Black History Month
A History of Oppression and Resistance
Part 1: From Slavery to Civil War
Revolution #035, February 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Black people did not "come to this country seeking a better life." They were kidnapped from their homes in Africa, dragged in chains and loaded onto slave ships--treated not like human beings but like things, commodities to be traded and used to enrich others. Tens of millions of enslaved Africans died before even reaching America, so terrible were the conditions on the slave ships. Those who survived the trip and were then sold to plantation owners were treated like pieces of machinery. Slaveowners commonly referred to the slaves as "talking tools." That is how Black people were treated for the first 250 years of their experience in America.
The "founding fathers" of the USA defended slavery and upheld the interests of the slaveowners against the slaves. This is true of "the father of his country," George Washington, who was himself a slaveowner, and it is true of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States --men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
African peoples, and the native peoples in North America, were treated as something less than human--as though they were "beasts" or "savages" who never had reached and never could reach the "high level of civilization" of the Europeans. The fact that, both in Africa and in North America, there were highly developed societies and cultures long before Europeans came to dominate these places--this basic truth was denied and "written out of history" by the European conquerors and enslavers.
Black people's own major and heroic role in fighting against slavery is denied or downgraded by the "official histories." The facts are that there were over 200 slave revolts, including the more famous ones led by Nat Turner in Virginia and Denmark Vesey in South Carolina, as well as other revolts that were covered up and written out of history by the slavemasters.
What about the Civil War that finally ended slavery? Once they were allowed to, masses of Black people flooded into the northern (Union) army in that war and fought courageously and with great sacrifice on the front lines--even though they were still subjected to segregation and discrimination, even down to the level where their pay as soldiers was only about half that of the white soldiers! Nearly 200,000 Blacks fought in the Union army and one out of every five (almost 40,000) gave their lives in this fight.
The Civil War came about because of the clash between two different economic and social systems--slavery, based on plantation farming in the South; and capitalism, based on factory and other wage-labor centered in the North. Things had gotten to the point where these two systems could no longer peacefully coexist within the same country.
The slaveowners and the capitalists were battling each other for control of the country, they were battling each other as the USA expanded westward. This expansion was carried out by slaughtering the native peoples and grabbing their lands and waging a war to steal a huge chunk of land from Mexico.
Anyone who is serious and honest knows that the enslavement and exploitation of Black people has been a big part of building up the wealth and power that the rulers of this country have in their hands--wealth and power that these suckers use to further exploit and oppress people here and all over the world. And anyone who is honest and serious knows that for revolution to have a chance in this country--a revolution to do away with all this oppression and exploitation and to change society from bottom to top--Black people must play and will play a big part in this revolution.
The text in this centerfold is from "Cold Truth, Liberating Truth: How This System Has Always Oppressed Black People, and How All Oppression Can Finally Be Ended," which can be found online at revcom.us/coldtruth/.