Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, a black New Yorker who managed to get herself elected to Congress-for-life in a black and Hispanic district in Houston, recently introduced a bill to establish a study group to “study” slavery with the intent of paying all black Americans “reparations.” Among the bill’s aims, one is that members of the study group must have expertise in “African American Studies.” Now, African American Studies is a field colleges and universities began establishing in the 1960s and 1970s after civil rights activists at Berkeley insisted the school should set one up. Their efforts coincided with a movement to establish “black pride” among young blacks. Schools saw an opportunity to attract black students who had access to government funds through VA educational benefits, recently established Pell Grants, and student loans. The courses were sold to young blacks as a means of establishing “black pride.” However, very little taught in the courses is actually truthful – most of it is appropriation, exaggeration and outright lies. For example, students were led to believe that blacks had been robbed of credit for the invention of the cotton gin, electric light bulbs, and steam engines, among other things. A major objective of the courses was to “study” slavery. One objective that became public recently is the belief that slavery at Jamestown is the “real founding” of America, a belief revealed by the New York Times “1619 Project,” a project headed by one Nikole Hannah-Jones, a mixed-race woman whose educational background is in African American Studies.
I grew up in rural West Tennessee, a region torn by the War Between the States, which ended eighty years before I was born. There were people still living in the area who were alive during the war. There were several families of negroes around, descendants of the slaves who had worked the cotton fields on various plantations and large farms in the area. Most, if not all, were descendants of slaves who belonged to the McNail and Strayhorn families and still lived on McNail land and worked their fields. Most had the same last names as the more established families in the area. While my family roots in the area extend to the 1820s, I didn’t know – and didn’t care – whether my ancestors had owned slaves. As it turned out, some did, as did the ancestors of many, perhaps most, Americans whose ancestry dates back to Colonial America – some of my ancestry dates back to Jamestown and Tidewater Virginia, and some ten thousand years before that. Slavery was common throughout the thirteen colonies until they were replaced by states and some legislatures, all in the Northeast starting with Pennsylvania, voted to abolish slavery. Even the sanctimonious Puritans and Plymouth Colony Separatists owned slaves. Slavery was also common among native tribes in North America, and Spaniards captured Amerindians and put them to work in mines looking for gold and precious minerals and in sugarcane fields in the Caribbean. Whites later captured Amerindians in the Carolinas and Georgia and sold them as slaves in the Caribbean.
This article in the Encyclopedia Britannica gives a thorough history of slavery in the world, including the Americas. Briefly, slavery is not unique to the American South. Furthermore, African slaves had been in North America for more than a hundred years before the privateers White Lion and Treasurer landed at Point Comfort in Virginia in 1619 with Angolans the ships had taken from a Portuguese slave ship that was on its way to Mexico. In fact, the first African slaves brought to the Americas from Africa were brought by Portuguese slave ships which brought them from Angola, which was a Portuguese colony – and remained a Portuguese colony until 1975. Portugal colonized Brazil while Spain colonized Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean as well as Florida, which stretched to the Mississippi River. Although Spanish ships weren’t active in the slave trade, there were slaves of African descent in Spain who came to America and Spanish colonists bought slaves from Portuguese slave traders. Spaniards established the community of Saint Augustine in Florida in 1565 – almost half a century before English settlers landed in Virginia – and had African slaves. Spain colonized Mexico and not only brought African slaves to work as heavy laborers, they made slaves out of the natives and put them to work in mines. Portugal colonized Brazil and imported slaves from Angola; they also sold slaves to the Spanish in Mexico and the Caribbean. Making slaves of natives was a common practice of Portuguese and Spanish colonizers. When Spanish law forbade enslavement of natives, the Spanish colonies began bringing African slaves from Spain to the New World. (Slavery had existed in Spain since the days of the Roman Empire and many slaves were of African origin.) The Spanish colonies then turned to slaves brought directly from Africa.
The image seems to exist today of English, Dutch, Portuguese and other European ships arriving off the African coast then disembarking teams of men to go looking for Africans to capture and bring back to the ships. Such, however, was not the case. In reality, ships might remain at anchor offshore from African cities for up to a year while waiting for enough slaves to be brought from the interior to fill their hold. The slaves were not captured by the ships’ crews; they were captured by African tribesmen, often in some kind of conflict. Slavery had been practiced in Africa for thousands of years as warring tribes took captives from their enemies and made slaves out of them. However, while the women and children were carried into captivity, the men were usually killed because they were of no use to the triumphant tribe. (American Indian tribes also took captives and made slaves out of them, including white women and children.) The need for slaves in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies created a market for the men and older boys who would otherwise have been killed – and spared their lives. Myths have sprung up among the black population that their African ancestors were princes and princesses, kings and queens, but the reality is that most were primitive tribesmen who lived in mud huts and barely survived, just as many Africans exist today. There is one account of a Muslim nobleman who was captured in a tribal war in Guinea and was sold into slavery then ended up in Natchez, Mississippi when it still belonged to Spain. Although he was held as a slave, he managed to attract the attention of President John Quincy Adams who had him freed and sent to Liberia along with his wife, although their children remained as slaves in Mississippi. Some of their descendants refer to themselves as princes and princesses.
When English settlers first arrived in what is now the United States, the parties included large numbers of indentures, men, mostly very young men, and boys, who had sold their labor for a period of time to pay for their passage from English ports to Virginia and, later, Massachusetts. (The Mayflower’s passengers included indentures, some of whom were young children.) Some were skilled laborers, but most were not. They were attracted to the venture by the promise of land of their own once they worked off their indenture, although few of them survived to claim their due. England was plagued with large populations of young men and women who were living in poverty. Some were orphans. Some were convicts. America and Australia were seen as places to rid England of them. The colony established “head rights,” which gave land to those who purchased their own way to Virginia or who brought over other colonists and paid their way. It wasn’t until 1620 that young women and girls were sent to Virginia as indentures. The first contingent of indentured women were a group of 100 who were recruited by the Virginia Company, which held the charter to colonize Virginia, to go to America to marry men who were being sent over as tenants of the company and establish families. After that first group of women, the ratio was six to one men to women, although it dropped to four to one and eventually to three to one after the colony became more stable. It has been estimated that over half of the Europeans who settled in the thirteen colonies came over as indentures. Although the demand for indentures lessened after the introduction of chattel slavery, indentured servitude continued into the nineteenth century.
After initially clearing land and establishing settlements, indentured servants in Virginia were primarily engaged in the production of tobacco after John Rolfe introduced Spanish tobacco to the region in 1612. The native tobacco smoked by the Indians wasn’t popular in England, but the Spanish tobacco was, and it soon made the Jamestown Colony productive. Growing tobacco was labor intensive, from planting the seeds then transplanting the seedlings to cutting and curing the leaves and binding them in preparation for shipment to England. Although horses, mules and oxen were used to pull plows, there was much that had to be done manually. Pests had to be picked off the leaves by hand to keep them from destroying the plants. When they weren’t working in the tobacco fields, the indentures were busy clearing land and working in food plots.
Indentured servitude was the primary source of labor in the British colonies, even after Africans arrived. In fact, the first Africans were indentures, not bond slaves. The Africans who landed at Point Comfort had been slaves, but they were traded to the Jamestown Colony as indentures, the same as the young white men who were coming over from England. Exactly what happened to those first Africans is unclear due to the turmoil of the times – the Powhattan attacked the James River settlements in 1822 and wiped out a third of the English settlers – including some of the Africans. They also took 19-20 English women as captives. The women who were not ransomed died in captivity. It is believed that some of the Angolans survived and went on to become landowners after their indenture ended. One who did was Anthony Johnson, who became the first slave owner in Virginia. African landowners owned indentures, including whites. The first slave in America was actually owned by Johnson, a former African indenture who had become a landowner and owned several indentures, white as well as African. It wasn’t until a half century after 1619 that slavery was established by law in Virginia. As a matter of fact, Puritan Massachusetts – where abolitionism would develop two centuries later – established slavery twenty years before Virginia. Other colonies followed their lead, although Georgia prohibited slavery shortly after the colony was established in 1732 and it was illegal to own slaves there for two decades.
The first chattel slave in Virginia was John Casor, whose indenture had been purchased by Angolan Anthony Johnson, who had served his indenture and had become a wealthy landowner. Whether Johnson was one of the Angolans from the White Lion or if he came later is uncertain, but he was definitely in the colony by 1622 because he survived the Powahatan massacre. He had served his indenture and established a plantation in Northampton on the north side of Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern Shore. Casor sued for his freedom, claiming that the Johnsons – Anthony had married an Angolan woman named Mary – had already held him seven years past his indenture. Johnson countered that in Africa, slaves were slave for life and the court agreed and sent the unfortunate Casor back to his black master. Casor was the first slave declared to be a slave because of his status, but other indentures had been sentenced to lifetime servitude as punishment for infractions such as running away. Historians claim that the first African sentenced to life as a slave was John Punch, who was sentenced to a life of servitude for running away from his indenture. Little is known about Punch; the only record of him is the court record of his sentencing, but genealogists claim he married a white woman in 1630 and is the ancestor of the Bunch family, including Barrack Obama through his white mother. However, some members of the Bunch family challenge this view. They believe that Punch was actually of mixed race and was Pamunkey rather than African and his mother was white. It is certainly possible that his mother was one of the women captured in 1622. All that is known about Punch is that he had fled his master, who was prominent in the colony and a member of the House of Burgess, and made his way to Maryland where he was captured. There is no record of him before or after the trial.
There is a problem with identity when it comes to supposed Africans in Colonial North America because the word negro merely meant a person with dark skin, not necessarily an African. There were reportedly some 300 negroes in Virginia by 1661 when the General Assembly passed a law that any free man could own slaves. Whether all of the 300 were African is open to question since “negro” also referred to Amerindians. Some were indentures and some were no doubt free of indenture and property owners. There were also mixed-race people called mulattos in Virginia. Some were the product of relationships between white men, who initially had no white women as potential partners, and Pamunkey women, but there were some who were children of white women who had become impregnated by black men. Initially, indentures were boys and men who were brought over from England to work in the fields. It wasn’t until 1619 that single white women were brought to the colony with the intent of their becoming wives of the colonists. The initial group weren’t indentures in the technical sense; their passage was paid by colonists who had the means to pay for their passage and wanted wives. As it turned out, few of the initial group became part of families. Many returned to England, some got sick and died and 19-20 became Pamunkey captives, although some of the captives were part of a contingent of 100 young women who were sent over to become wives of tenants who had been assigned by the Virginia Company to be tenants on company land.
Some masters treated their indentures harshly, in New England as well as Virginia. Whippings were common and such whippings were often violent. Male and female indentures were sometimes whipped so brutally that they didn’t survive. There is an account of one young woman who was given over 500 lashes on the orders of her mistress because she had run away. Naturally, her injuries were so serious that she died. Indenture contracts called for masters to provide their indentures with food and shelter, but they were often very perfunctory. Indentures were to obey their masters and could have additional years added to their indenture for infractions such as running away, or in the case of young women, becoming pregnant. Pregnancy was forbidden by the contracts and later by law adopted in 1696. Children of indentures were to be placed under the care of the church and the master was obligated to pay for their care while the mother had additional years added to her contract. Fathers could also have additional years added to their contract to compensate for the care of the child. Freemen involved in such pregnancies could be fined.
The 1696 law also addressed the issue of children of which one or both parents were slaves. The status of the child was the same as the status of the mother. If the mother was a slave, so was the child but if the mother was free, the child was also free. If a free African impregnated a slave woman, the child would be a slave but if an African slave impregnated a free African woman, their child would be free. There were a significant number of mulatto children born to white women in Tidewater Virginia. The children came as a result of relations between white indentured servant girls and male black slaves. Some may have been from white servant girls who were impregnated by their black masters. Indentures were considered to be free since they would be upon completion of their indenture. Since the mothers were free, the children were also free, but they weren’t readily accepted by their neighbors and they moved west into the frontier, initially to Carolina then to the mountains of East Tennessee. Some scholars claim they are the ancestors of a group of people found in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee known as Melungeons. Researcher Paul Heinegg did extensive research on black families in Virginia prior to 1820. He discovered that 200 black families were descendants of white women, forty-six of freed slaves, twenty-nine of Indians and only sixteen of free black women impregnated by white men.
By 1700, black slaves were prevalent in the tobacco-growing colonies of Virginia and Carolina. Almost all of the servants and field workers of the gentry were black while 25-40% of the commoners’ workforce were. However, the black slaves were not brought to North America from Africa is as commonly believed. More than 12 million African tribesmen were captured by other Africans and sold into slavery, but all but some 390,000 went to South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. An estimated ten percent failed to make it to the Americas; they died during the crossing along the “Middle Passage,” as did large numbers of the crews of the slave ships. Most of the slaves sold in the British colonies came from the Caribbean and South America, where they had become surplus. Few were actually from Africa; they had been born in the Americas and were several generations removed from their African ancestors. They were African only in ancestry.
While African slaves, or slaves with African ancestry, were most prevalent in the tobacco-producing Chesapeake Colonies, they were found in all of the colonies. New England Puritans imported African slaves to supplement the indentured servants who had been brought over from England. New England slaves had a less rigorous life than their counterparts in Virginia, Maryland, and Carolina, where slaves were used largely as field hands. Agriculture in New England was limited due to the rocky soil and few farmers owned slaves. Instead, slaves were owned by prominent people who used them as house servants. Some slaves were trained to perform skilled labor. (Some Southern slaves were also craftsmen.) Many had been purchased at Northern slave markets as children. The ships that brought slaves up from the Caribbean and South America belonged to New England shipping companies. Yet though slavery was widespread in the North, attitudes began to change after slavery was abolished in Great Britain and by the time of the Revolution, many Northerners favored abolition.
The abolitionist movement started primarily among New England Calvinists, the descendants of the Puritans who came over from England in the mid-seventeenth century with the intention of establishing a theocracy. After it became apparent their experiment in theocracy was a failure, they turned their attention to meddling in the affairs of others. They were very self-righteous people who were notorious for forcing their views on others. Some were Congregationalists while some, like Harriet Beecher Stowe, were Presbyterians. They convinced themselves that seeking the abolition of slavery was a righteous endeavor even though there is nothing in the scriptures they claim as the basis of their faith against it. New England preachers spoke against slavery from their pulpits. Abolition soon became a political issue and was responsible for the formation of the Republican Party. Abolition divided the nation as it caused tension between the Northern states that had abolished slavery and the slave states in the South.
While tobacco was responsible for slavery in Virginia and Carolina, it was cotton that caused it to become widespread throughout the South. Cotton, which is found throughout the world and has been grown to produce thread for cloth since antiquity, was introduced at Jamestown shortly after the colony was established and was found to grow well. Virginia farmers grew the plants that produce the fluffy white bolls but only for their own use. Some cotton found its way to New England, where the climate prohibited it’s growth; the fibers were bought and spun into thread then woven into cloth. Unlike tobacco, which could be bundled and shipped to England, cotton fibers had to be taken apart lock by lock to remove the seeds. Although there were primitive cotton gins in existence, particularly a gin that had been invented in India, they weren’t able to process large amounts of cotton. A couple using an Indian gin could only produce 25 pounds of processed cotton in a day. That changed when New Englander Eli Whitney, who took a job in Georgia as a tutor, came up with a design for a gin that allowed the processing of amounts ranging from small amounts using hand-turned gins to wagon loads using horse powered, then steam-powered engines. Whitney’s design changed history.
Once ginning of cotton became practical, cotton became a major commodity on Southern farms. Cotton production was impossible in the frozen North due to the required growing season, but New England industrialists were building textile mills and were clamoring for it as were mills in England. Cherokee in Georgia and Alabama began growing cotton, and bought slaves to work their fields. Many became very wealthy, which aroused jealousy among whites who wanted their land. Prominent New Englanders purchased land in the South and established cotton plantations, particularly in the Natchez, Mississippi area, which had recently become part of the United States through the acquisition of Florida from Spain. The rich Mississippi Delta proved ideal for growing cotton, and became the destination for speculators from back east who sought their fortune there. The 1820 Jackson Purchase opened up West Tennessee and western Kentucky west of the Tennessee River and north Mississippi to settlement by settlers who sought to grow cotton in the rich bottomlands. The Treaty of Dancing Creek opened up central Mississippi ten years later. The Spanish cessation also brought much of Alabama into the United States while the Louisiana Purchase brought Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri. Cotton was a major crop in Texas, which gained independence from Mexico in 1836 and became part of the United States a decade later. Southern cotton farmers sold their crops to cotton exchanges, who then sold it either to northern mills or mills in Great Britain.
The rapid growth of the cotton industry increased the demand for slaves at the same time that the recently established northern states were abolishing slavery. Many Northern slaves were taken south and sold rather than being set free. Importation of slaves from Africa was forbidden by Federal law after 1806, although some slaves were brought in by way of the Caribbean. An estimated 350,000-450,000 slaves were imported to the British colonies and the United States, but by the Civil War there were more than 4 million slaves in the eleven states that seceded – and thousands of others in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri where slavery had yet to be abolished even though they remained in the Union. West Virginia had a large population of slaves as well, some 48% of the labor force. While much of the growth in the white population of the United States was due to immigration from Europe, the growth of the slave population was due to reproduction. Slave girls and women had large families, often by multiple fathers, a trait that has continued among blacks. Some slave children were of mixed race. It has become common for apologists to claim that mixed-race children came from slave women who were “raped” by white men – uh, huh! Some mixed race children had white mothers, who were probably NOT raped, and black fathers.
There were white slaves. Some claim that Irish and other Europeans were sold as slaves in the Americas, but this is only technically true. Such people were indentures but since so many died due to the harsh conditions they faced in the hot and humid Caribbean they were “slaves for life.” Due to the law of Virginia and adopted by other colonies and states, a child whose mother was a slave was also a slave. Slavery was NOT a matter of race, but rather of status. For example, children born to free black women were not slaves, but children born to black female slaves were also slaves, even if the father was free. On the other hand, if the father was a slave and the mother was free, the child was free. The law in Virginia and other states prior to the Civil War was that a person who had blood other than white – black or Amerindian – to the third generation was mixed race but after that the person was white. The so-called “one drop rule” came along in the early Twentieth Century. Thousands of mixed race children were born to slaves and in many cases the children of mixed race slave mothers bore children fathered by white men. In 1864 Northern papers circulated photographs of recently emancipated children in New Orleans who were obviously white. Although the children were legally white, they had been born into slavery and were thus slaves. Samuel Clemens addressed the issue in his novel Puddin’ Head Wilson in which a slave women who was one/sixteenth black switched her child, who was one/thirty seconds black with a white baby who was in her care. She was later sold “downriver”.
A classic example of a woman who is referred to as “black” who was actually white was Sally Hemings, who is alleged to have had six children by her master, President Thomas Jefferson. Although she was a slave, Hemings was Jefferson’s wife Martha’s much younger half-sister. Her father was John Wales, a Virginia lawyer and tobacco broker who had also traded slaves. After his third wife died, Wales took Betty Hemings, a mixed-race slave whose mother had been presented to Wales and his first wife, Martha Epps, as a wedding present, as his mistress. Her descendants claim she was the daughter of an English sea captain and a black woman, although this is oral history and not documented. In reality, no one knows exactly who she was. Betty and her children became Martha Jefferson’s property when Wales died. Sometime after Martha died, Jefferson is alleged to have taken Sally Hemings, Betty’s youngest child, as his mistress and fathered several children with her. There are no surviving portraits of Sally Hemings, if any were ever painted, so no one knows what she looked like except by oral tradition, which states she was “light-skinned and good-looking”. Portraits painted in her memory show her with Negroid features and a swarthy complexion but since she was at least three quarters white, this is barely probable. For all practical purposes, and perhaps legally, she was a white woman, though legally a slave. Her black ancestry went back to the third generation, but she wasn’t a black woman.
Blacks like to claim that slaves did everything manually, from tilling the ground to harvesting the crops. In truth, heavy labor such as pulling plows was done with draft animals, as had been common in Europe for centuries. While tilling may have been done by hand in the early days of the Jamestown Colony, those doing the tilling were white indentures. Plows pulled by oxen were in use by the time of the Roman Empire, and although the plow might be made of wood, they had steel tips. John Deere came up with the all-metal plow, but it was an improvement on plow design, not the invention of the plow itself. Farmers used horse-drawn drags made of heavy timbers, often with steel spikes driven through them, to break up the clods and smooth the ground to make the fields ready for planting. Granted, there was a lot of manual labor involved in planting, going through the fields with hoes to remove grass and weeds and harvesting in the fall. Tobacco had to be cut and cotton had to picked from the bolls. Original cotton gins were turned by hand, but they were soon replaced by commercial gins that used horses or mules – and later steam engines – to power the machinery. However, growing tobacco and cotton is seasonal work. Depending on where in the South a farm is located, raising a cotton crop takes place from about March with the preparation of the ground to October when the cotton is picked. Far from being back-breaking work, picking cotton can be categorized more as tedious. Tobacco season starts in the winter when seeds are planted in a protected area, but tobacco is harvested at about the same time as cotton.
Another common image is of slaves picking cotton while an overseer stands over them with a bullwhip to keep them in line. While this may have been true on some large plantations, many cotton farms were small by comparison and the owners and their families worked in the fields with the slaves. Yes, slaves were sometimes whipped, but whipping was a common form of punishment throughout the world into the Twentieth Century. Thievery and other crimes were common among slaves, so much so that mounted “patrols” went around the slave dwellings each night to keep order. Stealing was punishable by whipping. Whipping was punishment, and there is no doubt that some slaveowners went too far, just as the masters of white indentured servants sometimes did, but in many, if not most, cases such punishment was justified. An image of a slave with scars on his back from whipping made the rounds of Northern papers during the Civil War but none of the papers reported what the man had done to get whipped. Sailors were whipped and soldiers were whipped for infractions. The common image of whipped slaves comes from abolitionists, particularly Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose only experience south of the Ohio River was a visit to Washington, Kentucky to avoid a cholera epidemic in Cincinnati and whose accounts of slave life came from runaways. The Beecher’s were a famous Puritan family with a reputation for advocacy. Her father was a controversial Presbyterian minister who left New England for Cincinnati to run a Calvinist college and Harriet joined him there. During her four years in Cincinnati, she witnessed debates on slavery at her father’s school. However, Stowe didn’t begin work on her famous work until fourteen years after she left Cincinnati and returned to New England.
Another myth is that slaves were fed table-scraps, like dogs. Actually, slaves grew their own food as well as food for their master’s table. It wasn’t in the master’s best interest to starve his or her slaves because malnourished slaves were of no worth. Incidentally, the large plantation with a large slave population was only common in parts of the South. Many slaves were owned by small farmers or individuals and as often as not lived in the same quarters and ate the same food as their owners. My relative filled out a Civil War pensioners’ questionnaire in which he was asked about slaves in his family’s household. He said his family owned thirteen slaves of which one was a young girl who was taught to sew and who lived in the house with the family. He also said that he, his father, and brothers worked in the fields alongside their slaves.
There were slave revolts, or attempts at revolts, especially after slaves in Haiti revolted against their French masters and killed many. The most famous is that of Nat Turner, a slave in Southampton, Virginia, who led a revolt in 1831 that took the lives of some 55-65 people, most of whom were white. Turner had been taught to read and write as a boy and claimed to be a preacher. He was also delusional. Turner claimed to be seeing visions and after he became an adult, he convinced himself that God had chosen him to lead American slaves out of bondage. But rather than convincing Pharaoh to let his people go, Turner, a supposedly Godly man, convinced other slaves to rise up and kill every white person they came across. Turner himself bludgeoned a young white woman to death with a piece of wood. His rebellion was quickly put down. For one thing, most of the slaves were opposed to it and refused to join him. Whites quickly organized to combat the insurrectionists and they were quickly subdued and were subsequently shot or hanged. Unfortunately some 200 other blacks who had not been involved also died. The result of the rebellion was that state legislatures passed laws restricting slaves to prevent future uprisings.
Denmark Vesey, a freedman in Charleston, South Carolina, plotted a slave revolt nine years before Turner’s spree modeled on the successful uprising in Haiti. Vesey had been born into slavery but had purchased his freedom with funds he won in a lottery. He opened a carpentry shop in Charleston and became prosperous. He hatched a plot to have slaves rise up on the French Bastille Day and kill all the slave owners and “liberate” the city then load onto ships crewed by black sailors and sail away to Haiti. However, two of his followers leaked word of the plot and the authorities came down hard. A hundred and thirty-one men were arrested and 67 were convicted of plotting a rebellion. Thirty-five were hanged. Among them was Vesey, whose accomplishment was to cause authorities to impose strict measures on the slave population. The AME church he attended and where he advocated for his rebellion was burned to the ground.
There was also a planned uprising that was supposed to take place all over the entire South. The plot was engineered by a white “nigger-stealer,” a man who would convince slaves to run away and let him sell them again, then run away and keep repeating the procedure until the slave had become too recognizable, at which point he would kill him and slit his belly open, then fill it with rocks and sand and sink it in a river. The man’s name was John Murrell. Murrell grew up on the Natchez Trace in Williamson County, Tennessee where his family operated an inn. His father was a Methodist evangelist who was constantly away from home, and his mother was a whore who taught her children to steal. She’d have the boy hide in a bedroom where she would service a customer at the family’s inn, then when the man had fallen asleep, the boy would sneak out of his hiding place and steal the man’s poke. He was convicted of stealing a neighbor’s horse when he was 16 and was branded and sentenced to a term in jail.
Somewhere along the line, Murrell met a man named Crenshaw, who may have been an Illinoisan who captured runaway slaves and sold them “down the river” in Tennessee and elsewhere. Murrell and Crenshaw cooked up the idea of organizing a “mystic confederacy” of likeminded men who would organize a slave revolt then go into the plantation houses and plunder the valuables. Murrell’s plan fell apart when he stole slaves belonging to an elderly neighbor in Denmark, a community southwest of Jackson, Tennessee. The neighbor prevailed on a young man who had formerly lived in the area and was there on a visit to help get the slaves back, as he and his wife depended on them to take care of them in their old age. The young man, Virgil Stewart, followed Murrell toward Arkansas and caught up with him at the Hatchie River. He rode along with Murrell, who revealed his plans as they crossed the Mississippi into Arkansas and met up with some of his cohorts. Stewart went back to Denmark and told the neighbors what he had heard. They went to the authorities and Murrell was arrested and jailed in Jackson, Tennessee. His wife broke him out of jail, and he made it as far as Muscle Shoals, Alabama where he was recognized by a slave who turned him in. He was tried and convicted and spent most of the rest of his life in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. There appears to have been truth to Stewart’s account of the impending slave revolt, because some slave women in Mississippi were overheard talking about an upcoming revolt and how pitiful it would be to kill the little white boy they were caring for. The authorities were called, and they interrogated the women, who pointed fingers at male slaves. Some white men were also implicated. Several slaves were hanged, and the South-wide revolt never came to pass.
Black activists gloss over black slave ownership, probably because it causes problems with their claim that slavery was racial. The facts are that ANY free colonist, regardless of race, could own slaves, and many blacks did. This right continued in the United States. Former African indentures bought indentures of men and women who came over from Europe as well as indentures of Africans. The first slave in America, John Casor was owned by Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary, who were former indentures who had become successful land owners and owners of indentures. The Johnsons were one of thirteen free black families living in Northampton on what is now the Eastern Shore. Slave ownership by free blacks accounted for a significant portion of the slaves owned in the United States right up until the Civil War. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since slavery was common in Africa and the slaves shipped to the Americas were mostly captured and sold by other Africans. Black activists attempt to pass this off by claiming that blacks bought members of their family, but this doesn’t explain the black slave owners who owned dozens of slaves. Some slave traders were black. Some slave owners were mulattos who had been given property by their white fathers (and mothers.) Many became quite successful and owned large plantations. This was particularly true in Louisiana, which had a unique culture. Originally established by French settlers who brought in African slaves, it was owned for a time by Spain, then France again but managed by Spain until Thomas Jefferson bought it. Mixed marriages were common and led to the Creole culture. There were so many black slave owners in the state that they formed troops to support the Confederacy. Charleston, South Carolina also had a number of black slave owners, some of whom were quite wealthy.
As the abolitionist movement grew, it became apparent that something needed to be done. Many prominent Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, believed that blacks should be sent elsewhere. Britain began sending “poor blacks” to Sierra Leon in 1787. The American Colonialization Society was founded in 1817 with the intention of moving free blacks back to Africa. The problem was that few blacks wanted to go. To them, Africa was the place where their ancestors had come from and it was rife with problems, including the hostility of the native tribes. Still, the society managed to get enough who were willing to go to establish a colony, which they named Liberia. Less than 5,000 free blacks went to Liberia and less than 2,000 of them survived the disease, lack of food and native hostility that plagued them. Still, the idea of shipping freed slaves somewhere else continued. Abraham Lincoln wanted to send freed slaves to South and Central America but he couldn’t find support for his plans among black leaders.
As an institution, slavery was doomed. It would have ended by the mid-twentieth century, if not sooner, due to mechanization. Slaves cost money to buy, feed and house. Sick and elderly slaves were a liability, although slave owners took pains to take care of their older slaves. The first practical steam engines were developed in the early eighteenth century and by the turn of the nineteenth century, steam was used to power sawmills and cotton gins, tasks that had been done by hand, then horse/mule power. Steam engines were powering steamboats and railroads by the early 1800s and it was only a matter of time before they would be adapted for farm use to pull plows and other farm implements. The first farm tractors made their appearance only three years after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. The last task in cotton production done by hand was picking, The first patent for a mechanical cotton picker was recorded in 1850, eleven years before Lincoln’s election and the resulting secession of the Southern states. However, it wasn’t until just before World War II that cotton pickers went into production and even then it wasn’t until the 1960s that they went into wide use because of their cost. Once cotton pickers became common, share cropping, which some say replaced slavery, came to an end. It is no coincidence that the beginnings of the civil rights movement coincides with the end of sharecropping.
 The majority of student loan defaults are by blacks, who found that degrees in African American studies are practically worthless. Those with such degrees are primarily academics, journalists, and activists.
 In the spring of 1972 I attended the Military Airlift Command NCO Academy. My roommate was a young staff sergeant from Travis AFB, California where he worked in the “social actions” office. (Social actions was a recently established Air Force program that was supposed to address social and drug problems in the Air Force.) He was studying African American history in his spare time. He told me that in South Africa settlers had used pygmies for target practice. The trouble is, there WERE NO pygmies in South Africa! Pygmies are found in the Congo region, 1,500 miles from South Africa.
 After the British established colonies in the Caribbean, they brought in indentures to work the fields. After it became apparent workers from cold climes were unable to stand up against the hot and humid conditions, they resorted to African slaves.
 There seems to have been two groups of women sent to Virginia in 1620 and 1621. One group was intended as wives for the gentry while the second was made up of indentures. However, a few women were already in the colony, having come over with their husbands as early as 1609, two years after the colony was established.
 The Virginia Company was one of two companies that had been chartered to settle North America. The Virginia Colony’s charter extended north to the Hudson River while the Plymouth Colony was from the Hudson north to Maine. The Mayflower passengers had a contract with the Virginia Company but after reaching land at Cape Cod, they decided to settle in that area rather than continuing their journey.
 Mules are hybrids produced by breeding a mare to a donkey. The resulting mule was stubborn, but was stronger than horses and more able to withstand hard work.
 Actually, the blacks on the White Lion were not “sold,” they were traded to the Jamestown colony for provisions.
 Genealogy is pseudo-science. Genealogists look at court and other records and interpret them to suit their conjecture. Considering that the number of ancestors a person has doubles with each generation, it’s impossible to establish an accurate record. Amateur genealogists come up with lists that have no basis on fact. I once found a genealogy of another West Tennessee family which claimed descent from my great-grandmother, who died in her early thirties. The “genealogy” acknowledged her marriage to my great-grandfather but had her having children by their ancestor when she was, in fact, married to my great-grandfather at the time of their birth. She died, probably of infection, after the birth of my great-aunt.
 It is likely that the original Bunch family was white, but there are some members of the Bunch family today who show sub-Saharan African in their DNA, if the tests are to be believed. They may be descendants of mulatto children who had white mothers.
 The ancestry of the Melungeons is uncertain. They are known to have been in the mountains since the late eighteenth century. No one knows where the name came from, although some believe it came from the French word “mélange,” which means dark. Many believe their ancestors were Portuguese or Muslim sailors who were shipwrecked in the Carolinas and made their way inland.
 This is because there were few black women in Virginia while there was an increasing number of young white women coming over from England as indentures. Of the 20-odd Angolans who came in on the White Lion and Treasurer, only three were women. African tribes kept women and children for themselves and sold the men and boys to ship captains. Black indentures and, later, slaves had access to white girls because they were owned by the same masters and lived and worked together. Former indentured black men purchased indentures, including white women.
 Simon Legree, the cruel slave master in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was a New Englander who owned a plantation in Louisiana.
 The claim is based on the tradition of Sally Hemings’ descendants. DNA testing found only that one of her children likely had Jefferson DNA, but did not specify that it came from Thomas.
 Having grown up on a farm in West Tennessee, I have hoed and picked plenty of cotton.
 Black activists claim the “patrollers” are the originators of police. Actually, the first police in the United States were in Memphis, Tennessee.
 She is supposed to have attended a slave auction in nearby Maysville and “scholars” theorize that the experience had a profound effect on her.
 Rev. Beecher forbade any more debates, and the offended students left the school and went to Oberlin, an abolitionist school in northern Ohio.
 Murrell was syphilitic and died soon after he was released from prison.