thumbnail of Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; 
     Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell
    University. 1 of 4
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
america's immigration system or deception of history and modern times is built around the idea that history is a written record that wasn't always the case that wasn't the case with the africans and early in his tv appearance it was not the case for them as well africans tell their history through word of mouth over generations and the oral tradition becomes the chronicle of the lives of the people in the same way that the written word becomes the chronicle of europeans and the africans become extremely skilled at recreating their history and handed down from generation to generation and this becomes for them as important a way of telling their lives through time as the written record is for europeans rob portman
says there's a rare sense of everyone's past is central to the concept of themselves central to their identity and their central to how they are going to pass on their identity to the children so the past is important and the african past has been considered the ritchie vocal because africans for the most part came from an oral tradition we know now that that is not true that you can recover the past of people of african descent beginning and africa and one on the way through to america and we can do that through the oral tradition as well as through some of the written records that africans themselves left once they learn to read and write as well as read you
through the lines of some of the records left by the europeans when they encounter the africans and when the enslaved him so a lot of americans pass the idea of american history and then they can study on a journey of studying that history given them many different people are now considered american people today and how do we continue to treat to discover the story literally america the american people need to be and studying the history of people in america think the first thing you have to do is recognize that each group who came to america had a past and that that past impacted their history once they got to this country for africans you can recreate
the past the staff members who is it while most exciting things about studying american history is the study of the convergence of various peoples in various cultures into a new land and to land that none of them are familiar with and how they create a new culture how they interact how they exploit each other how they rise above that exploitation it's the kind of history that i don't think any other nation hands because it is a mall tae cultural and diverse history and was people from various cultures have come together to create something that is completely new
in this talk about race slavery and the end result of that would be the prison slick look at me now physically or has it a slave is a piece of property and objective terms of slavery someone who has dominated by another person a slave is someone who is essentially has no authority over their own person and i think that the key word in and slave mart is property i'll you have no life of your own as far as the person who owned she was concerned slate recently is that part of the world years generations after generations and that what makes
america it's different from american statement that it has been an experience to support all slavery from time immemorial has involved in slaving people who are different for one reason or another from you and this was the case in africa this was the case in other parts of the world so we know slavery is part of human experience slavery in the americas was different because for one thing it was based on race for another it was based on economics and there was a sense that the enslaved people we're not human so that slavery in america developed an attitude around it which was designed to
make everyone who was not enslaved feel that the natural condition of the people who were enslaved was bondage house said it was a solution to the debt of america america died in seven separate slavery find freedom from slavery and american slavery evolved almost as soon as the nation or the american slavery evolved as soon as the europeans began to colonize in the americas and the concept of bondage was brought over with them
along with the idea that there would be a group of people who were not going to be and by that so the idea of freedom goals along with the idea of non freedom to some extent you're right businesses american freedom has historically been tied to advantage i think the bigger question is did it always have to be that way and you have free people and at the same time have people who are on free and certainly i think that you can come this was a society in which a
small group of people felt that for whatever reason they themselves should be free and a large group of people would be unfairly as to whether or not that is this situation in which people that it's a natural concept of having free and i'm free i really don't think that is the case i think that the concept of non free has had as its base the idea that you want to create an inequality so that one group or one individual can have more than the other the treatment is something that tack can be available to everyone unless you get in a situation where you want more than other individuals and again this is a a process that is historical not only in the united states
are in america but in other countries as well early america slavery and freedom did exist side by side in this country i think the issue is did it always have to be that way and the early history of america indicates that it probably did not we have instances of africans who in the early period of virginia and carolina history were servants possibly slaves but at some point in their lives were able to obtain freedom obtaining land and live as free people now why couldn't that situation have been more pervasive and i think the answer lies in the
maximization a profit and it became a system in which slavery would allow certain individuals more profit than a situation where freedom was pervasive and i think we are all know slavery his family owned slaves so he had some sense of what bondage would be like within his own environment in his own world so yes he's very distraught he's in despair over being captured and enslaved in africa but he has some sense what bond is that africa will mean for him as a boy and over the period of months when he changes colors we have a sense of what slavery in africa was like he is not treated badly and in some situations he is treated kindly in one situation he is me the companion of a rich man
and hopes its nature in one situation he's made the companion of a son of a rich man and is treated very well doing everything that the other children do in the family with the exception of eating at the table as enslaved child he could not eat with the free people but other than that his life as a bomb person as a child and bondage was very similar to that of the other children so his concept of enslavement was one in which the enslaved people we're human enslaved people worked right alongside with the people who owned them and slave people and some cases could on property they could aspire to higher status so there was some flexibility in the system of bondage that's what quijano was familiar with
so israel is very dangerous martha stewart it's a crossover episode like we almost narrative is a fascinating discussion of two kinds of bondage it's a fascinating discussion a child becoming a man in a situation upon that it's a fascinating discussion of a man who moves from an african world and to an american world and then into an atlantic world and it gives us a sense of how cosmopolitan quijano became by the time he was in his early twenties he was a free man and
we have a sense from pat guinan all of what was possible for an african if they have the kinds of opportunities that he had this is early american history narratives like that we honor our providers with a firsthand account of what slavery was like and africa and a firsthand account of the middle passage what that was like to be in the hold of the ship the death desolation provides us with a firsthand account the sale the inspections that goes on an individual is transferred from one trader to an owner so it gives us a sense of the african world from an african point of view and then it gives us a sense of
what happens to an african when they come to america and the kinds of call to all exposures that they have the kinds of desires that they have indeed the effort to become american which i think is is part of that plea on those quest he really does want to become part of this new world this is weekend edition if we didn't have a narrative of it we all know what we have a history of what that statement was like in africa and what the early statement was like in america from an african perspective and i guess the larger question would be then would we have that early black history
and in some ways we would have a firsthand account of the kind of intense detail which we get from ed quijano but i think we also have to always remember that africans brought their history with them in their persons and that they passed on to their children what that life was like so we might not have to be on those written record but we would have the oral record of the africans it's b here it is each group probably eat ethnic who probably has its own sense of what we call it the center's him
the africans were probably no different from the europeans in that sense if we are no talks about his fear the whites because of the long hair because they were hairy people and because of their skin he had never seen people who look this way the europeans were repulsed by the color of the africans especially the english the portuguese and spanish had the experience of morsi africa the moors were lighter skinned but they were africans for the english it was quite shocking to see people who were actually almost black arm and for them that he spoke of a kind of inferiority i think by the same token the africans we're surprised by the europeans and by the way they looked and down
thought that they looked rather unfortunate they talked about their red eyes to talk about there haring it's almost animal looking so each group brought their own prejudices to those early encounters is giving to those practices are the beginnings of when recessions i think that the centers and racism are different you can look at your own ethnic group in a more positive light then another ethnic group but still not considered that ethnic group so far inferior that they deserve a different the sale or social economic status then you in your ethnic group so i think that there's a difference between those two concepts
it's because because because the first motivation for europeans and africans encounter in each other was for trade and that traded first was a gold rather than human beings it developed into a trade in humans when the europeans began to settle in america began to colonize began to develop when patients arm began to want to set up an economy that would allow them to accumulate large amounts of wealth so one way of doing that was to create a planting plantation system and british the british mainland and the need for labor to create that kind of a system a minor crops system is what fueled the development of african slavery
that it's because the piece be the early relationships between the european to the africans was among elites traders priests people who were very important african society and this relationship was essentially one between two equals to elites who want to get together for trade and what's that come on people are caught as the people who are going to people america the poll was appointed talk about hell the peak
this is weekend edition these relationships are based on its was a european seconds turned the desire to to trade first in gold and textiles later and human cargo for africans it's mainly wanting to get extras not necessities and it is a trade among elites in the effort between the europeans and african he leads because europe was more technologically advanced in africa africans are in a situation where they can get goods that they don't have you can get guns along they also want a different kind of textiles they can get from the europeans and borrows a more sophisticated kind of iron nothing that is really essential to
african culture are african survival or the africans economy but it is something that they want it is essentially a desire that they have to have european goods which in some ways they considered superior to their own economically the strait is not really benefiting africa but it is a trade that is controlled by the africans they're very careful not to allow europeans into the interior so they consider themselves the equal and they're going to make sure that the europeans do not infiltrate their land so they're there and they're stress a traveling on a new war crimes year began government's come close to the port and the british house slated to get this the changes and
training centers and to engage voters the african slave trade as modernizing the western world at a very rapid rate because it is allowing the europeans to create these economies in america these mano crops to develop to create allies middle class that ultimately is going to be the class that industrialized isn't creates the american revolution in this industrial city the atlantic slave trade was a very important process and speeding up the modernization of western society the trade opened up america it created large plantations it created a large profit system and recalls for profits that was later able to be translated into commercial and industrial development so the slave trade
created a huge amount of profits and those profits at first track records will and then later invested in tech industry as europe began to develop technologically at a higher and higher level without the capital that came from the exploitation and america they would've been able to do this without the african labor they wouldn't be able to do this song for the country or you know and they're terrible what's so difficult most africans are not really the way air of what's happening globally although some of them are some of those in west central africa such as those in caldwell i am direct communication with europe through the church sold
some of them are sophisticated enough to know what's going on suppose but that we are now gives us probably our most vivid firsthand account from an african of what is happening to africans on the ships in that passage that passage week on the middle passage the despair the anguish is something that he writes about and even more significantly i think is the bonding that takes place and it's a kind of bonding that at the time it's happening no one is probably aware of because they're in such despair but something is going on in the holds of the ships went africans various cultures from
various language groups various classes our put an an identical situation and there is no elite and everyone is being tortured in this situation and it creates a kind of bonding that is probably the first step toward the development a sense of people who had that becomes african american that we are now is america into the despair that isolation the stench the death the fact that people are unable to stand that there's probably two or three feet between the top of the ship and a person's head we get a sense of what
is credible terror the africans were experiencing too the eyes of that we are now is for the african crews weren't shows up to that one went to him at that point before africa is being brought to the coast were different people's they were african they were dark skinned they had some calls for similarities over geographical regions but they saw themselves as individual groups of people they saw themselves probably not having that much in common which is one
reason and slave mint and africa took the form which it did because it was a kind of enslavement and which people who were captured were different and so they could be captured and they could be held and a kind of pundits because they were not part of that lineage so they saw themselves as unique people from each ethnic group not in the sense that european southern europeans group them together admittedly that is not the way they saw themselves the wall off what different from the bomb barra the goal was which differ from the ten day so each group had his own identity that's one of the first things they lost as a result a little passage in terms of the ability of all of this on beginning his
house in and as the middle passage up with these people as they once they lived in the only meeting as a shared experience how to listen to middle passage is a bonding experience and it is the important experience in uniting various african ethnic groups because it's something they all go through and they arrived in the new world having those who survived and many did not but first of all the first thing that united them was the
experience and the fact that they survived that experience so that in a sense was the beginning of the formation of africans as people african american people to the middle passage was that kind of a passage in some ways it was a rite of passage for those who were able to endure it and bound them because it was the first signifier of the common oppression essays for the future they're encountering the european monitors that move through stages of trip harnessing it as their image of the vatican changing the course would change the course that state wells goes mostly
africans really had no sense of europeans most of them had never seen europeans quijano is probably our best example of the fear that the africans head of the europeans and of what was to come in this experience he thinks he's going to be eaten out when he sees a huge cattle boiling and he's relieved when he was told that he is going to be eaten are that he's simply going into a country to work development the reality is a boy and so he is allowed on occasion to roam about the ship as children and women often were so from him we get a sense of the inequity even in european
society and his concept of what europeans are and who they are slim insurers on this journey because he sees the treatment of the sailors alarm the flaw against the fact that even europeans a brutal not only to africans but the brutal to each other so he gets a more sophisticated sense of european society on this voyage so when the surprises and also the idea and this is new for these cactus what what was being the next stage in their new law this new experiences of it
when they arrived in the new world that appeared for sale the first and wanted to save their heads i'm a century reasons and also probably because that way no one can tell their age because will be no gray hair and and they prepare them for sale feed them and i'm far better way than their fed on the voyage because they want them to look sleek and healthy for the sale so this whole process of selling is another trauma for the africans inspection the process of being looked at all over your body and and then being taken away that process also involves being separated it's another separation from the people with whom you have bonded during the middle passage so it's another break in their consciousness of who they are
because they have bonded during the middle passage that is going to be broken and then they're going to be taken someplace else and then of course once again another kind of bonding was going to take place let's ask about the second step back to the early american comics specifically virginia and in sixteen nineteen the first ship arrives with the first africans and pecan will encounter once when one day they come this congress it were where things like what they encounter with a comment from a kick out of it when i really sure where these early africans came from they were on mostly debt ships some portuguese ships
so they probably were from the central part of west africa that would mean that they were congolese or from the golden age of cell and in the process of going from africa they probably stop at the caribbean and from there came to virginia usually the virginia africans were people whom the caribbean is to not want so they probably were individuals who had been exposed to several cultures before they got to virginia and and that was another exposure they'd probably had not heard in english in the early years and that they have spoken portuguese and they have spoken french spoken spanish and once again had to adjust to another language one of the early africans
coming to virginia antonio who was later called anthony johnson gives us a sense of this his name was initially recorded as i'm taunya so we know that he was probably given that name either by spanish or portuguese people that's one possibility the other possibility is that antonio was from the congo and many had been baptized even buy a congolese priest which they did on the coast of the congo and gave him that like nice name so there are various ways in which the early african virginia's arrived in the british mainland some people say that this is not good luck to come to virginia mississippi state in the caribbean or a portion of south america would
make virginia the struggle that skews eternal good fortune in light of all of those house slippers that this was early africans were concerned there were better off in virginia then and some of the caribbean or the spanish colonies because in the early years virginia had not yet developed the repressive kind of slave system that it would have in the future it's also an early years had not really developed that model crop that tobacco crop although it was emerging on the way it had a wooden future and africans coming in might have the opportunity of becoming indentured servants as opposed to enslaved people describe what you know coming together like this one what is the what is the world like the character what is it with that polite while they become withdrawn
the new colony africans were becoming end to a colony on the british mainland one of the new colonies since into wilderness wild animals undeveloped land the words very rudimentary housing a colony that really had not developed yet we're talking sixteen nineteen sixteen twenty virginia has only been in existence about a decade so its very raw and the african labor would be essential to that but the african labor would be and the african position would be developing right along with the colony so in one sense the probably isn't a fixed status for africans coming into this frontier situation of virginia so what was that was not status puts a violent coup and i think that that is what
it is where survival has to be the most important criteria and frontier colony so that these fine distinctions that come to be made between black and white i really not clear yet that isn't to say the scenes are not there but they can't be played out because people depend on each other too much and speaking about antonio anthony its early episode of the ground where he goes to bed and then they're attacked by indians majority leader surprise and it seemed to be a very important moment for
the country antonio's fortuitous in a lot of ways and gratuitous as a bomb person who ends up in virginia for two is in the sense that he ends up on the big plantation and that in this massacre in which fifty two of the sixty people were killed by the indians he survives something must've happened on that plantation that explains his future success possibly and tom you'll save the life of a bit since they played such an important role in his future successes financial success his status in virginia they're there and they are people who are very prominent in virginia later on so on this plantation with the indian uprising antonio may have been in a situation where he saved the life of a bandit or someone very prominent and down that
gave him a position of importance and later on probably was responsible for him getting his freedom his wife's freedom and his acquisition of land and later on his acquisition of slaves himself there's a regional situation to see whether there is as it comes because of the nation calling visit gaza to appear where there is a potential for another kind of society to emerge in the north american teams and couldn't happen really virginia gives us a sample of a way in which the colony could have developed differently from the manner in which it did because the
situation is fluid because it is frontier because there is so much into dependency it did not have to develop into a plantation economy on the level of economics given what i'll do what could she says that other than to return there similarly virginia on one level could have developed differently the frontier situation the interdependency the fact that there were black and white laborers the seeds were there for the development of a colony that had a far more of a community than it developed and slave meant was not a
foregone conclusion in early virginia and given the relationships between blacks and whites in early virginia one can see and i probably antonio is our shining example of this one can see that there was some cooperation that there were levels of understanding and there were as a situation in which the word of an african meant something on the other hand it's important to keep in mind that virginia was a colony of great britain and great britain was a super power and great britain wanted its colonies to provide profit for the mother country and given that larger situation it's difficult to believe that virginia could have actually developed into a colony of free africans and free white people
what was what were some of the issues in all things that you can start changing because it was force forces the invention that question virginia becomes very heavily engaged and tobacco tobacco is a crop that needs a tremendous amount of labor's far more laborers then the region and able to get from great britain the supply of africans in this colonial era seemed insatiable and the african merchants and traders were willing to provide the europeans with as many laborers as they needed so why bother with indentured servants who after seven eighteen to twenty one years if they live that long you're going to have to freeze them when you could have africans serve their lifetime and served in perpetuity
children are able to point to this whole issue of class issues around you know the rising working class origin and coming undone and given that the conditions in the sense of isolation is that there's real concern about this emerging class of white and black workers can to become that person has anything to do with the wind has shifted think you can't discount the notion that black and white servants and slaves were going to unite over their oppression their common oppression we have evidence of them running away together we have evidence of them rising against their masters together they live together they slept together so yes there was a possibility of a lower
class search against the elites so that's a very important consideration for the resilience in terms of wanting to create one kind of labor force is when you really begin to see you know examples of concern around the the presence of the africans in their influence in that colony of all kinds of early court cases does it suggest that there was a concern that this president virginia does not develop its slave codes until the sixteenth sixties however d's your call its do not tell the entire story
and if you look at some of the and for a nation on early virginia in the court cases you can see that white for instance or punished for having sex with negro women if you google slavery has now been codified of africans are not considered different then why do you what people for sleeping with africans other instances of white women who take up with black man having their indentured extended seven years these kinds of colds are in the books and this happens before the sixteen sixty law was codified slavery so we know in early virginia blacks are perceived as different what would how significant it would be looking at these job punch incident and what happens in the church went up in the world what you can
punch when our job to other white indentured servants were caught and punished cents or so this awesomeness when sendak was just going to say that he can the sanctions square to suggest that we know that not all africans generally virginia even among those who came first and sixty nineteen were classed as slaves some of them were indentured
servants but the process of moving from indentured servitude to enslavement was something that was open to africans as opposed to being open to white indentured servants examples would be white and black endangered servants fleeing together and then when they're caught the african and tinted servant been made to serve for life whereas the white indentured servant would have their servitude increased eighty seven years rather than being able to serve for life so we know that there is a difference already even before the colts are actually on the books so it's somewhat surprising the african presidents are coming after six third word is this and it becomes much more gradual increase in the
numbers from african neighbors and in some way that it's contributing to their numbers and in their place carol scrooge in europe do think that virginia is a region was never perceived it a collie mix race people any people different races living together you think that the horse on the causes commentator for english and basically for four election the presence of the increase causing tensions with the us and which are the presence of africans and large numbers in virginia was certainly alarming after those early years because of labor also because these colonies were established for europeans
not to create a situation of multiracial society and once the black and white servants began to mingle and live together in january this created an unstable situation in the colony as far as me elite were concerned they did not want to create a multicultural society a multiracial society they wanted a society that was going to maximize their profits so it was really incumbent upon them as they're like pop elation increased to make sure that there was a break between black and white even on a certain level so the slave codes solidified that art and it was really necessary as the colony grew say by sixteen sixty sixty and seventy that africans be relegated to a specific status that was below whites even below white indentured servants so in this way they old liberated where
tampa to obliterate any sense of uniformity between black and white servants still talk about that house at night the race and and embraces him into the conventions mitchell says when she developed slave codes that are based on skin color on blackness then you separate black and white serving people live blacks being at the bottom and white serving people being white echelon above them so that creates a kind of codified difference based specifically on race as crews begin this is this ridiculous that slavery didn't
change what is his term for the people who wear the difference the sense of difference is always there that doesn't mean it's based on race that doesn't mean it's racism the kind of dictation enslavement in the sixteenth sixties really sort of represents the beginning of probably modern racism because the laws are designed to relegate people of african descent to enslavement in perpetuity on the basis of there being africa so what that means is that an indentured servant and a black person a black slave and no longer equals even in terms of labor because the african is not only laboring for his or her life but
what ever put whatever they produced the children are going to be laborers so the indigenous servant knows that after twenty one years seven years they will be free the african we'll never be free so this creates a standard of difference that is legal and that creates a cultural sense among the lower class whites that no matter how degraded they are they are not is degraded as a black person and the natural order for people of african descent is bondage this also creates problems for africans who were freed but the status being set on the basis of race so racism not only affects africans were enslaved but it affects those who are free as well and i think that you really do have to date the beginning of modern racism with these codification is based on skin color so house how something like this is to shoot them towards
slavery housing and johnson is there anthony johnson situation probably gives us a significant era into this development and asked him what i say they're okay anthony johnson situation probably gives us a significant window into early racial attitudes and to the development of racism when he is in a situation where he wants to retrieve his own slave because he was a slave owner himself his family counsels him not to go to court over this issue not to confront a white man and johnson agrees with that he acquiescence and that even though he feels very uncomfortable because in a close situation he is the people of this man but his family recognizes that he's a black man and he
should not confront this white man in court and johnson is agreeable to visit the perplexed by it to the point where later on he does go to court and he lands but i think that his situation is an anomaly it's not the norm but the fact that his family does not want him to do this they do not want him to confront a white man in the white man's court gives us a sense of the deteriorating conditions for people of african descent and virginia so this is in many ways his positions place was this huge power in danger we're sitting in the sky and that's it's a social disruptions in the early years as he's accumulated this
week in the early years as anthony johnson is accumulating property it seems as though his situation is secure because even when he loses his home to burn down his wife and daughters i given free white woman status so you get a sense of this individual does black man being treated like any white planter and his wife and daughters being treated like the wife of a planter like plantation mistress but i think that his reluctance to confront the court in this situation the slaveholding indicates that his status is changing and the fact that this individual parker fields that he can successfully take away anthony johnston's enslaved man indicates that the system is breaking down for even africans with property
and his he laid on this valentine's day they name angle and it seems that it comes out of nowhere that does is it's a surprise when it was interesting thing about the johnsons naming their farm angola later on is that cross between two worlds that seems to be evident and it's fire probably no one clue into this crust but it's a very important clue because this is years later antonio comes and sixteen twenty one this is his son who he names his farm and color so clearly antonio it anthony has been talking to his children about his african
background his african roots and in spite of the fact that he has become a property owner and a platter and a slave holder that is he has become european i used in that sense in economics it's called chile he still clings to his african roots this is this is what it says using just this kind of crossroads going to i wouldn't this is something that is representative of what is becoming an african american is going to require the johnson situation is probably an example of what will happen as africans become americans this is an early example and the process itself it's really not going to take place for some time because that too many africans coming in too fast for them to really a
culture right but it gives us an example of that duality that is going to be the future of africans in america because they do straddle the fence they straddle the fence called chile in some cases because they're kept out of white society but in other cases because they want to keep their own culture and economically because they're simply the mainstay of the colony the president has been it was great and the commissionaire is probably described the bike community better than anyone at the time nearly carolina they described it as a nation within a nation in which the africans lived and contiguous housing separated from the
rest of society so from that we get a sense of africans living and village form away from whites because they were the pioneers day with people going into this wilderness to cultivate it to cut down the trees with guitar in the kitchen the trip in time these were the people who were doing the work and they live amongst themselves they certainly didn't live in wooden slave cabins as the nineteenth century african american bombs people did being freshly from africa the frame of reference was african so we know from archaeological digs that they built huts made out of clay and covered on top of play with are palmetto leaves and they tried to replicate an african village they also slept on mats which they themselves made from
the rushes and the palmetto leaves that they found around them and they found the environment of carolina similar to the african experience for a wild the hat farce with thick alligators that they were accustomed to that because of the crocodiles are so you find a lot of africans unlike the europeans going into the water waved lives in their mouths to actually fight and alligators and sharks so they were very much familiar with this kind of sub tropical environment that they found themselves in and carolina comes so our cars will be the nature of the europeans africans and an emerging and an urging calm like sub humans
some ways that europeans and carolina were far more dependent on the africans and vice versa the africans brought with them from africa various kinds of skills that are very useful thank you its economy such ally was a colony that was settled specifically to create a planting system of some kind and that it was unlike virginia started with africa it's bye bye baby in dingy cell when you developed it developed african slavery right along with it and before long africans were the majority african settled the region with the europeans and then they spread out whereas
european state in the town's the africans were sent out to to cultivate to cut down trees to build first their homes and then once they had built their own homes then to build wooden structures for the europeans so they were very important in that sense they report in the sense that up until about seventeen twenty else will serve in the militia so they fought indians for the europeans sometimes alongside the europeans they had guns they can hunt they had a lot of autonomy and course they were the mainstay in terms of the skilled occupations and caroline carpenters cooper's sawyers mike smith says some of the skills the africans brought with them from africa they had charge of waterways the women were very important in the marketing so it was as one traveler said to me grill country
hello joni it's called sleeping sickness jimmy the rebel is probably far more african then carolinian but we have no idea how old he was when he came to the colony but we do know that he was either congolese army golan and that as a leader of the rebels his cohort group rollin girl and some twenty yourself sell how does someone like that emerged in the black community the early black community he emerges probably as a leader may have been a leader we have come from a leadership family in africa
may have been able to read portuguese and come and the process of reading the portuguese probably could read spanish are people say that spanish and portuguese are like scottish and english and so he had some skills some cultural skills that were european at the same time his sense of himself a sense of identity and a sense of community with africa there's this growing the african becomes aware of this is his possible in freedom liberty and spanish and spanish territory and how does that information get out they become available to them how they know that this is possible in a place that didn't happen
the african situation carolina was one that i thought came from your ears yet upon africans in early carolinas were far more cosmopolitan than we realize some of them were bilingual to somewhere even try lingle some of them having been born in africa which in the region they were from the congo and golden region had a lot of europeans are familiar with european culture they knew that the spanish were in florida so that also some of them read and write some of the american missionaries said after stone know that some of the rebels leaders were much and those slaves whom they themselves are taught to read and write so the africans had a level a literacy and knowledge that made them away or what was going on
outside of the colony also because of the fact that they were pioneers they win over carolina and this along with the fact that they had hispanic elements in the culture made them aware other possibilities defeat in the congress and now this linkage between other communities as far as awareness of what's going on in that in america tribal is that represent what the indignation was at that
african slave in carolina in the early decades of carolina was the first africans did all kinds of labor skilled semi skilled unskilled also they were in charge of the waterways which was a major network of communication some of them worked on ships so they would transport information from the caribbean to the carolina is from laura part of the south to the upper part so they had their own network of communication given the fact that the europeans depended on them so much that couldn't keep him ignorant this combination of networking to the waterways which is the primary means of transportation along with the diversity of their labor and the autonomy that comes with diverse labor they had a tremendous amount of knowledge about what was going on in the world outside of carolina so corker jenny and for others was there
was that her idea for you know as an escape escape to wear one when his lease was that we just described well one has to ask for an african and carolina trying to get to freedom what is freedom what did it mean to them we know that the africans who comprise the stonewall uprising carried banners and the banners said liberty so we know that they have a concept of what liberty and what freedom meant they were going to st augustine you know this
they were on their way to st augustine because of the science specifically that the spanish had posted offering liberty to any british slaves who got that far so florida represented freedom but also in florida where independent black communities as well so we don't have to think of them as going to the spanish week have to expand our concept of what they thought of his liberty in a do not necessarily mean going to st augustine to be with the spanish it could mean setting up their own communities in florida it could mean setting up another community in south carolina but it did mean getting away from europeans and living on their own well in ny is years ago and because the different ways the angle lenses assassins cullum's
working in the mines what is a staple in this region the region called angola really was the region in west central africa that began and the congo region and then went all the way down to present day angola so was a large region and when the british especially during times don't refer to angle lens they were referring to a region and most of the africans who came to south carolina during this time we're probably from congo which was part of that and golden region but for europeans this was and gold and actually handles farther down but for them and represented a
kind of slave and it depended on what period in history that we're talking about is to what the europeans thought and colin's before stonewall they preferred these so called and gold because they said there were docile and they made good laborers after stonewall that one in one goal is because the rebels so they have really mythical attitudes about various africans some are prone to rebel some are prone to suicide rather than be slaves and so we don't want those that with this kate snow actually could've been predicted in south carolina they had ample evidence that something
was going to happen as they began to tighten the screws on slavery as they began to divest africans of their autonomy and to take skilled africans and put them in the rice fields to take away whatever vestiges of opportunity that they had africans began to react in groups robberies poisonings and so on are so they note that something was going to happen let's don't know is important because it changed the face of slavery in carolina and had ramifications for patients for the colonies as well it solidified slavery in a way that it hadn't been before and probably would've happened anyway but stalin was a catalyst and it created a sense that they had to have a population of africans who were american born they
largely blamed this rebellion on the fact that the africans were african as opposed to being negro that is born in america so the first thing we want to do is cut off trade and they did that for ten years and what economics dictated that they would open it up again into something about opening up again is that they began to import for the most part are different ethnic groups a long way from the congo and the legion and this fit into the whole mythology about which africans make their servants when in fact it was probably dictated by the economic needs and the fact that the africans who they import were familiar with what they're going to cultivate on a massive scale which was rice so stahl know was sort of the beginning of the development of lice kill slavery in south carolina and the concept that the black
population had to be utterly controlled and the legislation that came out of stone or the negro act took away whatever liberties the africans had an even those liberties that they didn't have with the planters allow them anyway even though it was breaking the law all of those things were rescinded new and his illnesses they were what they were like you can pay uva is developed preferences for certain african american groups and they developed an attitude that certain africans had certain
characteristics that were either important to the economy to the colony or detrimental to an angle lens to force don't know are considered the best africans because they were docile they made good servants the eagle would never liked and carolina for instance lawrence wright's about not wanting oswald is trader to send him people because they destroyed themselves the wall off carolinians lived because they said they looked more like europeans they were tall and he had sharp features and they had long hair they like the man being gullible they were hard to get because they were also the traitors because they were considered muscular and big farm in fact what they preferred had to do with what they could get especially carolina because the west indian planters were going to get the first choice because of sugar
it also had a lot to do with what they were cultivating and when the europeans and carolina began to cultivate rice then they begin to import massive scale returns from what they call the grain cost of the rice cost and down and then they developed a whole list of characteristics about these africans that fit their own and atlas ventures i'm watching this is a big change oh after after stall of the trade was seized for ten years once it began carolinians insisted that they get no one goal and because the end goal once had gone from being the africans who were the best service because they were the most docile to the most
hated because they were the most rebellious so it gives you a sense of how ridiculous this whole idea of an african preference was does it and the caribbean plate heightened sense of concern here in the conflict like the margin in virginia the percentages in large concentrations can the stone no era and i think it can be discussed as an era was a period of massive implications was also a
period of rising expectations as was the africans were concerned depression this was the whites were concerned and rebellion and once stahl was sort of part of a continuum there was the massive rebellion an anti gun and seventeen thirty seven and then still know there was a new a conspiracy of seventeen forty one it seems as though in these places where there was a large concentration of africans and the schools are being tightened on them or that they began to resist and it created a fear that evolve into francis into your conspiracy total paranoia to the point where where as in stone you had a lot of the whites killed and an actual rebellion to this stage we don't know whether there ever really was a conspiracy in new york city and
seventeen forty one we do know that countless numbers of africans were burned and hand in their heads put on posts ah so there was this incredible reaction perhaps not even so much to the new year conspiracy as to what had happened in other places and reacting to that they decided that if there wasn't a conspiracy they were going to behave as though it was just to let the africans know that they better behave but it is an instinct here is in fact the idea a lot of oppression against to increase the size of this is mission control and the control coverage ran out how has the law as part of this institution
the process is sort of a circuitous what the africans come up first in small numbers in a larger numbers they become more and more important to the economy but their situation as individual laborers becomes more and more repressed and the europeans have to demand more they resist that hedging in and the more they resist and more importantly become to the economy then the more the europeans repressed and create laws heads them an end to the africans react by rebelling and the wipes are in total fear and rather than create a situation where there is some breathing room for the africans some autonomy they react to the africans resistance and rebellion by tightening more and more and of course the more they tightened
the more the africans rebel yes they do last year the freedom of movement is curtailed for africans their ability to buy and sell is curtailed and these things are important to them it's important to their sense of themselves as people are their slaves physically and they know that but they're still communities of people who live love raise children and work and in vain field that as people as humans as individuals that they have a right to certain gratuities they have a right to come and go they have a right to visit their wives and their husbands honor the
plantations they have arrived to sail the goods that they produce on their own little lots in the markets so as a labor force increases the columnists decrease the amount of autonomy is the africans have the sea africans feel that they are entitled to and and this creates a conflict when they decide that the africans can no longer sell their goods in the market but they can no longer buy from the market when they are not allowed to go into patterns which was a very important place where they went and sold goods and down also janke and socialized when they start these kinds of human activities
communal activities then the africans began to feel that the system was far to a press event as slaves that there was no flexibility whatsoever for them and also course it was the issue of religion the anglicans had attempted to bring christianity to the africans and this was a bone of contention between the missionaries and the planters who wanted none of this africans have their own religious per view which was not christian in many important ways on the other hand christianity represented another form of autonomy for them it meant they could get away from the plantations that meant that they might be baptized in baptism to them meant a kind of spiritual freedom that some of them translated into actual freedom so these kinds of repressive measures on the part of the
colonists maybe africans more determined than ever to resist if they resisted not only in terms of stone or they resisted by running away they robbed many people europeans traveling the highways of carolina often comment on the fact that the rules were full of vagrant africans sometimes pulling them off their horses and taking their horses and robbing them so the africans were in the state people seem to like you don't usually mention porter says it is painting a portrait of african life needs to speak up and say there's a certain needs on those fronts talking about that and how in some ways these reprise
creating this one of the most important methods by which the africans felt had to stand with the freedom of movement africans were accustomed to going from place to place when they were not labor and they're accustomed to having the sundays off to visit wives husbands and children on sundays or to go to the grog shops on sunday so human activity and that represented family formation and community development we're essential to the concepts of themselves as people even though they were in bondage they liked festivals they liked to get together and dance these kinds of activities as a community we're extremely important to them so when the europeans curtail the freedom of movement because as far as they're concerned any time any more than three africans gather together they
were fomenting a conspiracy when in fact in a lot of cases they were simply getting together having a sense of community but to the appearance this was sour part of the paranoia and so that efforts to suppress this kind of normal community development was something that the africans are not going to tolerate and they began to resist an individual as well as communal ways and that this is especially important when they began to import more africans after the moratorium falling still no because once again you have this population of people who were born on another continent and that are completely unfamiliar with this kind of bondage and they are often on the run he really is in europe these unexplained fires
and there are concerns about some of the new movie a ride because your loans and talk about canadians to respond to russian buyers why one is on fire says fires are important for resistance for africans they are in carolina they are new york and when you have a town in which one fire can cause the entire town to burn down then there's cause for concern and africans traditionally have resisted by starting fires they start the fire so that the europeans will run to the fire to try and pull it out and then they will begin the business of rising sometimes that means getting as many africans as you can together and getting the europeans and grew and descending on them by the time that means this is a way to get to the arsenal and the powder while the europeans are busy with the fire
so the fires become a tactic africans as well as a form of destruction it says in part that is because what they set fires incentive for you want to know that we don't know that they set them but fires have that is right yes singing yeah so when if you put your firm one that's happened before that states have fires are ok but solis says the problems was on this response a virus a
seventy foot long the fires the suspected arson in seventeen forty one is perceived as having been started by the enslaved population because the new yorkers are remembering the incidence of earlier times the seventeen twelve rebellion in which africans did actually start a fire and order to law or europeans away so that they can begin the business of rebelling and rising soul when the fires began in new york and seventeen forty one new yorkers automatically assumed that these were started in the same manner and was a way in which the africans were trying to get them to be concerned so they could start the rebellion so they were remembering what happened in the past and that larson explains their paranoia as a result of the seventeen forty one conspiracy we don't know
that there was a conspiracy some people said there was we had a white tower evidence that there was a conspiracy but there's no actual hard and fast evidence that there was even though many africans lost their lives and were accused of conspiring and i was primarily based on this rash of fires that happened in new york that now they're young think conditions are are happening based on the testimony of a woman who is in st louis and talk about about about that but also the idea of what is the sense in terms of just a two justice systems audiences look at
the fact that the conspiracy or the tiny tynan africans to the conspiracy in new york heads down the testimony of a white female servant speaks to a lack of any real effort to get at the truth of what was happening and seventeen forty one and there are probably a lot of other issues going on in new york city at that time that made whites suspicious of blacks there was among the lower classes of blacks and whites a lot of racial amalgamation there was a lot of activity in the grog shops between blacks and whites blacks frequent happens york city was a cosmopolitan place with people from various ethnic groups converging lots of seamen so there was this lower class culture from various ports not only in america but in europe and in the
caribbean coming together blacks were very much a part of that so this kind of culture was frightening to the new yorker's a white new yorkers because this kind of cultural mixing it was frightening to new yorkers because it spelled egalitarianism and it was across racial and it would undermine a system based on race slavery so they didn't want that they were very receptive to ideas about conspiracy and the response must people
would say about you know the future of the common seizures in and that causes the african american people in america because of that huge the new euro conspiracy seventeen forty one really speaks to the separation of blacks and whites and i think speaks to the longevity of slavery and not only in napa sell that in new york itself because seventeen forty one is not that too far from the period the american revolution and yet new yorkers i so incensed over what they conceive of it as a conspiracy that they create this wave of a paranoia that leads to and credible murders and incredible punishments so
it speaks to the whole entrenchment of slavery even in the north and also speaks to racial attitudes as well that they are very much afraid of racial egalitarianism and people in the lower echelons of their society coming together to form any kind of bond the minnesota supreme court and now many people like himself living in america and apart is first generation of slade people you so send many first generation unstable how we win what is what is the level
of change is taking place so in the first or second generation of people of african descent in the british mainland and no longer african they're not american either they're probably more african than anything else on the one hand on the other hand as they're developing this new culture and acclimated themselves to this new culture and so losing aspects of the old culture they're probably in a period of fluidity as far as what they're going to become they have not been accepted into american society and they cannot go back so they are and some ways and kind of a limbo and i think we all know is an example of that when he meets another enslaved person and he doesn't know but who immediately
embraces him and recognizes him as someone from his own country then you get a sense of how far we have no has travelled from his own roots that while he's certainly not and american he has lost some of his africana t and that's something it he can retrieve those internal the way that this experience the experience of enslavement and the change that comes from it begins with the middle passage i think that's the beginning of a departure and from what they were before and that continues as they experienced
various kinds of enslavement and racism so that even inside of himself they're not the same they are certainly not african but they ain't that america american and not really part of a society which they have come to call home and it's an important paradox that the africans are no longer africans and they are not really americans and yet they're looking toward america are keeping as much of africa mrs they can it seems as though they'll looking towards america for the future and that plays itself out as the country moves toward revolution in a stolen car as little as europeans in the european union was a
state for all sides this institution drennan rebellions stone oh i'm for example the africans are as brutal as the europeans but they have been brutalized and in a sense brutality begets brutality so the africans are going to show the europeans no mercy because the europeans have shown them none and it does speak to how slavery can do you know nowadays people in terms of how they see other people for europeans africans in america are the other and for africans europeans or the other and in that sense yes as europeans feel that they can treat africans any
way they want to africans react to that by once they began a rebellion killing everybody and they do that they killed men women and children one has to keep alive however that especially in stowe they spare a tavern keeper why did they spend because he was kind to his slaves soul one has to say that even in the midst of rebellion there was an element of humanism among the africans those who treated unfairly they left alone and the others home they knew nothing about warhead evidence were slave holders and more harshly simply killed so there is all an element of brutality in the sense that this wanton killing but when there's now i said someone is kind and they leave them alone but it's a brutal system it's a brutal world
it has been the first colony in the british mainland was status and six you know seven virginia the first africans to come to the british mainland came in sixty nineteen we know the least some of them were enslaved and we also know that out of those twenty africans who came developed a system of racial slavery that lasted for many generations so we can understand american society in this period without understanding that slavery and freedom went hand in hand and the army about that is that when you and slave or person in some ways you become a slave yourself because masters and slays a natural enemies and an enslaved person is going to find anyway he or she can to be free
however they perceive freedom and that's what the europeans had to deal with they had to deal with a population living amongst them sometimes the majority of the population and hostility they live amongst enemies and as one carolina platter said no we're on earth as mankind so plagued by enemies living within them as we are in our own homes and accountability is a song pick that up the economically depressed of course slavery didn't have to develop it was a system that was upheld by economic motivation by
profit and plain and simply by greed so no it didn't have to develop in the british colonies but there was a larger system that made profit the center and the bridge's main man was part of that indeed the larger system then on that kind of development so within that system slavery was extremely important and it developed because individuals wanted more and the more they got the more they wanted and they did this at the expense of another population doing the labor and the population to the labor and they get well and the better they did it the more entrenched the system and the more entrenched the system the more slavery kept african americans down so that the level of prosperity that the british mainland accomplished was based on a system of bondage and
Africans in America
Episode Number
The Terrible Transformation
Raw Footage
Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 1 of 4
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-k06ww77z32).
Margaret Washington is interviewed about the change from indentured labor towards enslaved labor, Virginians' concerns about black and white servants, the earliest Africans in Virginia, the relationships between Europeans and Africans, Jemmy, the leader of the Stono Rebellion, the idea of freedom for Stono rebels, the impact of the Stono Rebellion and the rise of Africans' concern after the Stono Rebellion.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Release Agent: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: Washington_Margaret_01_merged_SALES_ASP_h264.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 1:49:59
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 1 of 4 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 1 of 4 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 1 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from