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Slavery

The Terrible Origins Of July 4th

The July 4 holiday in the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Anyone educated in this country has been propagandized with lies about patriotic colonists seeking freedom from a tyrannical British monarch. Our minds were filled with tales of Paul Revere and Betsy Ross which erase the role that indigenous and Black people played as they attempted to end true tyranny over their lives. The present day traditions of enjoying cookouts, vacations, and fireworks should not obscure the true meaning of this date.

Juneteenth Commemorated While Total Freedom For African Americans Remains Elusive

Juneteenth was designated as a federal holiday during 2021 by the United States administration of President Joe Biden. This act of recognition came in the aftermath of an upsurge in mass demonstrations and electoral mobilizations in response to the rash of police and vigilante killings of African Americans during 2020-2021. The holiday had been recognized and celebrated within African American communities largely concentrated in Texas and other areas of the South for over a century. After the surrender of the Confederate military forces in early April 1865, the fate of slavery as an economic system was sealed. Nonetheless, then President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with immediate effect beginning January 1, 1863.

Landmark California Task Force Calls For ‘Comprehensive Reparations’

California is the first state in the U.S. to establish a reparations task force for Black Americans. On June 1, the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans issued a 500-page document that traces the history of white supremacy from slavery to Jim Crow through the present. It calls for “comprehensive reparations” for Black people harmed by a historical system of state-sanctioned oppression. “Segregation, racial terror, harmful racist neglect, and other atrocities in nearly every sector of civil society have inflicted harms, which cascade over a lifetime and compound over generations,” the report says. “The California Reparations Commission’s first report is historic,” Chris Lodgson, Lead Organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, told Truthout.

Caribbean Asks For Reparations

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic on September 26, 2020 during the General Debate of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said that [...] the international campaign for reparatory justice, widely promoted by governments across our Caribbean Community and by social activists within the industrialized metropoles, must form part of any serious efforts to achieve the sustainable development agenda […]. On November 3, 2020 during the "Peacebuilding and sustaining peace" debate organized by the United Nations Security Council the President of the "CARICOM Reparations Commission" Hilary Beckles [...] called on the Council to acknowledge the global reparatory movement, adding that while most crimes against humanity were committed in past, the current century will be one of peace and justice […].

On Contact: John Brown, Abolitionist

The painter Jacob Lawrence, in his 22-piece series ‘The Legend of John Brown’, first exhibited in 1941, chronicles in each of his panels a seminal stage in the life of the abolitionist John Brown. The first panel depicts Brown as Christ nailed to a cross, blood flowing from his nailed feet to the ground. The next scenes portray Brown as a man of exceptional religious conviction, willing to suffer financial failure and hardship in his fight for abolition. The middle compositions tell the story of Brown’s plans to free slaves, including his raids that massacred pro-slavery settlers in Kansas, his failed attack on the US arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and the final panels portray his capture, with his head bent, covered by long hair, and holding a cross, his sentencing and hanging.

Jamaica’s Christmas Rebellion

In late December 1831, white Jamaican planters slept restlessly in their beds. Rumors had long been circulating of disquiet among the enslaved Africans residing in plantations across the island. Before they knew it, the island would be set ablaze as tens of thousands armed themselves to fight for their freedom. As it became known, the Christmas Rebellion (or Baptist War, named so after the faith of many of its key conspirators) was the largest uprising of enslaved Africans in the history of the British West Indies, and directly influenced the abolition of slavery in 1833 and full emancipation in 1838.

Where Flowers Find No Peace Enough To Grow

On 13 July 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a landmark resolution on the prevalence of racism and for the creation of an independent mechanism made up of three experts to investigate the root cause of deeply embedded racism and intolerance. The Group of African States pushed for this resolution, which had emerged out of global anger over the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police on 25 May 2020. The discussions in the UNHRC considered the problems of police brutality and went back to the formation of our modern system in the crucible of slavery and colonialism. A number of Western countries – such as the United States and the United Kingdom – hesitated over both the assessment of the past and the question of reparations; these governments were able to remove the requirement to investigate systematic racism in US law enforcement.

Descendants Sue County To Stop The Human Trafficking Of Black Bodies

The unthinkable, unconscionable, immoral, racist, and illegal is occurring in Bethesda, Maryland located in Montgomery County. For those who thought the buying and selling of Black bodies was made illegal by the 13th amendment, Montgomery County, Maryland is challenging that notion. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, the 21st century selling and buying of Black flesh in Montgomery County, Maryland should "disgrace a nation of savages." For more than 350 years, Montgomery County has displayed a history of kidnapping, raping, and murdering of Africans. The County, in collusion with a private investor, has placed Black people back on the auction block and plans to sell over 500 Black remains along with a high-rise building to Charger Ventures.

Protesters Demand Wealthy MP Pays Up For Family’s Slave Trade Past

Protesters demanded yesterday that a Conservative MP should hand over his 621-acre sugar plantation to the people of Barbados as compensation for his family’s 200 years of slave owning and trading on the island. Richard Drax, the MP for Dorset South, has said the role of his ancestors was “deeply, deeply regrettable” but resists demands for reparations. As part of this year’s Tolpuddle Festival, a rally organised by Stand Up to Racism, Dorset, at the gates of the Drax family estate highlighted the family’s historic role in slavery. The festival celebrates the Tolpuddle Martyrs, poorly paid farm workers, who were transported in 1834 for organising trade union activities. This is the first time the festival has worked with reparation activists.

What Really Happened On Juneteenth

If you saw my column about Juneteenth posted here over the last few days, or a previous version on the website of Be’chol Lashon several years ago, or a video version currently presented by Be’chol Lashon, you would know I had bittersweet feelings about the history of the day. I no longer do. I am outraged by it. My change in emotion comes after learning from historian friends that the oft-repeated tale of Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 to inform enslaved African Americans that they were free is pure fiction. Not because they weren’t legally freed 2-½ months earlier when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Or technically freed 2-1/2 years before when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slavery null and void in areas under rebellion, very much including Texas.

Boycott Juneteenth 2022

I believe the reason there’s more disdain than pride is because it feels like we’re honoring a crime – a day commemorating the end of a 2 ½ year hostage negotiation where the captors were not punished yet instead compensated for the inconvenience of slavery ending. Our collective cases of injustice and reparations have been made with overwhelming evidence. Unfortunately, our moral victories aren’t moving the needle enough to ensure that our lives matter. It might be time to reject these trophies of courage and resilience while perpetrators of violence against us get slapped with feathers. No more ceremonies acknowledging injustices if it’s not accompanied by legislation that prevents it. As we have these national “enlightenment” moments of events like Tulsa, where are the laws that protect Black people from the impulses of that white rage repeating?

How Not To Celebrate Juneteenth

Juneteenth was largely a regional holiday celebrated by Black people in Texas and other southern states. It commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston and announced that slavery ended as per General Order Number 3. "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” It is an important event that ought to be remembered, but its true significance has been lost. Juneteenth has become the latest iteration of liberal capture of Black politics, opportunistic virtue signaling, and the intentional misrepresentation of America’s history. Corrupt and avaricious corporations honor Juneteenth and cynical politicians give it great attention.

The Revolutionary Promise Of New Year’s Day

The celebration of New Year’s Day as a moment to contemplate renewal, usually personal renewal, follows the calendar adopted by Julius Caesar in 46BC. Designed by Greek mathematicians and astrologers, its sole purpose was to attain greater mathematical accuracy in the alignment of dates to the solar year. In recent years, Antonio Gramsci’s column that was published on 1 January 1916 in the Turin issue of Avanti! has been circulated in progressive circles on New Year’s Day. In the column, Gramsci rejected the idea that New Year’s Day should be an annual day of renewal and insisted that “I want every morning to be a New Year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself.”

The Long Shadow Of Racial Fascism

In the wake of the 2016 election, public intellectuals latched onto the new administration’s organic and ideological links with the alt- and far right. But a mass civic insurgency against racial terror—and the federal government’s authoritarian response —has pushed hitherto cloistered academic debates about fascism into the mainstream, with Peter E. Gordon , Samuel Moyn , and Sarah Churchwell  taking to the pages of the New York Review of Books to hash out whether it is historically apt or politically useful to call Trump a fascist.

Sweet (And Sticky) Redemption

There is no U.S. agricultural history without the expertise and labor of African people who were enslaved across the South, including the Gullah/Geechee people of the lower Atlantic Coast. But the violence of slavery and white supremacy is tied up with the crops that grew the global economy, embedding sugarcane, cotton, rice, and other historic commercial crops with a traumatic legacy. For the Sapelo Island community—which includes the largest and most intact population of Gullah/Geechee descendants left in the U.S.
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