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American History and Slavery February 4, 2009

Posted by shwaldman in Society.
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I was listening to a podcast from KERA.org. It was an interview with a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Diane McWhorter, who had written about growing up in Alabama during the civil rights movement in her book “Carry Me Home, Birmingham, Alabama: The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.” And as this conversation usually does, she touched on slavery. I think the timing of the interview was related to MLK day and of course, the inauguration of our first African American President. It seems like every time I hear the conversation about slavery in America, it is presented as our legacy – something embedded solely in the history of our country.

I really do not understand this view. It is as if people believe that when the settlers got to America in the 1600s they suddenly thought, “we need workers to farm our fields, let’s go to Africa and buy some.” Slavery is not an American thing. And it didn’t just disappear when Abraham Lincoln tried to abolish it. It still exists in places today. Just like the genecides that occur in third world countries, there are horrible things still happening like this around our world.

Slavery was made illegal under the empire of Britain in 1807. It took another sixty years for Amercians to figure out a way to remove this plague from it’s still infantile economic and industrial systems. As wrong as it was, it was embedded in the culture and the ability of the country to survive relied on slaves.

I just hope people begin to realize that our country was founded by people who had a history and traditions that came from other places. We live in a country based on freedoms that we were not available to people at those times. But the first Americans were not impervious to flaws that their ancestors also had. We have come a long way and progress can be grueling. But just because it has always been done this way or that, or because it is an American thing or a foreign thing, we need to stop thinking there is only one way to do things – that it has to be an “American way.”

… my thought process on this moves to our current healthcare and socio-economic conditions in our country. But I think I will need to create a new entry to express myself on that topic.



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