In Part One we looked at the early days of slavery in the western hemisphere, Part Two looked at the era up to the Civil War and in Part Three we covered the post war era and reconstruction. Please understand this is not intended to be a detailed study of slavery, but a high level view of slavery and the years since. Part Four concentrated on the turn of the century and into the 20th century and the progressive era. Today, we will look at the years and some events leading to the Civil Rights movement and up to today.
Technology always has a positive and a negative impact. The invention of the cotton gin in the late 18th century did not reduce the need for slaves, it increased the need as more and more acres were planted because the processing was so much faster. The development of modern tractors, cotton strippers, and other equipment in the 20th century meant a landowner could farm more acres with less help. The need for sharecroppers and tenant farmers diminished, throwing more black families into desperate situations.
From abolition, to Reconstruction, to anti-lynching laws, the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, there is no radical break in the Republicans’ civil rights history. While not entirely consistent, there is a definite line from Abraham Lincoln to Dwight D. Eisenhower. At the same time there was unwavering opposition to all of these efforts and a similar line from John Calhoun to Lyndon Baines Johnson, the latter being a radical about-face for Johnson and the Democrats.
Women’s suffrage in the early 20th century was also an issue building in support, and that culminated in the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Also in the 1920’s, two men were born who would be influential in the quest for civil rights for blacks and who had very different ideas for a solution.
Malcolm X converted to Islam during a stint in prison. He became a force in the civil rights movement, however his message was one of black nationalism and violence as necessary. While originally associated with the Nation of Islam, he became disillusioned by its leader Elijah Muhammad and his sexual exploits with several women. After leaving NOI, he was marked for assassination and on February 21, 1965 he was killed by three members of the Nation of Islam.
Martin Luther King took a different course, had a larger and more positive impact, yet suffered the same sort of early end. King’s message of peaceful disobedience and his “dream” of integration “…that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” resonated because it made sense. At least to many.
On the political side, things were also building. In 1955 Rosa Parks’ refusal to take a back seat led to a boycott of the city bus system, and the court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education Topeka II (desegregation of education) were landmark events. Then in 1962, the court desegregated transportation in Bailey v. Patterson.
In 1964, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act into law. After 100 years of fighting equal access and rights, a Democrat, a southern Democrat at that signed the legislation. Consider that if we look at legislators in a North vs South, or Union vs Confederacy, there is a clear picture. 90% of the House and 92% of the Senate from the North voted in favor. However, for the South only 8% of the House and 5% of the Senate voted in favor of the Act.
There is a famous quote that has been attributed to LBJ, “I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for 200 years.” While it was not in writing, it was reportedly overheard as it was spoken to two southern governors. One thing is agreed, it is certainly something he was capable of saying. Another quote by LBJ to Senator Richard Russell included in a biography of the president:
“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”
The laws can be changed, but hearts take longer. By the late 60’s when I was in high school I saw very little in the way of racism. There were a few blacks in our school and I saw no difference in the way they were treated. I’ve known and worked with people who were very racist, and there is no reasoning with them.
Despite having racists on both sides of the spectrum who seem intent on keeping things stirred up, such as the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who make a living off of the divisions, we as a nation had moved forward quite well. At least until the presidency of Barack Obama, but then that is not the subject of this article. We’re here to talk about slavery.
Up to this point, I have not defined the term.
Slave: a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.
I would be remiss if I did not discuss modern day slavery as it exists around the world. There is some debate as to the total number of slaves today, from 12.3 to 27 million. We are well aware of the Islamists to have taken sex slaves in the middle east, but sex slavery is very widespread. Forced labor is more common than we know. People are lured with a trip to America from a very poor situation, are chained and made to work with no hope of freedom.
One man who was undercover reported he was offered a 10 year-old-girl to own for domestic work and sex for $100. He talked the price down to $50. In Romania, he was offered a down syndrome girl in exchange for a used car…worth about $1500. Understand that in today’s money, a good black slave in 1850 sold for $40,000. While the world population is much higher, the total number of slaves in the world today is higher than it was in 1850, and that is just in the traditional definition of slave.
We cannot have this discussion without looking at ALL the definitions of slave.
As we look back at the third definition of slave and at the words of LBJ, we should add those who are dependent on the government. Since Obamacare has become the law, plus the government assistance ushered in largely under LBJ, over half the population is living on or helped by a government program. According to census data, 49.2% of the population is on at least one program, and since the healthcare law about 10 million more are receiving assistance on premiums or are on Medicaid pushing us over 50%.
Granted, about 42 million are on social security and Medicare, and they paid into those programs for most of their lives…but they are mandated into those programs by force.
Consider taxes and government agencies. Certainly we must pay taxes. But the tax codes and laws are written to favor some and punish others. Do we really own property or just rent it? If we do not pay property taxes (rent paid to government) are we not evicted? What about due process? If the IRS decides we owe taxes then we are guilty and if we do not prove we are innocent, we are punished.
Remember I spoke of the value of a slave to the master or owner? While some slaves were harshly punished, that was the exception rather than the rule due to the value of the asset, the slave. The government master does not recognize we the people as an asset with any value.
What of the Federal Reserve policy of “Quantitative Easing”, digitizing or printing money and diminishing its value, creating inflation, and shrinking the Dollar by 97% since its inception? What of the excessive waste and spending by the government running up debt to be paid by future generations? What of an economy based on spending rather than saving and producing?
The slave ships are long gone as are the auction blocks where men, women, and children were sold to the highest bidder. Gone are the cotton and tobacco fields full of workers. Yet there are two evil slave owners who now hold a far greater number of slaves. There are those who sell lives for sex or work as well as those who buy and use them. Finally, there are those we elect to go the big plantation, those we willingly send to be our masters.
There is an interesting correlation. The proponents of slavery such as John Calhoun asserted that slavery, rather than being a “necessary evil”, was a “positive good”, benefiting both slaves and slave owners. It is clear that the politicians in Washington believe themselves better suited to make decisions for us than we would otherwise make.
The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. –Proverbs 22:7 NASB
So I see we have two questions to ask ourselves. Do we really want to be freemen? Free as in the slaves after the Civil War, would we be able to make it if we were?