This is a clip from the show America:The Story of Us. In this episode, they discuss slavery, the civil war and emancipation.The whole series is basically just about the history of the United States. Of course , you don’t get the full story of America and some history has been whitewashed and downplayed, but overall I didn’t think this particular episode was bad. What I learned from the clip wasn’t unfamiliar, I had heard it all before…but was there anything that shocked you?…I think its good that they included this part of history in the series because I’m sure there are some people who are ignorant of even what they presented in that video, but at the same time we still aren’t given the full story. One thing I found interesting is that, if you’ll notice, the narrator says “dark skinned men are bought for the fields, light skinned women for the house.” Notice any group that’s missing…how about dark-skinned Black women? Where were they are and what were they doing?
If you’ll read the slave narratives, you’ll note that Dark skinned Black women were a big part of the institution of slavery, they were used in both the fields and the house. They were sexually and physically abused the same as lighter skinned Black women, in fact lighter skinned Black women usually came from darker skinned Black women being raped by white men…that’s where the so-called “mulattoes,” came from. In Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave girl, she recounts a story of a dark-skinned Black woman who gave birth to a light skinned child. When her dark skinned “husband,” said that the child was not his, they had a disagreement and he ended up discovering that the master had been sleeping with his “wife.” The master ended up selling the dark-skinned Black woman away, even though he promised to treat her well. Jacobs writes that her master had at least eleven children by different Black women on the plantation…and I guess he wanted to make the twelfth with Jacobs, but he never got that.
Harriet Jacobs writes,
No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men.
The bit on Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman was good. Also, on a side note, Anna Douglass, a the Black wife of Frederick Douglass, played a huge role in Frederick Douglass escape to freedom.I did get emotional while watching the clip from the series where the family were sold apart. Just thinking of being separated from my mother and the pain that she would feel broke my heart. When you put yourself in the shoes and try to imagine, how you would feel the pain is inconceivable. It is painful to see Black people being so dehumanized and objectified. This is part of the reason it disgusts me so much to see movies like Charlie Wilson’s War and ironically, White Chicks make a mockery of slavery by having mock slave auctions where you have to pay to have a date with a “slave girl.” I find it appalling. But, I’ll do another post on this at a later date.
On a more general note:
I remember one time I was required to go tour a plantation for one of my college courses and when the docent was giving the tour, she talked a little bit about the enslaved Black people that the family on the plantation owned. She told us that even in the mid-nineteenth century, they had developed an inoculation for small pox, you took a cowpox scab and rubbed it in an open cut on the body of the uninfected person and this helped them develop some immunity to smallpox. She said that even the slaves got inoculated because, in her own words, “slaves were expensive PROPERTY.” Never mind the fact that they didn’t truly care about the health of well being of the enslaved Blacks, they were just trying to protect their “property.”
It just shocked me that she would refer to the Black people as property…and so casually. I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way and I know that legally they were considered property, but I felt that by referring to them (us) that way, she was actually objectifying those Black men, women and children who were forced to labor against their will and endure abuse, separation and heartache. It just rubbed me the wrong way. It felt like just by referring to them as “property,” she was perpetuating the propaganda of that time that portrayed Blacks as subhuman and therefore excused the mistreatment of Blacks during slavery because they were objectified as property. I feel like there is a disconnect with some white people between the Blacks who were enslaved during that time and the Blacks of today. They forget that the Blacks of that era were just as human as the Blacks of today…or maybe some white people don’t even see the Blacks of today as fully human…I don’t know. But every emotion that we feel today, our ancestors felt then. They were more than just “property.” Incidentally, we didn’t talk much about slavery throughout the tour, we talked more about the white mistress, her family and her woes.
What do you think?
But anyway, check out the video below: