As I read your Op-Ed in the April 15th issue of the San Antonio Star-Herald, I kept looking for some semblance of balance; just a hint that there was another viewpoint on the subject of slavery. However, I did not find it. Instead, what I found was more of the same ideology-driven historical revisionism which our schoolchildren, politicians and people in general are told in one way or another - every day.
To inform your readers about the historic truth underlying slavery, you might have mentioned the following:
1. About 3-5% of Confederate soldiers owned slaves. The other 95-97% did not. Are we actually to believe that those 95-97% of Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect the Constitutionally protected rights (Yes, it was legal) of those few slaveholders who they did not even know, and had no other purpose in going to war than to fight to “perpetuate a system that never could have functioned without constant, deliberate unflinching cruelty” as you described it? I suggest the answer to that question is “No.”
2. When you stated that we “should know the extent to which the history of this country was shaped by what was euphemistically called the ‘peculiar institution,’ may I remind you that the “country” you refer to was, in the context of slavery, made up of the South AND the North. With the exception of “Wall Street’s rise,” You failed to address the enormous monetary benefits that accrued to northern capitalists as a direct result of the toil of Southern slaves.
I could fill up quite a bit of white space with facts about the % of United States slavers sailing to Africa on ships bearing northern registries; the direct and indirect contribution to northern GDP resulting from Southern cotton production; the % of cotton gins and mills in the north (estimated at 80%) kept busy by the labor of Southern slaves; the existence of northern 1,000 acre plantations, e.g., in Salem, Connecticut; northerners who captured free blacks and sold them into slavery; the year before the American Revolution, when more than 5,000 Africans were enslaved in Connecticut; and more . . .
But I will not belabor such historic facts. Instead, I suggest you invest some time reading COMPLICITY, HOW THE NORTH PROMOTED, PROLONGED AND PROFITED FROM SLAVERY, by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jennifer Frank of THE HARTFORD COURANT.
In the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe, in THE EDUCATION OF FREEDMEN, published in THE NORTHERN REVIEW, June 1879,
“The Northern slaveholder traded in men and women whom he never saw, and of whose separations, tears,
and miseries he determined never to hear.”
Mr. Robinson, you are in a unique position to spread the historic truth. Why not give it a try? In time, and despite whatever might be your own historic lineage, you might just feel better about your journalistic contributions to the greater good in our country.
With all due respect,
Dennis K. Boswell