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Posted February 11, 2016

  Travelers, to review in PDF format

The American Slave –Breeding Industry, a Stigma of Denial

By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

The Mid-South Tribune and  the Black Information Highway

 

“Slavery in the United States was a slave-breeding system. This story of national expansion premised on the reproduction of captive humans who were labor, merchandise, and a collateral, all at once, is horrific, and it’s basic to the story of our development as a nation.” –The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry

 

 The above is an assessment of what was known as the Peculiar Society to explain away the immorality that slaves were bred like cattle in American society. Jimmy the Greek, who lost his job as a sports announcer, can probably rest easier now. Jimmy brought up this fact that Blacks were bred to be the equivalent of prized stallions when he commented on the size of African American athletes.  On national television, Jimmy the Greek had dared to take the skeleton out of the closet; therefore, he had to be punished by both whites and African Americans alike, because slave breeding is as much a taboo topic as was once intermarriages between white women and Black males.

            This is a hard book to read, not because it is poorly written (Oh, if it were only so! That would make it easier to stomach.), but because it delves so deeply into a wound that won’t stop gushing the blood of African Americans who were multiplied on slave breeding farms. Even the ‘Conductor’ of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, was a product of such a farm.

As a side note: It is ‘peculiar’ how this nation has no problem in recognizing the Jewish Holocaust, but has gone into systemic denial when it comes to slave breeding.

            This sensitive, ground-breaking book I am referring to is “The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry” (Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books). Its husband and wife authors are Ned and Constance Sublette, Caucasians.  Need I use another pejorative description which begs the question: Why are white Americans writing about slave breeding? This is not a rhetorical question.  It demands an explanation, which the Sublettes provide in their introduction: “This book describes an economy in which people were capital, children were interest, and women were routinely violated. We have tried to avoid gratuitously subjecting the reader to offensive language and images, but we are describing a horrifying reality.”

 

Years ago, I was doing research on the economic state of a pre-Civil War America. I discovered  in the dusty part of a library a book entitled “The Business of Slavery” written some time in the late 1800’s or very early 1900’s, as I recall. One of my main objectives was to investigate the fact that the South was not the only part of the nation benefitting economically from slavery, and that the North usually goes free in the crime of having aided and abetted in the proliferation of slavery, especially by Wall Street and by many of the blueblood families of New York.  “The Business of Slavery” details how New York was one of the biggest ports of slavery, how prominent business men had ownership interests in large plantations. As a matter of fact, New York City, led by Wall Streeters, had debated whether or not to join the South in breaking away from the Union.

This out of print book along with this prodigious research and study from the Sublettes can no longer make it easier for America to deny that the business of slavery was also founded upon slave breeding. Even what most definitely was the mainstream press at that time, newspapers, benefited financially from the business of slavery, and the Sublettes go in depth on how newspapers made fortunes from slavery in a section of theirs entitled, “Silent Profit.” This section is worth the read, because there has been nil written on newspapers’ major role in maintaining the status quo of “The Slaveocracy,” another section of the Sublettes’ book. Yes, ‘the medium was the message’.

They write: “From the beginning of newspapers in America, the forced-servitude business was a steady part of their revenue stream. American newspapers and slavery helped grow each other.”

I found the Sublettes’ most disturbing statements in two short sentences: “Slavery was rape,” and “Cash for negroes.”

“Slavery was rape,” must be reiterated because this premise serves as an ignored fact of the institution which begat Jim Crow. And because rape is ignore, the act has failed to create any socio-economic dialectics even in a 21st Century where blinders now go under the guise of being politically correct. But what I have always found repugnantly fascinating is how whites preached a dogma of Blacks having an inferiority complex when they themselves were interbreeding with the supposedly livestock. These mores to accept the practice of rape which produced all shades of brown would have made their argument of black inferiority moot. Their belief in a black inferiority complex theory which runs amok systemically well into the 21st Century serves no more than a lie and propaganda about their own self-worth. I mean these white masters-rapists did not interbreed with the cow or the sheep or the hog. Surely, if one really believed a black person is an animal then why have sex with an animal?

           

             The Sublettes begin their book with Louis Hughes’ quote of: “Virginia was the mother of slavery.”  Hughes was a product of a white slave owner and as he says, and a ‘Negress’. The Sublettes’ study is compacted on the first page which still impacts today’s socio-economic dilemma as experienced by Blacks who have white fathers which makes them wholly Black whereas the ‘white’ blood has no worth (clout) in a society of continued white advantage.  Albeit in Hughes’ day: “That meant he was classified as merchandise at birth, because children inherited the free or enslaved status of the mother, not the father. It had been that way in Virginia for 170 years already when Hughes was born.”

 The authors further expound on this ‘classification’: “Partus sequitur ventrem was the legal term: the status of the newborn follows the status of the womb. Fathers passed inheritance down, mothers passed slavery down. It ensured a steady flow of salable human product from the wombs of women who had no legal right to say no.”  If the Sublettes were to expand this legality, it, too could be extended under the system of segregation. It, too, would have legitimate relevancies in the 21st Century, as a by-product or racism.

The Sublettes also look at the little known practice of Slave Mortgaging, a term I was not familiar with and wanted to know more, but even they found very little on this. They describe it as a practice “…which was essential to the functioning of the Southern credit system, but the practice has not been much discussed by historians, and we do not have a good overview of the numbers. No one at the time seems to have compiled statistics about how much mortgaging was being done, whether of land or of slaves…”

 On a very controversial first page, the authors point out what I would like to think would be reason enough for Black students to desire an education. The Sublettes write: “Most enslaved African Americans lived and died without writing so much as their names. The Virginia legal code of 1849 provided for ‘stripes’— flogging— for those who tried to acquire literacy skills. A free person who dared ‘assemble with negroes for the purpose of instructing them to read or write’ could receive a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to a hundred dollars… An enslaved person who tried to teach others to read might have part of a finger chopped off … with the full blessing of the law.”

           

This punishment of slaves who learned to read and write is why education has been a traditionally valued commodity in the Black community. It was this value and not wealth which spawned today’s Black middle class. Of course, the Sublettes do not make these assertions. I do, based on the historical implications that the Black middle class was defined by the value of education, especially when that education was physically acquired with a grade school, high school or college degree. The definition of Black middle class was not based on money simply because collectively speaking, Blacks had no wealth anyway and were systemically stopped from freely participating in America’s capitalism in a post-slavery America by the legalities of Jim Crow, Black Codes, and the denial of attending even white schools. This value of education was the impetus to Brown vs. the Board of Education.

           

            “The American Slave Coast:  A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry” also goes into contemporary issues such as Ferguson and Charleston Massacre at Emanuel AME Church.

            To me, the Sublettes’ following statement is one of stale realism which has defined and continues to define America’s race problem: “Today, people are no longer sold like livestock in the public market, but the racism slavery engendered has been resilient, having become a seemingly systematic disfigurement of American Society.”

            Every Black family and person should invest in this book, lest they forget. Every white family and person should invest in it to escape from historical ignorance. And bliss.

            As stated earlier, the Sublettes’ work is groundbreaking and is among those few works in this area. They do give credit to “Slave Trading in the Old South,” the work of Frederic Bancroft, a German anthropologist who was born in 1860 during the Civil War and died in 1945, the onset of World War II when Jim Crow was still going strong. Ironically, Bancroft lived when Blacks were freed, when the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were enacted, and when Blacks were re-enslaved under Jim Crow with a wrongly gone Reconstruction period.

            The Sublettes write of Bancroft: “ …[H]e spoke in 1902 with formerly enslaved people, former slave traders, and other firsthand witnesses to the slave trade, and demonstrated that the commercial exploitation of human reproduction was indeed central  to the antebellum system of slavery. ‘Slave Trading in the Old South’ has been largely vindicated and appears as more important with every passing decade.”

And it would seem that the Sublettes’ work will become just as important with every future passing decade.