thumbnail of Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; 
     Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell
    University. 4 of 4
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the prisons harriet jacobs a story is truly extraordinary as a girl a slave girl her mother dies and she is left to essentially fend for herself she has a grandmother and as a girl she sold to another member of the family and harriet grows up in this family around the age of fifteen the master the local diner fact of lent begins to pursue her this is a young woman who was just reaching puberty beautiful young woman and doesn't really know how to deal with this he's whispering obscene stories in her ear and she also very insecure about telling her grandmother about this who has been given her freedom is living in this neighborhood one
has to imagine what it was like for a young woman like this living and an enslaved situation no protector and being pursued by the man who had absolute authority over her what is amazing is she takes a position of asserting herself and rather than give in too this master she decides that she's going to make a choice that if she has to be in a situation where she's going to be either raped or take up with a man and she's going to choose the man so she chooses a young handsome white lawyer and has a relationship with him which angers her master billion in the process of this relationship she has to children with this man one could probably can then harriet jacobs for that because many enslaved women were actually raped
a far off white man and yet here she is in a situation where she gives herself to one jacob says later on as she's trying to explain in her book too especially women in america why she would do that that there's something i can do to power by taking your own life in your hands and making a decision of who it is that you want to be with and mr sands the lawyer was very nice to her she comforted her when dr flynt was pursuing her soul as she says in her narrative tender feelings developed about him so she has these two children with him and out this angers for master and she's forced to go into hiding and he hides for seven years and in a small space in her grandmother's house and
fearful that her children are going to be sold she finally realizes that if she stays fish can watch them her lover agrees to buy the children and he does and they remain with her grandmother so harriet is in this crawl space for years she can come out at night when no one's around she's trying to maneuver to get her children out of the south and then later on herself has very few opportunities to do this and she lives this way some of the things that happened to her she loses most of your tea glasses up there and even the late she's a very beautiful woman she has this double problem and it gives you a sense of just a human sense of what she was going through a year why now
the post from her one of the things here is fearful of this plant finding her so she has to give him the impression that she has fled and of course she does not want to flee because she doesn't want to leave her children so she writes letters has the letters taken to new york and the postmark from new york to her master give the impression that she is out of the region when in fact she's right there in town and watching her children watching them play and not been able to touch them not being able to hug them and being in the situation for years and then not knowing where she is although later on her children tell her that they could censor presence even though they in reality felt he was not there there was something about their lives their as they played underneath the trees and around the fence that gave them a sense that something or
someone was watching them so in a way this kind of this unconscious bonding between her two children and herself even though she's in hiding that is really a very touching moment in this narrative when her children tell her that they felt her presence and it was probably some comfort to her later on as she went through those years watching them and not being able to to have anything to do with an even sometimes coming down from that crawl space at night and being able to eat food but not being able to let her children know that mother is here and sometimes probably going in and looking at them and not being able to touch them because i think she didn't want and to have the burdens as children of knowing that their mother was nearby it was too much pressure to put on children an enslaved women above
all wanted to protect their children one of these is possible her shoes what is that jacobs considers herself a moral woman and she was raised by her grandmother to be moral and to be virtuous and disappeared in american history when gender conventions i consider to be a charity piety domesticity and suddenness of this overture was in a moral woman had to have those kinds of attitudes and they had to have that kind of peering of course they had to be middle class and this was a middle class
concept and it was also embedded in this concept of being a christian and jacobs was a christian and she felt that she had done something that was simple on the one hand on the other hand she felt that she had no choice but she was driven to what she was so guilt ridden that she didn't even want to tell her grandmother and when her grandmother did find out she was pregnant they had a horrible scene and she finally was able to convince her grandmother through the intercession of another black woman that this was not her fault and i gave her some sense of relief that the woman who she loved most of all in world understood her plight it's about in the black women had about their situation situation that they couldn't control so that part of her sense of guilt was absolved but dan ashe he later moved north
and began to write her story and knew that people especially women are going to condemn her for taking up with mr sands them and guilt began to come back and for her it must have a situation of as she said in her writing table how can explain this to people how can i get people to understand that enslaved women cannot be blamed for this and that we are an want to be virtuous and we want to be moral and we want to make choices about where we live with and we want to live in monogamous relationships but we our property and we have no control over that that does not mean that we are not christian that does not mean that we do not have a moral sense what it does mean is that we are not allowed to have control over morality and alvaro and womanhood and of her own sexuality
ms bee gees so i have to understand the situation for black women looking at jacob's as an example the stalking of black women by masters by overseers sometimes by whites who actually came to visit the master and her reaction leaving was in some ways it's strange because most black women did not lee jacobs in some situation was in a more privileged position than most african american enslaved women she was a house servant she was racially mixed she lived in north carolina as opposed to the deep south but her experience and why she wanted to tell it was something that was an example of what many african american enslaved women went through at that time being stopped being raped some of them actually resisted another
ways her way of resisting was to flee and live in a garret other women used clubs to keep men away from them that those enslaved women in the louisiana cornfields used to sing songs as they were rain come let me son come try me stand that boss man don't come ninety so they've really thank you well he did resist jacobs resisted by running away and living nearby some lemon resisted by living in the woods sometimes taking their children with them and though women in the louisiana
cane fields enslaved women used to sing a song as they worked that gives us a sense of how they felt about being pursued by a white man rain come let me son come johnny stanback boss man don't come thy me so women tried to resist and they paid a heavy price for this women who resisted matches are sometimes stripped naked and where they were sold away from her children they were brutalized so you paid a heavy price for that and many women decided that that was no use wow this is interesting this kind of predatory behavior toward enslaved black women had a terrible effect on black families on the women it also ahead a
terrible effect on one family's the white was just as often took this sexuality out on their slave women jacob's talks about the fact that her mistress blamed her for this and was actually her mistress who confronted her grandmother about it because she thought she gets pregnant by active when to sell the web sometimes and white situation blame to be african american women for their sexuality african american women were naturally promiscuous the lord the white masters and the masters sounds in the overseas into the sexual encounters what it did to the black family was it meant that african american males could not protect the women and it was demoralizing to demoralize the family it demoralize black women are demoralized the black males concept of himself and it fit into
this mythology that is still with us today about the promiscuity of like women the overt sexuality of black males and so while the reality of the situation under slavery was that it was white men who were pursuing and raping black women the white male patriarchy turned that around and said what was happening really was that they had to protect their women from black men but men were not reading what women and yet somehow what has come down to us in history is that black men are rapists and that's how you get this whole myth of the black rapist it comes from white males and thirteen their own sexuality and that should be limited to black men and i think it has to do with the desire and the obsession with maintaining a white male
patriarchy you're controlling white women and because they are the individuals who will produce white babies and keep the white male patriarchy going to reduce the errors they are confined within these gender conventions you're controlling black women because they are the people who produce the black laborers for you and they also satisfy your last and eventually black man because you're denying them a place in this patriarchal order and you're denying them the ability to protect their women and families so essentially everybody suffers ken jacobs says jacobs has experiences witnesses fled to give us a very good sense of the fact
that there was no sisterhood between black and white women himself if there had been when jacob's went to her mischievous and try to explain what was happening that this man her husband was stalking her then this is what would have confronted him and try to put a stop to it she would've taken jacobs aside jacobs was the child essentially she was fifteen and instead of doing that says fled to blame and harriet for refuse to believe that her husband was actually pursuing her and her sense of the situation was that this was something that jacobs herself was creating jacobs was at fault and this kind of tension between black and white women and the slave south was very common there's been tension well you know the divorce records the rivera she divorces in the south but
many of the divorce records were very specific especially if the woman was filing about why she was filing for divorce and oftentimes an enslaved woman or enslaved women were named as the adulterer or the person who their husbands were committing adultery with an ear get incredible detail women white women saying that now you were there has been sleeping with the inmate but sometimes would force them made into bed and to their own bed with the women actually even cleaner now imagine a situation where enslaved woman is the mistresses made the master is actually sleeping with bowl and in some of these records at the same time so there's no situation where these women can get along the hostility must be intense and many of the slave women who have it
narratives talk about what it was like to be in a situation where the mistress literally heated them because their husbands would not leave him alone one example tension and hostility between black and white women comes through the divorce records that are very few the voices and self but of the ones that occurred there is a lot of detail and when women were the ones following they often named their mates their black maid as the individuals that their husband was having sex with and some of these records are very explicit there's some in which the
mistress indicate that their husbands not only were sleeping with the maid but actually forcing them made into bed when the mischief self was actually in bed and imagine a situation where you're an enslaved woman a maid in a house you're forced to have sex with your master sometimes with them is just in bed and then find that you have to deal with her on a daily basis when the man himself is away this created a tremendous amount of anger it created beatings and as far as why women were concerned and some situations you would want her ms ba ph imagine the hostility and the tension and the anger that this kind of situation creates because the women live in the same house together they are
involved with each other all day long while the master is out either in the fields or taking care of man's business and they have to interact and even though they are interacting in a situation of inferior versus superior the anger and the fact that the white woman sees the black woman as someone who has disrupted their home and create an incredible amount of disruption many times the master is forced to sell his ba women whom he sleeping wear because it's the only way he can keep his marriage together and sometimes they will sell the women away from the children it it does create an incredible destruction and family life for especially the slave family robert wittman
oh ok houses in some cases the white messages will insist that the master sell the women and the sleeping with these women are oftentimes will have children by their slave husbands as well as children by the master they're oftentimes sold away from those children because the children represent property and money and labor so it's not often that they're going to try and keep these families together and one also has to imagine what kind of family situation this is for the african american family where in some cases women are raising children by two man who was sleeping with them at the same time some of the children are black and some of the children are white or halfway aside from the pervasive concept that black women were already immortal and promiscuous
so it didn't matter what happened to them sexually we have to also keep in mind that labor was paramount and the slave south and black women were the individuals who produced the laborers so they were important as readers and they've an effect that they had children by white man or a black man was in the curia the important thing was that they keep having babies because these babies were property these babies were the objects that are going to keep the system rolling along so in a sense they were breeders they were re producers so i'm not really worried disposable heroes of the way
sea island region and the south was tropical very beautiful haunting beauty lies live oak trees with the spanish moss hanging down palm medals and palm trees sandy soil that produced the cia and cotton that was so popular and created so much wealth it was also a region that was relatively isolated and for that period of time when transportation was primarily by boat it was very isolated and it really isn't until the nineteen thirties the bridges are built from the mainland to these islands so and then that kind of structure and because the black population outnumbered the white population eight and sometimes tend to one the enslaved people in that region are able to create and maintain an
african american culture that was probably the closest to their african roots as any other region and in the united states one of the most interesting aspects of the culture of the island people enslaved island people was their language their language was a combination of english and various african languages key kong all the gola languages man day and not just a language that they created themselves out of african languages and english but also peculiar way of talking unlike any other region and the slave self if you ask the person where he was going he would say not i'm
going to this place and that place but i took my foot so there their language was different and it was also and by with a kind of creative way of expressing oneself because indeed you don't take your foot when you go but that is not the way the majority of people speak so they had almost literal way of imagining how you get from one place to another another interesting thing about their culture that was different was the way in which they looked at spirituality which again was something that was part christian and part african they believe in good medicine ben keesey which is a key call a word and god brought that medicine they believed in bad medicine in guilty verdicts it's because big computers
butler island was part of that friend of islands off the coast of south carolina in georgia where the island people lit this sea island culture it's by the fact that across two states georgia south carolina was very similar to the africans produced the same kind of products rice cotton they came from the same geographical regions of africa at the same time for various historical reasons the africans in the south carolina sea island called gullah the africans and the georgia sea island called p t but their cultures we're very very similar to our own or are talking with it before as had been competing teasley i'm ok so they believe in good and bad medicine and an individual could
bring good medicine and that would be from god an individual could bring bad medicine and that would be from the devil so in a way they incorporated christianity and they became an associate with christianity with their african roots because they came from african societies that have a concept of the supreme court and they simply embedded that with their own african purview of provenance another interesting aspect of the culture was the concept of the afterlife in african culture the afterlife was going to be pretty much as it had been an earthly life but the iranian people coming to america reverse that because if the afterlife was going to be as it was on the earth than ever going to be slaves so again embracing christianity well they kept some of their own african aspects of good and evil they accepted the christian
idea that in the world beyond the good we're going to go to one place in the babel going to go to the other which was not an african concept and in their minds whites were going to help and blacks were going to heaven and you would see very few whites in heaven only if you are who had been kind to the slaves but heaven was to be no heaven if you're going to have to meet white people there and what it's important point out that in the islands while the bike builder the blackmail elder was important and certainly as far as the platters and white society was concerned was the religious leader that there were other religious
leaders as well it's important to know that women were religious leaders women were the spiritual mothers they were often the people individuals went to when they decided that they were going to be converted she was a woman they had to condense that their conversion was real that they had really had a transformation and this was a status that was of no knowledge to white society draws weiss it was concerned it was the spike elder and the black jail there of course was extremely important he was a person who had to walk a very thin line between having the confidence of the enslaved people and also having the trust of the master because this christianity thing was something that the plants were very suspicious so an elder had to be a leader among his own people and yet he had to be able to be kind
of a diplomat for them to whites so one hand you do have to imagine what it must've been like for a black elder what do you counsel your people the council conservatism and turn the other cheek or do you tell them that we have to seek revenge and it varied of course an african american history and culture some elders and preachers believed in god vengeance and then others believed that one cannot fight an entire system and one's christianity and censor themselves sense of worth was more important than disrupting and maybe disintegrating the community a bike trying to rebel and creating waves of repression against many individuals who had not even been involved which had been a history of rebellion in this country
he's been women on the islands and in other parts of the south were very important to the community spiritual leaders they were healers the midwives not only taking care of women and men who were ill women and childbirth but sometimes even been sent for by the masters family to help out to bring their roots and herbs and cure people so they were extremely important in that sense of course women have their own sense of bonding and networking that again was a curio are from africa where women have their own colors in her own space were they would go out in various clearance an end and structures and talk about the problems that would be q u two women and this was a kind of female community that enslaved women
continued so they had their own internal network at the same time they had a status symbol within the community itself because spirituality was so important and women were spiritual leaders also thank you so one had status in the community especially there's as midwives as healers and that gave them a kind of authority that the plantation system couldn't see in many cases in spite of the institution of bondage in spite of the fact that white society viewed african american people as slaves for african americans they were creating community and creating culture yes they worked twelve fourteen hours a day sometimes even
work by moonlight when the cut had to be brought out of the fields very quickly nevertheless they had a family structure women in spite of the fact that they worked and did the same labor is man in the fields with come home they'd have to cook it would have to wash take your the children man good man bangs they supplemented the family diet has mainly consist of corn and now salt pork with hunting and fishing and especially the sea island nation lots of with a lots of our waterways they get a ladder blogging for oysters and crabs and to create a balanced diet for the family so we are really talking about family formation and in spite of the ravages of bondage spite of the domestic slave trade in spite of the brutality on the family people did strive to create stability
it is it's been of course most african americans are not literate could not read or write and yet we know that on almost every plantation there was someone who was literate how they became a literate there were a number of ways often times some white childhood top and sometimes even inadvertently other times because they were in the house maybe they might listen to lessons
of course most african americans could not read and write or not literate and yet we know that out on almost every plantation there was someone who was literate and this was the person who became that means that network of communication especially in the island region of the outside world in a scrap of paper that an individual found was going to be taken to this one person to interpret for the community so talk about status the person who could read and write on a plantation was really way up there when it was male or female how they learn to read and write there are a number of ways it was a course against the law to teach a slave to read and write but sometimes a master or mistress would do it sometimes the ministry would do it because they want to be someone on the plantation to be able to read the bible to the others and anyone who could read and write had to be very
careful sometimes they had to hide it from the master and he certainly could not tell knowledge is power and the ability to know what is going on outside of your own world on these small islands is the ability to react to that and especially as the nation began to move toward controversy over the issues that affect that people in bondage directly then this was a threat to the white slave master knowledge is power and it was against the law to
teach an enslaved person how to read and write and yet of course we know that african americans did learn to read and write the majority of them couldn't but are almost every plantation there was someone who was literate and that gave them a tremendous amount of status and the slave community and also carried certain dangers because a slave who could read and write could informed the other slaves about issues in the nation especially the issues that affect people in bondage directly as a nation began to confront this issue of slavery as the abolitionists movement began to be widespread so white wanted to keep his knowledge away from african americans still some whites are going to teach african americans to read masters were going to do it sometimes for their own benefit because they might need them to do transactions for them i'm is just might do it because you want to teach them how to read the bible a minister and i do it because he felt
that one person in the community know we could read the bible to the other individuals so someone in a community could read and write and this kind of literacy was something that african americans valued as slaves and of course all the way through their history education and literacy has been extremely important and i think it has a lot to do with the fact that it was kept away from them it can open up so many doors were a kid it wasn't shows what were the reasons why harriet jacobs is narrative gives us a window and door into
life in the south in a way that i don't think any other narrative that's not even fit to get this because she talks about dynamics black and white dynamic she talks about enslavement and what it's like to be a slave but she talks about it on so many different levels on the levels of tension between black and white women on the level of sexuality and the pursuit of black women by white man on the level of what it's like as a woman who can't protect her children on the level of what it's like to be in a situation where you take up with a white man even though it conflicts with all of your own values as a moral christian woman there's a complexity to jacobs is a narrative that is not in any other narrative about slavery in the south and about race relations in the self and she takes it to so many different levels that
it essentially is a timeless piece of history was not encouraged to write her incidents in the life of a slave girl there was a time in american history when women didn't talk about issues affecting women and women didn't talk about sexuality even though a woman's rights movement was emerging it was a small movement and women who adhere to the conventions of gentility did you talk about what were called delicate or in delicate subjects like sex and when she decided she was going to do this and she wrote this at night under a small light without her owner heard her employer anointed because she was employed by a pro slavery man
in the north she wrote this and wanted it to be her own words so she had no input from anyone when she finished it then she began to try and get support and she had a hard time harriet beecher stowe refused to help her with that get it published but she wasn't willing to say i would use it in my key to uncle tom's cabin as a story and other ways you have to take control away from jacobs about her own life and jacob's refused to do that even though still was the most well known offer male or female at the time she wanted control over her narrative just the way she had tried to take control over her life so she was fortunate end no i'm lydia mariah child who was a true abolitionists and harriet beecher stowe really was not and it was child who wrote the introduction to talk to other people like amy post about henry jacobs's work and
besides he said you have to read this this is the most touching story imaginable it's almost too significant actually have happened this kind of input this this kind of the gendered bonding between child and jacob's allow the narrative to be published and was published at a crucial time just as a nation was converging toward war and it opened up a version of the self that people outside of herself didn't know about and people and the staff didn't talk about slavery is invented and the fabric of the nation at this time and one has to wonder how is that that a nation that prides itself on democracy a government of the people can't be comfortable with this
institution can make its laws here to serve this institution can refuse to even reid petitions by citizens who protest against this institution and i suppose that it can be explained a historically by the way people in the nation especially the athletes served or attempted to have there were slaves take a pay cut development attitudes about slavery and attitudes that slavery was a natural condition for people of african descent has a lot to do
with economics it has to do with one group the siding however unconsciously if indeed it wasn't conscious that another group who represent the labor force of a nation is inferior why are they in theory well that there are a number of reasons and the reasons changes we go through the history of this country for some other reason i that african americans are heeded not christian well be christianized then what is the reason well they're inferior because a biblical he ticks that indicate difference they're inferior because of their skin color they're inferior because intellectually they're not as capable as whites so all of these justifications for racial difference support slavery they couldn't live freely they need to be and a system that controls them that control is transformed into
protection they're enslaved because a plantation system protects them a prison not capable of working and living on their own another justification is use is there a slave because we're protecting society against them the black man as a beast and if you let him lost and run around the countryside maybe white women so one argument is that we're protecting them were used the plantation system is a school another argument is we protect the white america from the mei keeping them can find on the plantation so the whole justification escalate and escalates and the tragic aspect of that is that the entire societies implicated in this even people who don't own slaves because it seems as though what develops is a kind of white nationalism as a counterpoint against black instead of you are white doesn't matter how poor you're still better than a black person even if that black person
is someone like james gordon was a wealthy black guy but he still black so this concept of white on top and black underneath which supersedes class and wealth creates a situation in which african americans whether slave or free i still going to be considered inferior an another tragedy is that american institutions like the church go along with this american literature goes along with that until you get books that contradict this partly like uncle tom's cabin american culture goes along with that in terms of developing a menstrual system the minstrel shows a black caricature is the white working class love to go two theaters in the north and watch african americans who actually not black but whites and black face
behave as the foods so african americans are stupid and silly and foolish and that is the way society views them and they have complicity from every class of white people in the society listeners as norms interview will bring what you really want is the issue in some way tennessee last summer oh yeah but i don't think is because of slavery in the self
it's because they they have slavery there to fall in a live it's b slate recently reinforced racial attitudes of inferiority for african americans but it is important to keep in mind that the north had racial attitudes already it's important to keep in mind that slavery existed in the know and the extinction of slavery was a very gradual process and then all of new york and new jersey were very slow to emancipate african americans and also some point to keep in mind that in the north and the midwest as states came into the union they past exclusion laws to keep out free blacks so the nation itself is racist and not
slavery in the south korean forced racial attitudes that's for sure but it's important even mind that in the northern part of the nation had slavery as well and that some states are very slow and emancipation new york and new jersey in particular have very gradual emancipation laws so that they're african americans and bondage well into the ante bellum era is also going to keep in mind that the midwestern states as they came into the union some of them passed but disclosure laws so that free blacks who wanted to leave say the mid atlantic and settled in the midwest were prevented as well as african americans who might for one reason or another get their freedom in the south they were prevented from moving into some midwestern states so it would seem as though the nation itself had an attitude that african americans were
inferior and if you look at some of the laws that were in existence in the northern states african americans were not supposed to ride on streetcars have to america's fitness plus a ride on steamers that call id and jim crow and segregation of the races really resonates in the north african americans couldn't vote in most states even if they own property so the explosion and that this franchise meant was already there the concept of democracy seem to be something in the nation at that time that was for white people and it really relates to this concept of white nationalism that no matter
how poor you are no matter what situation and if you're white then you are far better off than the wealthiest person of african descent and people operated on that and it's really important to understand in the history of racism in this country and the history of making different something that people are really willing to live by and it affected the public schools it affected every aspect of life in america it affected immigrants coming again because democrats especially the irish would come in and they would have immediately a higher status than african americans who had been born here who's generations go back to existence and the nation so and this book was created a lot of tension because immigrants coming in would oftentimes be the people who took jobs away from african americans so
while immigration became a form of economic and social mobility for whites it became a form of degradation for african americans are the
we have very good we have to realize that by the eighteen forties slavery is part of american life that something that americans have lived with for generations it's something that in many cases people don't know anything else so they have come to accept it when campbell goes to the islands in the eighteen thirties the first butler mansion was already in ruins and that gives us a sense of how long slavery has been a part of the sea island region pierce butler the first pierce butler was one of the most important people in georgia during the founding of the nation he was also very
important visual in terms of making sure that the constitution had a fugitive slave law and have protection for slave holders one of those people who made sure that the constitution recognized the sanctity of property and the property being people and bondage soul it's difficult for us to imagine that as far as whites were concerned slavery was just part of life and the position of african americans was just the way things are supposed to be we have to realize that slavery by the eighteen forties was just a part of america it had banned part of america for generations and many people nothing else major butler major
pierce butler the first pierce butler by the time danny campbell came to the sea island's the mansion which she had built initially was already in ruins so that gives you a sense of the target in that case of three generations of cia and plantation owners so slavery is something that is rolling along with the nation's development or whether this was what white americans are concerned progress and african americans are within a system of progress consider to be what makes this progress something that is necessary something that is important not the victims of it but part of it and they're almost invisible in that sense as people that simply part of a process
we tend to think that african americans only picked cotton and nothing could be further from the truth yes they picked cotton and years cotton was king but not everyone picked cotton but to work especially in the south was to work like a black so blackness and labor with tight african americans not only picked cotton not only cultivated rice and sugar they were the artist inside the south they were the taylors they were people who cut the hair of white people they did literally everything as the railroad developed african americans in the south worked on the railroads they were engineers they were the people who made the system go they worked in the eye and works the various forces the tragic or males but mills a buffalo falls in virginia this was slave labor many of that much of that was highly skilled african americans created all of the cuisines of the self in new orleans when
you went to fancy restaurants it was a black chef who was doing the cooking oftentimes an enslaved person so you have to envision the south as a place where labor means that's because baby jets got was a devastating decision for african americans because rides are tiny was trying to decide once and for all that people of african descent were not citizens that the constitution and the declaration of independence did not apply to them that they had no rights that no black person had any rights that any white person was bound to respect
so african americans had no place in america this was the decision the highest court in the land so this was a devastating blow to african americans and people who supported their struggle it meant that not only was slavery ok but racism was ok because african americans as people were not part of the fabric of america there are people who are also quite ragged slavery without him as their city and the other fact that town yeah right so if tommy is correct that the art no rights that african americans
have that they are essentially property then an individual can take your property what ever they want their no limits to slavery their no territorial limits more for it also means that people in the south can move into territory previously said to be anti slavery by law by state law oregon to areas where and the decision had not yet been made because these territories has not been funding to states so it opens up the whole issue of slavery and the rights of white men and it becomes a struggle ceci between white people white man about whether or not they can take their property into a certain region of the nation and in some ways it escalates and moves even beyond slavery and it creates this bloody conflict that we call a kansas and nebraska
it's big kansas and nebraska is not only the most important territorial event before involving slavery it's also a way of looking at the confrontation in the nation between how the nation is going to develop in the future isn't going to be a nation and which slavery is allowed to proceed as the nation moved west is it going to be a nation in which slavery has halted is going to be a nation in which there will be no slavery in these territories but there will also be no free black people so all of these conflicts are part of that struggle was also struggle about who's going make that decision isn't going to be the states themselves is it going to be congress and then along comes tani with the dred scott decision and he makes that
decision for everybody he makes for the congress he makes a for the states a mesa for the individuals the pro slavery people in the anti slavery people who were fighting in their territory by essentially saying that african americans are not citizens african americans are property and as property they have no rights they have no rights that a white man is bound to respect whether they are slave or free so what that says is that african american slavery can march right along with the nation as it progresses an african american enslavement as part of the progress of america of white america the
taliban has certainly an important figure a pivotal figure not only because he's an abolitionist and he's very heavily involved in the kansas nebraska struggle in a military way but also because john brown represents a higher level of abolitionists in because he represents equality jump around and like other abolitionists was the gala terry and he was not only against slavery he was against inequality and he proved that in a number of ways long before harpers ferry he moved to the adirondacks enroll new york in order to help african americans who had been given land there by abolitionists gareth smyth helping them to become farmers they sat at his table along with his wife and his family he called a mr and mrs and richard henry again and when he went to visit i actually was lost in the adirondacks brown found him his companion
brought into the house he was repulsed by this piano considered himself anti slavery and yet when he saw brown sitting at the table with these african americans in addressing them just as though they were his equals he was sickened by this sort of get around that can really long before the kansas nebraska struggle that brown was engaged in militarily he had moved to the adirondacks because a group of african americans had been given land there by abolitionists gary smith and brown move their set up his own form there in order to help them with the transition to setting up forms for themselves so he already had this sense of egalitarianism and on one occasion richard henry bain an offer was lost in the adirondacks with a companion and brown came across them rescue them took them back to his home had them for supper and seated at the table with brown
in his family was a black man and a black woman and dana was the pope's to buy the quality with which brown his family dealt with the african americans brown addressing them as mr and mrs and this was something that damon himself anti slavery was just not accustomed to and made him extremely uncomfortable support the nation's mood within the black community says he was frederick douglass his house at one point for three weeks while he wrote this constitution for the provisional black government that he was going to try and set up once he was able to get enough african american slaves and move into the west he worked on the us constitution while
douglas was away with his newspaper being fed by mrs dudley is talking to mrs dunn was he was really a member of the family he was also in hiding at that time so there was a certain amount of risk rather than americans to be involved with john brown there was a price on his head when he went to new york he stayed with james klausner a brooklyn african american minister beau ouster was also one of the contributors to john brown so he had this network he would go to ontario where he would oftentimes take fugitives who he had gotten out of missouri there he stayed with african americans met harriet tubman and tubman was one of the people was actually supposedly involved in the raid but had one of her notoriously consequences fell ill and could not be there so brown's support was really in the black community although of course because african americans didn't have the resources that whites did his secret six provided the actual money for the raids in kansas
nebraska and also harpers ferry what was it we cut the nation was horrified when john brown made at harpers ferry and brown did not have much sympathy among the larger society in the northern serbian the cell to cell cars the south
was more than horrify the south was ready for war because they felt that the north was complicit in brown brown's raid most northerners didn't feel that way they felt the brown was wrong they condemned what he had done ah they felt that this was a kind of activity that was going to tear the nation asunder so he did not have a major support for his activities aside from the abolitionist who were selling did believe that this was one way to raise the masons nation's consciousness well as well as african americans were concerned john brown was a martyr john brown was someone who truly had the interests of african americans at heart and down brown had the right idea
leaders like henry highland garnet felt that john brown was doing what he had educated in his own writings and in his own speeches led resistance be a model brown was taking that to the level of action and many african americans by the time of john brown's raid had deserted the moral suasion camp the idea that slavery was going to end by convincing white people that it was wrong and they had adopted the attitude that we have to end this institution by any means necessary and so they supported john brown's raid fully african americans' records were involved in that raid not as many as brown wanted and the black leadership that's where brown was concerned let him down but some former slaves and some free man we're involved in that raid what a question
white america at the time of the raid that john brown was insane and because in a question about that all of the newspapers point to it all the commentary most people felt that he was insane but even white america i was moved by his composure by the way in which he stood by his ideals by the way in which he died by the fact that he said he loved america that he believed in the bible the declaration of independence and god and he felt that he was fulfilling providential process is he was fulfilling the word of god he was fulfilling the bible and into jewish nationalist old testament sense in the puritan sense so even a white america couldn't help but be impressed by that and
when he died as he was being taken to the gallows sitting on his own coffin he looked around the virginia hills on that morning and said this is a beautiful country so brown loved his country what he hated was the san of sense in that nation and that was slavery and he said he actually was very prophetic because he wrote before he died that the sense of this great nation and never be expunged except by blood and we know that that is exactly what happened with them they're saying with that
or we think that you needed it the pipes for african americans john brown was a martyr and i don't think anything captures that better than a painting by the black artist horse pippen it's a painting of a hanging and john brown and as john brown is being led to his death with his hands tied behind in his white hair flowing an african american woman is pictured lifting up her baby for john brown to kiss and to bless that is probably the most graphic representation of what john brown meant people of african descent
was jim brown and saying well many white people at the time thought he was but as john brown was insane one has to ask was thomas jefferson insane when he said that the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of tyrants from time to time and as thomas jefferson and saying when he said in the declaration of independence that we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and was thomas jefferson insane when he said i tremble for my country when i reflect that god is just to sit where it isn't just it really interesting because fb
the period of african americans slave meant is so important it's important because it helps us understand the legacy of race and our nation helps us understand that that legacy as it's played out even today is not a black experience or a white experience its top of my voice cut the period of african american slavery as part of our historical legacy it's a tragic part but is nevertheless integrity to the history of our nation is very important it's important for african americans and it's important for other americans as well it's not simply a black experience where a wide
experience it's an american experience and it has in many ways the time and the way in which black and white and other related to each other even to this day and perhaps if we understood more about how race relations developed in this country then we would have more understanding of each other and then perhaps at some point we can print these racial differences especially as we move into the twenty first century perhaps by understanding the nature of slavery and the idea that enslaved mint did not have to happen the idea that racial attitudes in racial difference which developed into racism and prejudice did not have to develop perhaps if we understand within its historical context and it's a stew of the legacies we can move beyond
that one day christians support they say students what is it it's important to understand the past because the past helps us understand the present end take into consideration how we're going to move in the future it's important because especially for african americans we need to know where we came from how we got to where we are to understand a culture to understand their roots to understand our heritage because african american bondage was a trial but it was a trial in which african american as
overcame supremely in spite of the separation of families in spite of the brutality in spite of the blood and the sweat and the tears african americans developed a vibrant culture a creative sense of themselves and they forged themselves into a part of american life and american culture he's also the campaign african americans slave meant was also a period when the nation was on trial here it's bleak the period of african american slavery was also a time when the nation itself was on trial and the nation was going to have to at some point in its history come to terms with its creed
or to accept that it was hypocritical it was going to have to come to terms with the ideology of the american revolution with the words of the declaration of independence and with the republican assume that it had maintained was the legacy of every american indeed the nation was going to have to define what was an american and that decision was going to have to involve the people of african descent if this nation was going to survive and one could probably and that if this nation is going to prosper in the future and survive and move beyond the legacy of slavery than it has to accept the responsibility for that history thing that they are
as if the nation is to move beyond the legacy of slavery it must own and accept responsibility for that part of his history moral suasion was used as an argument to end slavery because the abolitionists felt that thinking people who were basically good people in america could be persuaded by argument that slavery was wrong that it was wrong for moral reasons that it was wrong for religious reasons that the ideals on which the nation was founded or perverted by the institution of enslavement by the abolitionists didn't realize was how deeply embedded in the social economic and political structure slavery was they didn't
Africans in America
Episode Number
Judgment Day
Raw Footage
Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 4 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Margaret Washington is interviewed about Harriet Jacobs and the lives of slave women, gender conventions and racism, resentment of slave women by mistresses, Butler Island and religious life, the roles of women in the slave community, literacy and education among slaves, justifications by whites for slavery, minstrel shows, northern racism, Dred Scott decision, Kansas and Nebraska Act, John Brown, moral suasion, the legacy of slavery.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Identifier: Washington_Margaret_04_merged_SALES_ASP_h264.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 1:24:19
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 4 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; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 4 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; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University. 4 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from