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FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST - NOTE NO. 5 by Godfrey Vincent

posted 25 Jun 2020, 15:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 25 Jun 2020, 15:30 ]
1. There are two major struggles occurring simultaneously in the United States: The struggle for Racial justice and the class struggle between the owners of capital and labor. This note focuses on the former.

2. This struggle for racial justice has its genesis with the institution of slavery, first in the Thirteen US colonies and then its establishment throughout the United States. At one point in time in US history, the US constitution sanctioned slavery in Article 1, Section 2 of the original constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 of the original constitution, Article 4, Section 2.

3. Moreover, Slave Codes existed in every state that practiced slavery. According to the Library of Congress, Slavery in the United States was governed by an extensive body of law developed from the 1640s to the 1860s. Every slave state had its own slave code and body of court decisions. All slave codes made slavery a permanent condition, inherited through the mother, and defined slaves as property, usually in the same terms as those applied to real estate. Slaves, being property, could not own property or be a party to a contract. Since marriage is a form of contract, no slave marriage had any legal standing. All codes also had sections regulating free blacks, who were still subject to controls on their movements and employment and were often required to leave the state after emancipation (See https://www.loc.gov/collections/slaves-and-the-courts-from-1740-to-1860/articles-and-essays/slave-code-for-the-district-of-columbia)

4. It must be noted that every state was involved. The myth that Slavery was only a Southern phenomenon must be debunked. It existed in the Northern states as well. Alexander Nazaryan, in a Newsweek article, asserted, “We rarely think of New York as a slaveholding city, but it had more slaves than any other city except Charleston. Foner writes that on "the eve of the War of Independence...some 20,000 slaves lived within 50 miles of Manhattan island, the largest concentration of unfree laborers north of the Mason-Dixon Line." Brooklyn was even worse than Manhattan: In 1771, one-third of its population was slave (Newsweek, 04/15/15).

5. As slavery expanded, so did the production of cotton in the Southern states. States like Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana became centers of cotton production and major slave states. Because of these developments, “…. the subordination of black men and women to the cotton economy, shaped the plight of African Americans throughout U.S. history. And as cotton shaped the social landscape, racial oppression shaped its social landscape" (See Gene Dattel, Cotton and Race in the Making of America)

6. This expansion, was not lost on Karl Marx who in 1846 wrote that “without cotton you have no modern industry.” Furthermore, he stated that “Without slavery, you have no cotton.” Even though slave labor aided in the development of the Industrial Revolution, black people never reaped the rewards of their labor.

Rooted in Slavery: Prison Labor Exploitation | Reimagine!7. What did they reap? First, Black People reaped Black Codes. When white people in the defeated confederate states regained political power after the collapse of reconstruction, they legislated laws in 1865 first in Mississippi and South Carolina that sought to keep blacks in subjugation (See Constitutional Rights Foundation “Black Codes). These codes were "an array of interlocking laws essentially intended to criminalize black life", to restrict the economic independence of blacks and provide pretexts for jail terms. Blacks were often unable to pay even small fins and were sentenced to prison labor as a result; convicts were leased to plantations, lumber camps, and mines to be used for forced labor. Joseph E. Brown, former governor of Georgia, amassed great wealth based on his use of convict labor in his Dade Coal Company mines and other enterprises, from 1874 to 1894.”

8. Second, blacks experienced lynchings. While some believe this is a thing the past, it continues. Recently, four black men were found hanging from trees. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), located in Montgomery Alabama, has affirmed that, “Lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation.” Additionally, the organization “has documented 4,084 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, which is at least 800 more lynchings in these states than previously reported. EJI has also documented more than 300 racial terror lynchings in other states during this time period. In addition, for all the documented lynchings covered in newspaper reports, many racial terror lynchings went unreported and their victims remain unknown (See EJI website).

9. Thirdly, black peoples have reaped segregation, known as Jim Crow segregation. This segregation was both de jure and de facto. In the South, de jure segregation existed because it was the law. In the North, de facto segregation was practiced although it was not law. One commentator noted, ‘Until 1964, most white Northerners regarded race as a peculiarly Southern problem that could be solved by extending political and civil rights to Southern blacks. Beginning in 1964, however, the nation learned that discrimination and racial prejudice were nationwide problems and that black Americans were demanding not just desegregation in the South, but equality in all parts of the country. The nation also learned that resistance to black demands for equal rights was not confined to the Deep South but existed in the North as well.”

10. Unfortunately, this discrimination did not end with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Black people continue to experience racial injustice, and therefore, they are in the streets. Since the 1900s to the present, Black people have engaged in all forms of protests, both peaceful and violent. However, in 2020, this new generation of young people are saying, “We are not our parents’ generation. We will….” They just do not want to see Confederate flags and icons removed. These young people are demanding a new America that gives black and brown peoples equal rights and justice.
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