Monday, August 1, 2016

The White House was built by Slaves

I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook about Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC. Several posted that it was so long ago and she should just get over it already. Rather than see it for what it was, a statement on the progress our country has made, many have felt she was taking it to a racial thing. Not only do I not agree, but I really don't think that a lot of Americans get it.

It has often occurred to me the irony that 96 percent of my ancestry treated 4 percent as less than civilized human beings. I can't explain how it feels to realize that one part of your heritage believed that the other part was savage, uncivilized, and a threat to society. To know that thousands died being forced from their homes. That even when they became educated and christian they were still only "exceptional for their race".

So it's not hard to me to understand how the grandchildren of a Holocaust victim still feel the pain of the systemic genocide practiced against them. Or how the descendants of a Japanese American may still resent the internment camps during World War 2. Or how those who lived through segregation in the south still feel the anger at lynchings and Jim Crow laws. I don't have to be a Jew, Japanese or African American to understand their feelings. I just have to be a human being.

Perhaps it's easier for me, because it doesn't matter that 184 years ago the Choctaws lost their ancestral home, or 111 years ago the final act that took away their tribal lands and divided them. It still makes me angry when I think about it. I understand how it doesn't matter if it was 5 years ago or 50 years ago. The fact that injustice was done isn't restricted by time. How we act upon it however is important.

The United States has some dark history. We have not always treated people of all religions equally. We definitely have not always treated all races equally, whether they were African American, Native American, Mexican, or Asian. We have not always welcomed immigrants with open arms. Before World War 2, they enacted a requirement that immigrants must be able to read and write to enter, stopping an influx of Europeans trying to escape what ultimately was the death of thousands during World War 2.

As a child I remember the arguments over the Vietnamese boat people and letting them in the United States. There was a time if you were Irish, Catholic, Jewish or Eastern European and you immigrated you were considered less than other whites. This country has not been known for it's tolerance and treatment of others. We still are intolerant. We see those who practice hate against people that are gay, lesbian, or transgender. We define all people of a religion as terrorist. We label Mexican American's with derogatory terms. And after all this time, after a lifetime (mine) of Civil rights, race is still an issue in pockets of America.

More people need to actually learn about their country's history, as much of it is never taught in classes in public schools. or even in Universities. More people need to understand that in hindsight history often shows with glaring clarity the darker side of our nation. We need to do better. We can do better. And it starts with understanding how far we have come.


  1. Amen, Jennifer.. I will never forget when I discovered in the early 80's at the National Archives that my 3rd great Grandfather owned slaves. I sat there crying over the evidence sitting next to an African American gentleman who was becoming increasingly concerned about me. I was ashamed to tell him what I had found but he was so concerned so I showed him the page that I was looking at. He told me what a time he was having finding his people because they have no last names or taken last names. They were sold away from their families and he could not get back past his grandmother, so he celebrated with me that I could get further back and as I shed silent tears, he took my hands in his and said how long ago was this and I told him. He said that was over 100 years ago and I can tell by the way this has affected you that this would never be you. You are not to blame for what happened so long ago. I will never forget his humanity in that moment. As I have researched my family and had my DNA done, I have discovered that I am tri-racial and some of my own family were discriminated against. It is a good blog and one that needs to be written. I remember those same "Boat" people coming over and how some of them were embraced and some of them were not. I lived in Ca. at the time and people were so afraid that they would take their jobs. They were and are a hard working people and if we are a hard working people, we can get ahead too. I absolutely agree that racism is alive and well in the US. I love your last sentences. " We need to do better. We can do better. And it starts with understanding how far we have come." Yes...

  2. So it should come as no surprise that up until the late 1950's Scots were being indentured as apprentices in the USA for 2 years for only board and food and on many occasions their Masters didn't let them go after the 2 years were up. Before that, The Irish and Scots were the first slaves before any Africans.

  3. White Slavery: The Scottish Slaves of England and Americas
    April 20, 2009 Don Jaide 28 Comments

    There were hundreds of thousands of Scots sold into slavery during Colonial America. White slavery to the American Colonies occurred as early as 1630 in Scotland.

    According to the Egerton manuscript, British Museum, the enactment of 1652: it may be lawful for two or more justices of peace within any county, citty or towne, corporate belonging to the commonwealth to from tyme to tyme by warrant cause to be apprehended, seized on and detained all and every person or persons that shall be found begging and vagrant.. in any towne, parish or place to be conveyed into the Port of London, or unto any other port from where such person or persons may be shipped into a forraign collonie or plantation.

    The judges of Edinburgh Scotland during the years 1662-1665 ordered the enslavement and shipment to the colonies a large number of rogues and others who made life unpleasant for the British upper class. (Register for the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. 1, p 181, vol. 2, p 101).

    The above accounting sounds horrific but slavery was what the Scots have survived for a thousand years. The early ancestors of the Scots, Alba and Pics were enslaved as early as the first century BC. Varro, a Roman philosopher stated in his agricultural manuscripts that white slaves were only things with a voice or instrumenti vocali. Julius Caesar enslaves as many as one million whites from Gaul. (William D Phillips, Jr. SLAVERY FROM ROMAN TIMES TO EARLY TRANSATLANTIC TRADE, p. 18).

    Pope Gregory in the sixth century first witnessed blonde hair, blue eyed boys awaiting sale in a Roman slave market. The Romans enslaved thousands of white inhabitants of Great Britain, who were also known as Angles. Pope Gregory was very interested in the looks of these boys therefore asking their origin. He was told they were Angles from Briton. Gregory stated, “Non Angli, sed Angeli.” (Not Angles but Angels).

    The eighth to the eleventh centuries proved to be very profitable for Rouen France. Rouen was the transfer point of Irish and Flemish slaves to the Arabian nations. The early centuries AD the Scottish were known as Irish. William Phillips on page 63 states that the major component of slave trade in the eleventh century were the Vikings. They spirited many ‘Irish’ to Spain, Scandinavia and Russia. Legends have it; some ‘Irish’ may have been taken as far as Constantinople.

    Ruth Mazo Karras wrote in her book, “SLAVERY AND SOCIETY IN MEDEIVEL SCANDINAVIA” pg. 49; Norwegian Vikings made slave raids not only against the Irish and Scots (who were often called Irish in Norse sources) but also against Norse settlers in Ireland or Scottish Isles or even in Norway itself…slave trading was a major commercial activity of the Viking Age. The children of the White slaves in Iceland were routinely murdered en masse. (Karras pg 52)

    According to these resources as well as many more, the Scots-Irish have been enslaved longer than any other race in the world’s history. Most governments do not teach White Slavery in their World History classes. Children of modern times are only taught about the African slave trade.

  4. IRISH: THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES came as slaves: human cargo transported on British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the
    hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.
    Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. Some were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.
    We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.
    But are we talking about African slavery? King James VI and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.
    The Irish slave trade began when James VI sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies.
    By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
    Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

    From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade.