100 to 120 pounds per day."
     Perhaps we have underestimated whipping's brutal efficiency.
     Third, slavery didn't just enrich the planter class. It drove the North's industrial success. Cotton was a steady bloodstream into (and then out from) northern mills. By a year we tend to consider a relatively early one, 1832, Dr. Baptist shows that the mills at Lowell, Massachusetts alone gorged on "100,000 days of enslaved people's labor every year".
     Fourth, slavery hadn't shown signs of slowing economically by the time of the rebellion. In the '50s cotton production doubled from two to four million bales "with no sign of either slowing down or quenching industrial nations' thirst for raw materials." The world's consumption of cotton in that last slave decade grew from 1.5 to 2.5 billion pounds and by 1860, seven of our eight wealthiest states were cotton-producing slave states. 
     Fifth, Dr. Baptist makes clear, too, that secession and war served slavery's expansionist requirement. I have pointed out in several pieces that planters' defiance of the then well-known imperative of crop-rotation and letting well-used fields lie fallow for a season in order to be nutritionally replenished, fed their hunger for a western states-as-slave-states imperative. Dr. Baptist enhances this argument from primary source documents.
     So, why revisit this? We live, now, with slavery's legacies, with segregation of all kinds, including Jim Crow's most modern iteration of enforced marginalization, voter-ID laws. And so I'll ask us this question about monetary reparations for slavery's descendants, that question so many just don't asked, don't want to hear:
If the greater part of our so-called wealth miracle was in fact       had on the whipped backs of slaves, when will their children get their due?

Views: 96

Comment by Arthur James on October 30, 2014 at 9:34am







NAsty duh ` bah ' whores!

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on October 30, 2014 at 9:57am

:) Art

Comment by Ron Powell on October 30, 2014 at 10:56am
Get some snacks and a beverage and watch this intriguing debate at Boston University on the subject:


Great post!
Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on October 30, 2014 at 10:58am

ty ron  perhaps you'll want to post this link, too, at OPEN

Comment by Ron Powell on October 30, 2014 at 11:32am
Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on October 30, 2014 at 11:34am


Comment by JMac1949 Today on October 30, 2014 at 5:28pm

Not to change the subject but taking it one step further: How about reparations for the stolen land and the genocide inflicted upon Native Americans? How many trillions would that cost us?
The United States Court of Claims on June 13, 1979, in a 5-2 majority, decided that the 1877 Act that seized the Black Hills from the Sioux was a violation of the Fifth Amendment. On July 31, 1979 the Sioux were awarded $17.5 million with 5 percent interest totaling $105 million. On June 30, 1980 the United States Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 majority to uphold the United States Court of Claims’ initial ruling, awarding the Sioux nation $106 million, which resulted in the largest sum ever given to an Indian tribe for illegally seized territory.

On July 18, 1981, Mario Gonzalez filed a lawsuit asking for 7,300,000 acres (30,000 km2) of the Black Hills in South Dakota and $11 billion in damages. The claim was that $1 billion would go to aid the poor standard of living from the seizure of the land while the other $10 billion would be used to remove “nonrenewable resources from the Hills.” The appeal brought by Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in 1981 for 7,300,000 acres (3.0×1010 m2) of South Dakota Black Hills land and $11 billion was denied by the United States Supreme Court and resulted in the involvement of the United Nations who argued that this denial breached international law.

After several denials of appeals brought by tribal lawyer Mario Gonzalez, the Black Hills Steering Committee was formed. The committee drafted a bill for Congress that asked for the 7,300,000 acres (30,000 km2) of the Black Hills in South Dakota. At the time, the committee’s coordinator stated that “the bill would give the Sioux all Federal land in the area, roughly two million acres.

Today, the Black Hills land claim case is still an ongoing issue. Native American lawyer Wanda L. Howey-Fox statements in April 2009 explain the modern issues regarding the Black Hills. She states, “There is no selling to be done because the court determined it was an improper taking and all the court can give as far as remedy is money.” In the present day, the government has recognized that the seizure of land in 1877 was illegal but is still unwilling to return the Black Hills.

Additionally, Lawyer Howey-Fox has currently brought a lawsuit demanding the release of $900 million in Sioux trust funds. As of now, the case is still pending. United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya conducted a 12-day tour of Native Americans land, to determine how the United States is faring on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2010. Mr. Anaya met with tribes in seven states on reservations and in urban areas, as well as with members of the Obama administration and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Mr. Anaya tentatively recommended the return of lands to some tribes, including the Black Hills to the Sioux...

And that's just one case in the Dakotas, consider the possibilities of Cherokee, Apache, Comanche or Cheyenne claims... talk about reparations!


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