Wednesday, August 15, 2012
On Racial Slavery's Capitalistic Contradiction: In 1965, historian Eugene D. Genovese published The Political Economy of Slavery, which uncovered a deep contradiction at the heart of American racial slavery. For the most part, this contradiction entailed the idea of racial slavery as a capitalistic institution. It contrasted the quasi-aristocratic, Southern slave-holding planter class with the emerging laissez-faire spirit of the industrializing American economy. The persistence of Southern slave ownership, which ran counter to liberating aspects (wage labor, cheap housing, etc.) of American industrialization, was central to antebellum conflicts between the North and South. And as Genovese stated, "The essential features of Southern particularity, as well as of Southern backwardness, can be traced [almost exclusively] to the relationship of master to slave." Such a relationship, with its paternalistic dependencies, inhibited the growth of a capitalist market where independent industrialists and merchants would have otherwise flourished. For if antebellum Southern "planters were losing their economic and political cold war with Northern capitalism," then it was the South's failure "to develop sufficient industry" that offered the most plausible explanation.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
On the Early Black Press: In March 1827, Rev. Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm began to co-edit Freedom's Journal, which served as the first African-American newspaper in the United States. It's founding coincided with the abolition of slavery in New York state on July 4, 1827. Yet one of their primary objectives in co-editing Freedom's Journal was to deconstruct the negative impressions of Africa and African-Americans in the New York press. Although the newspaper only lasted two years, Cornish and Russwurm were able to raise significant doubts in the minds of many whites about the perceived racial inferiority of black Americans. In effect, Cornish and Russwurm were strong believers in the idea that ancient Egypt and Ethiopia constituted bastions of African high culture. That is, ancient Egypt and Ethiopia were on par with ancient Greece and Rome in terms of their contributions to the growth of Western civilization. In the 1820s, however, there was an emerging effort by the American Colonization Society (ACS) to have free blacks emigrate from the United States and recolonize Africa, specifically Liberia. Even though Cornish and Russwurm vehemently opposed this effort, they welcomed pro-colonization opinions on the editorial page of their newspaper. The main problem they saw with colonization was that it appeared to be a panacea for Southern slaveholders who viewed free blacks as an existential threat to slavery.