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     Interview with Norrece T. Jones, Associate Professor of History and African
    American Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University. 2 of 4
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i think that one of the the challenges of trying to understand the institution of slavery is balancing this issue of all the big picture of this perfect institution of oppression with the reality that despite that oppression and subjected to subjugate you know there's people that they're still parents they're still keep will follow for apartments of love affairs have battles and pettiness and jealousies and the particular beauty that any parent has also bringing forth a new life that's the result of a union between two people as a slave well over there is the very mixed feeling that the greatest desire of many slaves to gain freedom to bring another person in this world from a slave's view and prospective
home you're producing a child something that's in your own offspring but also additional property owned by someone else that someone else is going to have the power it of life and death for a father or mother who produces a daughter there isn't even another dynamic that not only is this this child going to be the subject of all of course labour home with no payment but also is going to be particularly targeted for home sex and that we know the end and again in accounts from the words of slaves owned mothers talking about this this fear then home knowing that home it was in an ever
will prosper because every raid not only could fulfill the sexual gratification of the rate this but as a slave owner if there was an hr produce from the sexual violence and exploitation more money in the bank because in that flesh and blood on and any kind of financial crisis or any kind of frivolous desire for just him no harm thomas jefferson who had an insatiable desire for every kind of good weather was wine books furniture in the hard times it to keep want to choke up with all of its glory was the disposal of slave property
now you're both musicians he says he's followed the law family it's important for us to remember that these ideas all of kinship are coming from africa that generation after generation home in this new home heart fly in place that they've been forced to come arm cutting across different ethnic groups within africa one factor that is central and all these
societies is the importance of kinship in the slave society in the new world and those ideas of this extended network of family with so many kinds of mutual obligations that a broad range of love love africans and their descendants have very clear cut ideas about this and the slave society with this constant threat not only threat but the really the reality of being torn from loved ones meant that their costly coming into that slave community people who are psychologically traumatized could have been sold from owned their husband from their wife i'm separated from their parents and what this created was at the tip of ru place on those ties of kinship then a cherishing all the moments
in an active and it is that we're very deliberately because within a slave society you had no way of knowing how long you might be a wingspan and so we have these accounts of people after laboring in om fields weather rice plantations are two battlefields from from sun up to sundown poor then traveling miles at night to visit relatives loved ones who were sold off to another plantation arn and i think that in trying to understand what these slaves accomplished it could have just as easily been the case for people to say i might be sold away why shaven attach myself to add up to love someone and the reality if you think about it why love somebody if you know that you
have no power over how long they might be allowed to be with that individually and so the fact that no matter where we're talking about whether it's colonial new york or colonial virginia there this emphasis on the family in this effort to keep together arm it's something that should create this enormous admiration on our own are part today looking back at it this world works for the uniform on our nations count on those ali patients in all i think the examination love of slavery and the creation of
community and a black world view is that there is this constant process in north america of african as asian and african american opposition and because of this complete disregard for the familial relations among slaves that you have slipped you have been black men and women being sold consummate different parts of of of the colonies and you have this constant importation of new africans and the climate communication home was vital because the very survival of each slave was predicated on the clarity among other slaves whether they were recently purchased or a third generation armed american or someone who had been
recently sold from the caribbean and so that the idea has an end and i think the enormous value was placed on those slaves who had the greatest access true the oppressor and so despite the myths about and house servant and field slave divisions the reality is that it is through the house servants that information about the nature of the owner the financial position of the owner and that of course became aren't viable because if the finances of their owner whether a george washington thomas jefferson and are less respected figures figures in american history on were suffering any kind of financial crisis so much of the lead the capital that they
had or what they could exchange was human beings and so by learning of that condition could bring forth discussions of possibly running away or is there something that we can do to get an intersection that get the ear of the owner to make a particular clip a personal plea not to sell myself or the children or the wife with the husband ms medina oh officials he was assassinated i think we talk about this model and this image of slavery is a patriarchal society and
their slave holders cooper moderates decided to drop out of the sky and there are clearly if we look at the diaries and the the letters of many slave holders i think they're a minority but for many of them believers and seal it did look at their slaves as part of their family and did have this enormous affection for certain slaves but i think what's most important is what was the thinking in the perspective of those slaves and what we know from it's bad i think that the important thing to consider in the master slave relationship is that it can be very confusing or certainly can easily distort the reality that
wine could have great affection non human beings and their humor the acts of kindness that we know slaves had four particular owners and we know that the ticket owner is head for groups of slaves what's most important however is the big picture did ever any of those acts are instances of kindness change the thinking of a slave to make him or her except their collective bondage and enslavement and having gone through exhaustive records this wasn't the case that the issue of ownership the issue of being able to buy and sell to dispose of as that one's well mom for whatever reason want to compel someone to labor
with no financial reward having to look at these magnificent mentions growing up are all over them and being built wherever there was slavery and the increasing in richmond of individuals home would be no benefit to himself was something i could not alter any act of kindness for individuals does is it is most wind and all these what is this i think that the critically important reality of
slavery that we should always remember never figure it is that the institution of slavery is both a system of economic mobility and eventually caucus system of racial oppression no matter how much one had landed in this colonial period early national period are a key factor is how does one get from that land whatever richness our riches that are are within it and in a slaveholding society the names of the most affective names in the most lucrative names off on getting the full benefit of atlanta's through slavery and so the ambition of all white majority was calm a social mobility and ambition to one day owned
slaves themselves and the ideas about blacks and about slaves as this culture of racism develops created a greater and greater insensitivity about the wrongness and immorality of that exploitation he was wearing a mask this is human beings you use it if the institution of of slavery owned and again this reality of of all mobility
slate's tv institution of slavery bread first and foremost a constant consideration of the danger and potential danger it was a system in which one was always faced with the potential of life and death force for could be anything or everything and consequently one could not make assumptions about the honesty or the state for most of false letters home as we've heard grass during the slavery era the possibility of manning mission and keep in mind that the greatest ambition of squares with to be free it became increasingly
necessary to gain freedom by some great backed out of him good service there's no better service from the slave holders perspective then i'm betraying other slaves and so that one had to be cautious i think that there was a small number of people who were collaborators but how many does it take so if you have two hundred people on a plantation or it's ten people on the far all it took was one person to betray and so the master than any slave had to wear was one that debt cut in them up a lot of different directions i mean billy a few wear a mask long enough and you're not getting the reinforcement from your significant other's that you know this is a collective front that we're putting forth you can but didn't believe those ideas and those
images that that you're putting forth and only consider also that on in this early in the time period the early nation that before the support but before him eric revolution the majority of the free blacks were mulatto it's andy's matos head you develop school actively and generally a sense of of mobility through and internalize asian and an adoption of the prevailing views among arm their white counterparts as a white counterparts the number the number of blacks who were slave owners are overwhelmingly more latinos and so any illusion about you know maley because of one scholar that one can assume that they would be against the
institutions are committed to your aspirations to freedom and our remote achieve that was false and she couldn't take that chance i think the reach of slavery was so pervasive throughout the colonies that it's easy to forget because it was so widespread and people took it as such a given that whether your ankle only only your for example what
our colonial new england where the lack of a less the profitability of the institution of slavery meant for example that sleep babies born and culverts and so in colonial massachusetts for example i am when babies were weaned they were given away like puppies they are oh we have accounts of course that what was first an for most of importance in a slave society where the interest of the slave owner and if in fact the woman was love the white slaveholding woman alm needed a nurse that slave woman had also just had a child on the knees not black child were dismissed and the slave woman is nursing this white baby who owned her just as much as the
mother and ultimately on despite being fed on the milk of this black breasts on that this infant alternately would have the power to sell disposed to quit too you discard in any way possible once of the the psychological impact of that the heart of beirut is something that every slave had to face so the white house this week well i think that the one of the many myths it concerning not
only slavery but our american culture and society is dead on one of the myths in american culture and in a culture of racism which is part of a partial of colonial america and the new nation is that all ideas about freedom and all ideas in fact of significance or ideas coming from white americans and africans are bringing with them ideas about liberty ideas about freedom their expansive slaves within this nation all or this colonial society are further shaping how they felt about freedom and so slaves because the owners wanted to have their conveniences are going to take their slaves off to college or going to take them on trips are
going to expose them to the most enlightened ideas of the day and of course the slaves are not going to have an opportunity on to discuss these with their owners but we can only assume that they are discussing them among other slaves and did these dual tracks a freedom if we just focus on freedom that they're going to hear in light and ideas about on we can imagine say thomas jefferson and his slaves along with him that we in america or to thomas jefferson with his slave writing the declaration of independence that from a slave's perspective on the idea of freedom is very different and what we know about slaves wherever we're talking about thirteen colonies at the early early nation is that
any and every opportunity to press for what they considered real freedom and the most moral and on this kind of freedom they took so they were in an environment where they could make petitions the legislature to claim their freedom on knowing that the latest idea or ideology floating around their white owners or a particular ideas about freedom to press them ok you're talking about this particular kind of freedom should i not be free and that force and a re thinking on the part of some patriots and some whites says the two way avenue as with any human community
in the seventies it is it was what it said i think it's terrifying to come to the realization that black people in general and slaves in particular had become such common features and so that that part of just a backdrop that the contradiction off talking about the freedom from the british never prompted in the vast majority of the people talking about this that i am this was very inappropriate language
because they themselves as slaves remind them every slave who had an opportunity to remind them as did the british arm that there was this gross distortion about there complain of enslavement by the british when they themselves are holding hundreds of thousands of people in bondage themselves this seasons last week it's all true the language of a freedom that year colonial patriarchs in their struggle against british domination
and the fact that these people or struggling for their freedom from the british failed to see the contradiction or the relevance of their enslavement of black people reflects the deepening home oh a culture of racism that makes black people relevant they are to be black it is to be a slave and to be a slave has to be black and that is their function that is their role on and it has nothing to do with their quest and their needs and their desires and their quest as whites as slave holders as people struggling for om an opportunity to further their property interests and their material ambitions
well i think that the emergence of an idea for an american society it was simply a creation of an idea of a pretty clear an alien i'm all right dad only way why should be free specifically white men were property that was at the very foundation and the inception of this nation and as long as we fail to address that recognizes deal with it the perpetuation of this lie about the constitution and declaration of independence will continue ms busta
rhymes well and they need the alarm the history of blacks militarily in this country arm goes on long before the american revolution but at the time of the american revolution several things are happening that there are on free blacks and that they are enslaved blacks who lose idea of freedom and liberty makes them feel some of them a fixation with some of these white americans arm they also recognized that whether british or american in that whatever these whites definition of freedom is somehow they're not included and what they're negotiating what they decide to do is whoever is going to
most realized they are understanding of freedom one of their loyalty at the time of george washington's acceptance of the contribution of blacks who were fighting in the early as battles in the american revolution once he realizes the danger for slave property and the implications for the institution of slavery argues fiercely that these blacks can no longer be fighting in the continental army on it is only when another group of whites put forth an interpretation of freedom warrior line with the interpretation of blacks it regardless of color and regardless of race the an alien a ball right is that we should all be free home when the british seemed to present that
perspective are they joined the protests this problem what the military rule of blacks is in the american revolution reflects how central the institution of slavery is to this nation that in the war that establishes this nation black sitcom a crucial this central role
did this central role of slavery and the very foundation in the founding of this nation is revealed in the fact that both the british any american picture arts fine the military rule of slaves crucial in the success on either side and both attempt to use on blacks for their own and whereas the continuing ambition of slaves too you gain freedom and their understanding of the system as also reflecting the the importance of slavery and colonial america is reflected in the fact that both those struggling for freedom from the british and the british rule or attempting to keep this colony in their possession relied upon our or
recognize very early on the central role that slaves could play in this troubled home further catchers and establishes the central idea of slavery and the very founding of this nation i had heard that as a kid and we know how important and how central slavery is in british mainland north america and the early united states its very inception by the fact that during the war that established this nation bowl for your american patriot aunts and the british who were attempting to keep their calm in place recognize her early on that our slaves could play a pivotal our if not the central role in whichever way that that's trouble
went and of course as we know before the american revolution or even discussion of it on the slaves were waging their own revolution and their own ambition for freedom by taking what ever opportunity came forward any conflict that possibly would position than to gain their freedom and the british demonstrated earliest dad and perhaps that's why approximately twenty thousand slaves in and joined them on in an inn in this battle alone to suggest that they would be a lot to gain their freedom best from the british then you're americans
ulysses larry assurances he is if we look at the life adventures smith were forced to recognize or were invited to recognize and to at least address and imagine home the different aspects and dynamics of the institution of slavery began over and over again we have to see or as slaves and their actions and those who've left in the record force us to see that there's nothing more important to them then the securing of their freedom at the same time people or help falling in love falling out
of love becoming parents in reaching a point of caring for for older relatives and all the kinds of human dynamics in an choices on despite the fact that their press despite the fact that parents waited and we can never say exactly what made what venture smith was thinking at the time but we know by his actions that he opted or he made a strike for his own freedom despite the fact that his calm wife was was about to have have a child and how people change or whatever the dynamics are we know that this is the very same person laborers for over two decades to buy in his children to buy his his wife own and perhaps it simply an issue
of you've just that simple love of an unwillingness or our belief that and that by striking out at this point he can fix secure something that he would if he didn't do it right then he possibly would never ever have an opportunity to to achieve he could possibly have been thinking was made for more likely for men to be separated from his children and his wife and a woman from her husband and her children home people can always finders rationales of thing thinking long and hard enough and may have considered that this opportunity for free on our way any kind of commitment are responsible in any possibly made the kinds of idealism and young people may have fallen in seeking his freedom and impossible wealth the mississippi
his worries he's a mississippi river that he'd be able to buy them we don't know that they think what's most revealing however is that he eventually arm makes his herculean unbelievable effort and succeeds in and purchasing his his family well i think bought it reminds us that venture venture adventures purchase off to black man reveals again that the institution of slavery is one all economic mobility as well as it as it is on whites at least on white slave holders that leaves a means of racial oppression on
venture is very ambitious and very desirous of being able to purchase his family and so here's one of the ironies he secured enough money to buy land but how does he work that line does he have money to to hire workers or busy of money that on to secure the long term financial success that he needs to purchases family arm does he have to or deceive perceive or conclude that the only way to do this is true of all labor that he has complete command over who has to pay one aspect of american society dead end the relationship of slavery to american society is intimately connected with the issue of property which is i am a
vital aspect the essential aspect of of any capital a society and in the same way that the transatlantic slave trade is poured impartial of the rise of capitalism and the fifteenth century so too is american society's involvement with slavery on this land in this land tied to our another dimension in furthering of that same capitalistic economic system where property in capital it is sacred and within the constitution and allusions to or rather explicit kinds of references i know i'm stating slave or slavery explicitly makes it clear that the property rights and human beings will be cherished invited as well
arun the fugitive slave act of seventeen ninety three on another variant of that not long after makes it clear that property whether in human beings black babies black children black adults black flesh period was going to be sacred and it is vital invaluable to the system then as any other kind of property or capital he's been close the fact an indentured servitude becomes less and less important to a society and slavery becomes more and more important further reflects the development
of this quarter of racism that its first proclamation mean my view is that this was to be a nation oath and for white people specifically white males at that time and that reality at the very beginning of this nation is such that if we don't acknowledge him an explorer and recognize that its time has much to concepts of race as the concepts of property and that the pursuit of happiness using the words of the revered thomas jefferson meant the accumulation of wealth at whoever's expense and in this case the expense of blacks who were enslaved on those qualities i think that the arm
because it was convenient for people but there's your listeners many pieces welcome to an eight member mount vernon mount vernon than other major own properties our founding fathers another important members of american society during the slavery era personify a historical amnesia and that is on the one hand when we visit those places and establishments today how they're presented generally is to downplay
if not completely ignore how the wealth of a washington or jefferson or any of these great virginia and gentleman was predicated on the enslavement exploitation on andrew suppression of african and african americans will remember him or you know what have you well you consider where is any of these large mansions and plantation manor homes on the colonial early national period the amount of labor that it took just two or supply these homes with water for a day demanded home hours and hours of several slaves going back and forth to the two rivers on uncaring this water and
so on the one hand we can talk and recently encouraged to talk about their architectural beauty and the importance of the individuals who live in them and we're encouraged to forget or to ignore that that beauty and that grander was dependent on the enslavement of human beings people who are denied for their entire lives any hope of liberty hall or mobility are opportunity for their children whereas the descendents of these people who are engaged in the immoral act of slavery we're able to enrich not only themselves their children their descendants but the lay claim to a nation that was founded on the backs of of captive africans oh
absolutely the human misery then and i think there's a misery today i mean i look at these i feel a sin and pain and outrage dead on it's ignored that the people who are the people that kept these plantations working these people who are in a bold the george washington or thomas jefferson to amass know huge wipers fine wines beautiful furniture gone on an exquisite sense of silver home for me to look at them i cannot forget why cannot ignore the human misery that these individuals on extracted from their labor as the people whom they don't
have to during the colonial period with slave parents and mommy considered dead these parents would have been producing oftentimes the very first generation of blacks who are born on north american soil it was a time period where the whole and the dream of being able to realize freedom if not for themselves for their children would have been much more harm likely no later in this country during the period of slavery but it was a record of slave parents had a child the issue of how to protect their child that child's psyche that that child's belief or understanding of all his or her own dignity and value as a human being is inherently compromised by the ownership of
someone else by someone who despite your parenting this trial could take their child from you the beach you could re arm and then all manner of of abuse the longer a one way ticket to expose their child to the danger from that oppressor and as the schoolteacher of racism sets in where the commonality between dependent laborers of different races on receipts that it's not only having to instruct children about the danger of one's own there but the danger of any white person end we don't have adequate records to say definitively at what point that it did but i think very often what would have happened in the process of waiting and thinking about when best to
tell a child what it meant to be a slave something happens on a child who always saw hannah take away in the nurturing way in a respectful way om perhaps is witnessing that parent being whipped or the kind of pride our dignity or respect that once receiving in the environment where it's all slaves changes radically when their child for the first time sees his or her mother father and the presence of a white no worries i think they're going i think in the ad establishment of of what
i would call a black world view the body of beliefs in volumes that these africans evolve with each succeeding generation i am born on the soil created as a central tenant and in an important idea among them the need to resist the need to always strive alternately for a collective freedom and how they did it whereas obviously are most people weren't willing to risk death bed nevertheless there were non violent or are safer a means of showing this hostility and this disdain for this system which slaves considered immoral and roll no matter when where or how that it was a wrong in moral on
iniquity system and whether people manifesto demonstrated their hostility or their commitment to their collective you about the institution of slavery whether that was to mocking the master on arson arm the destruction of tools on the decision to run off with the british and fight with the british to prevent these are american slave holders who were talking about the freedom that saint very alien to the kind of freedom that the africans and their descendants believed in any act of protest against the institution of slavery could possibly result in one's death and if we
consider them recognized that in the thinking of slaves there were these dual quest and ambitions both to survive and to be free and then there was the support and encouragement for many of these slaves mostly slaves however they demonstrated whether that was to celebrate a slave who did protest in a way that result in the loss of his or her death with the support of a runaway or the failure to betray or to say who had appropriated some property that the person who did know labor to produce claimed as his or her own and all of those things were part of this mindset this collective black worldview that head as an essential component
some demonstration on an effort to show on the wrongness in the morality of the institution of slavery it is part of the distortion of american story of american history and the historical amnesia that generations of scholars and individuals have encouraged americans or fishburne issues of morality and right and wrong or issues that americans pride themselves on instilling in each generation of americans
but somehow the immorality of slavery is not given that takes the same kind of encouragement and designers so they're oftentimes when we talk about slave or attempt to talk about slavery were dismissed is reading back into an earlier time are sensitivities today or there are people back in this earlier time the majority of black people for example who say only saw the institution of slavery is immoral and i personally as an african american take it as an insult for someone to say well everyone back then had slaves well everyone didn't have slaves and there were people very small number of whites who saul the institution of slavery is immoral and a majority overwhelming majority of blacks do we discount what the what
african americans and africans feel about the institution of slavery on its aims and hauled the history of this country has been written that we can assume that perhaps they're large numbers of people in this country who do fear that is still relevant what that majority felt that he was says i'll tell you is the world's best players to this area at the first birds well well as it is
i think how blacks whether during the colonial period of early national period of the antebellum period felt about freedom didn't change i think what changed was a confidence and faith and whole about achieving i think if we try to imagine the kind of hole and perhaps even our most in getting this during the american revolution and the aftermath where thousands of blacks who fought in the american revolution and we are fighting with the hope that they would gain their freedom gained their freedom and the establishment of some gradual emancipation acts would have made so many of these these blacks former slaves and those who still have all teams and slave think that maybe something will come of this nation maybe despite the stories in the traditions of that that
nightmare the middle passage will pass that there will be freedom fired the undead think that during the american revolution for example the common quest for freedom and the decision all blacks to fight in that battle were slaves very much is tied to him and it is tied to their ambition and hope that they could gain their freedom but i think the thinking of blacks in this country has always been for more complex and challenging on every issue three people and white people have had believed because where is the blacks fighting the american revolution couldn't very much been opposed to the kind of oppression of the british but they also knew that their freedom army and how they felt about
freedom that nobody regardless of their race or religion should be enslaved was not something shared either by british whites or american ones they just again effective in american society and specifically during the american revolution the kinds of ideas that africans who are fighting in that battle arm head about freedom were different from either british warrants or american whites but this wasn't to say that i am they did not import share both
groups ideas and concepts of freedom immigration i think i think that the internal communication lines for blacks very early on became absolutely crucial and vital that the only way to be able to decide to sort of life and death issue of one risking to fight with either group arm was very much dependant on whom did they who did the slaves feel
could best assure they're gaining a freedom and information station he says there's a long tradition in this country for the oppressed and the enslaved to have to know their oppressors and to know at what time would they have the greatest chance of achieving their most important ambition and that ambition being one of our freedom and whenever the colonizers or they're in slivers heck conflicts or wars whether with native americans or other
europeans arm there so there was a tradition of these were a good opportunity to sometimes to maneuver their freedom and so with the beginnings of arguments are about the acquisition of freedom from the patrons position i'm sure there were many discussions within that slave community about what does this mean is this going to open up a door of opportunity for us to get our freedom and from that point and that would of course have been very receptive ears to any of those discussions on from that point which group neither the british more the americans hadn't conception oh freedom that was shared by the majority of slaves the majority of sleighs look upon the institution of slavery is this immoral act and no matter who was
holding the word so that poor their decision had to be once again a lesser of two evils but tom which tv which every evil best assured there are permanent freedom arm would have been the decision that they made it's been while the hope of freedom is the prevailing in central thought of slaves as a group this quest this ambition and certainly any actions to try to realize that could cost them their lives and so for generations of slaves it became imperative that that wish that ambition was hidden in some way then
Africans in America
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Interview with Norrece T. Jones, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University. 2 of 4
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Norrece Jones is interviewed about realities for slave families, the importance of kinship, communications among slaves, the relationships between master and slaves, the fates of slave mothers and babies, contradictory notions of freedom, why many slaves supported the British, Venture Smith, capitalism as a driver of slavery, resistance and its dangers, distortions of American history with regard to slavery.
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American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with Norrece T. Jones, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University. 2 of 4 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with Norrece T. Jones, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University. 2 of 4 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with Norrece T. Jones, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University. 2 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from