Skip to main content

tv   Presidents and Slavery  CSPAN  April 16, 2016 12:00pm-1:20pm EDT

12:00 pm
professor parry discusses these cases and the broader discussion of racism in the states. broader legacy of racism in the united states. >> now, let's get to today's topic, which i am glad we did pick because it seems to have struck a chord. u.s. presidents who owned slaves while we're creating this democracy, they were leaders who had people enslaved, and we are honored to have dr. tyler parry, with an "a." i want to tell you a bit about him. dr. parry received his bachelor's of arts from the university of nevada and 2008 -- in 2008 and earned his master's degree in 2011 and his phd in 2014 in history from the
12:01 pm
university of south carolina. he is currently revising his manuscript entitled "love and marriage, domestic relations and matrimonial strategies among the slaves and atlantic world." that intrigues me to no end. his research examines the degree to which diaspora africans and their american-born dissidence reimagined their marital rights in the americas. utilizing methods from legal, political and cultural history, he began his analysis in atlantic africa and traces the struggle of african descended people throughout the british, west indies, bermuda in north america for fighting for marital equality. his research has taken him
12:02 pm
throughout black atlanta, or bermuda, jamaica, england, scotland, lucky guy. he has received crucial funding from various institutions including harvard, duke, university of south carolina, florida international university. he has published articles and book chapters on its slave marriage rituals and african-american popular culture. in addition to his manuscript revision, he is concurrently writing a book length treatment of the unique wedding ritual, jumping the broom. this has taken popularity amongst north american slaves. he teaches classes on african-american history, the history of racism and the african diaspora. we are honored to have him with us this afternoon and thank you so much. i bring to you dr. tyler parry, with an "a."
12:03 pm
[applause] professor parry: how is everybody? very good. thank you so much for coming. it means the world to me to see a good-sized crowd on a topic of history. as a history professor of african american studies, it is always nice to see engage people interested in such an important and compelling topic. as she suggested, i want to extend my thanks to the african-american museum for asking me to get this series of lectures for black history month, and as was suggested, i am largely interested in enslaved people, but particularly how they thought, fought, loved and other types of questions.
12:04 pm
when i was asked to give a talk on the slave owners, particularly the presidents, i had to reorient my thinking on how i approached the research. i have a variety of methods in which i am going to do this. i am going to take a step back from history and try to propose how it is possible that you have a group of elite, white men talking about liberty and freedom but only meaning it for a select group of people. as the polls closed on november 2008, barack obama knew he was entering history. he understood the formative moments of the occasion. born of a white mother and kenyan father, he followed a legacy as a black americans from
12:05 pm
of black of resilience americans from slavery to freedom pursued civil rights on the cotton plantations of the mississippi, the rice swamps of south carolina, the lunch counters of nashville and the registration desks of state universities throughout the country. not the ultimate solution to racism or racial advancement, obama's election through the electoral and popular vote , represented a crowning achievement of those who marched throughout the south, proposing that human dignity was not determined by skin color. the significance of this event was not lost and his wife, -- on his wife, michelle, either. a descendent of south carolina slaves whose people fled to chicago, illinois to escape jim crow segregation. what would they have thought? one wonders, that future generations would be removed from their realities of racial oppression in the united states would enter the highest office in the nation through an election that garnered a revolutionary fervor not displayed in national elections
12:06 pm
for multiple decades. together with their children, melia and sasha, barack and michelle obama showed the diversity of the black experience in the united states, the complexity of the african diaspora and the possibilities for a nation whose legacy of slavery is manifest on the very building that symbolizes its complicated past of liberty and oppression, the white house. while i was asked to speak on u.s. presidents who owned slaves, my brief tangent provides important context for the subject. the violence of slavery permeates the fabric of the united states and convinced many americans that coexistence between black and white people was an unrealistic expectation.
12:07 pm
a fantasy for a few delusional abolitionists who saw the end of legalized enslavement and enfranchisement of black citizens, should the day ever come. for most americans, the expansion of u.s. slavery is relatively well-known. a few black people walked the landscape of the country that would become the united states prior to british expiration, the climactic u.s. slavery came in virginia. at this point, the english colonial experiment was not guaranteed, and the crown understood that controlling the north american mainland was critical to preserving british interest in the americans. -- in the americas. iberian maritime powers had already achieved vast amounts of land, tapping into an expanding trade of african peoples who were forced to work in spanish and portuguese controlled areas that expand from mexico city to brazil. though the british were relatively late, colonizers quickly reoriented the priorities toward expanding the
12:08 pm
system of forced bondage. indigenous and african slaves alongside white indentured servants were the backbone of the early colonial process. however, indigenous peoples resisted slavery by fleeing to their homes or simply perish by european diseases and white indentured servants became freed, returned to europe and eventually became too costly to import into the colony. interest shifted into anti-black racial philosophies, determining the black skin was equal to racial inferiority. historians argue whether racism or slavery came first. did their racial philosophies organically emerge out of the expanding trade in african peoples through multiple sentries? cogent arguments are presented
12:09 pm
from both sides, but it is clear that by the 18th century, a few decades before the declaration of independence, the juxtaposition between white and black symbolized the clear divisions between freedom and slavery in the new nation. this intellectual development would resonate and provide an awkward counterpoint for a nation founded on the principles of freedom and democracy and the pursuit of happiness. slavery permeated through all of the colonies, southern soil, climate in agricultural developments prolifically expanded the institution of slavery by the mid-1700s. whereas most slaves in the north worked on smaller farms, shipyards or urban centers, southern slaves cultivated the cash crops that made a few white men rich, exploiting their labor on tobacco farms, rice farms and later, the cotton plantations that stretch from the upper south to use taxes alongside the
12:10 pm
o east texas alongside the sugar plantations of the louisiana. investment in slaves was a social status and once claim to elite whiteness rested on the ownership of people. it comes as no surprise that 12 united states presidents owned slaves, and eight of them while in office. symbols of an enslaved has to -- enslaved past dominate the landscape and symbols throughout america. we find slave owners on currency, their statues on universities, and celebrate individuals who were literally involved in human trafficking. terminology matters in this context. for slavery, as foreign as it -- as abhorrent as it is, for some reason seems easier for people to digest when thinking about the past. many tend to excuse the institution or perhaps overlook it as a black eye of american history that many prefer to
12:11 pm
forget, but in using the modern phrase "human trafficking," likeaces slave owners thomas jefferson, george washington and others into a more uncomfortable memory. for many people, human traffickers are the modern vagrants who sell women and children, were dominantly young girls in eastern europe, the middle east or africa. the movement of black bodies for white, capitalist consumption was rebelled. sometimes with subtleties, other times deliberately, by those who drafted the country's founding documents. geographers may have one believe that the founding fathers 's accomplishments overshadow any blame they deserve for investing in the system. they were simply products other time, some may say. the great irony of america's historical memory is a simultaneous combination of
12:12 pm
corruptmnation of , criticizing isis, but memorializing george washington, a man who owned hundreds of and whilen his death discussing principles of freedom and liberty, he signed the fugitive slave law of 1793 and sent slave hunters to go after because shelaves dare act upon the same principles his own revolution oused.pelle writing to joseph witten, the collector of customs in portsmouth, new hampshire, washington condemned these factions, exclaiming, "the on gratitude of that girl." ungratitude of that girl."
12:13 pm
and mrs. washington's desire to recover may not escape with impunity if it could be avoided. this notion of benign slaveholding, in which slave owners saw themselves as benevolent, eternal figures will give attention at the end of this presentation. national memories viewed slavery as a secondary component of the founding fathers achievements. thus, while washington and jefferson claimed discuss toward the institution, we must realize they were prolific slaveowners and invested in a system that condoned and expanded the despicable practice of human trafficking. one must remember the transatlantic slave trade was not closed to u.s. port cities until 25 years after the revolution's conclusion. the slaves these founders held were products of human traffickers, ripped from their homelands, deposited into circumstances, stripped of human dignity and a raised ancestral -- erased ancestral memories.
12:14 pm
long neglected into popular history of american history, the slave hands built the nation's capital and presidential residence. their families were severed and sold to the deep south to one of the largest slave markets in north america. from a numerical standpoint, the domestic slave trade from the eastern seaboard into the old southwest dwarfed its transatlantic predecessor. the domestic slave trade uprooted one million people, severing husbands from wives, mothers from children, causing enslaved people like hannah blair to write the following letter. "my dear husband, we received a letter that your master so kindly wrote to us, and you
12:15 pm
cannot even think how glad we were to hear from you and jake. i had almost given up the thought of ever hearing from you again. i was very much surprised when mrs. gallagher sent for me to come up and here's the letter the letter read. i went right off to hear it, for i did want to hear from you so much, we do not even know in what part of the field you were in. so you may know, i was glad to hear that you and jake were together. i hope that you all will be good men so your master will be kind to you. we are doing tolerably well. our boy grows fondly. i wish you could see him, but as that cannot be, i will learn him to always remember you. he has not forgotten you, yet. i must close this but will write to you again as soon as i hear from you.
12:16 pm
from your loving wife, hannah." similar to blair, some thoughts might resemble those avoiding -- those of william butler during this process of forcible separation. after his sale to a sugar plantation in louisiana wrote to his wife in maryland, hoping his letter "will find you, my wedded wife as i left you. i will be glad if you let me know how you are as soon as possible. i am bound to be yours, and if i ever have the least idea of changing my present state, i will let you know, and do try to walk in the steps of a married woman." hannah blair and william butler are but a few examples that symbolize the thousands of unknown voices whose painful memories died with them, hoping future generations would never know the painful loss of kinship
12:17 pm
to satisfy the economic desires of slave owners like washington and jefferson. despite the many presidents who expressed their sentiments against the institution, as many of them claim to despise it, they're in action toward ending action toward ending slavery makes them complicit in this exploitation. to fully understand the perceived inconsistencies between men who claim a heart while simultaneously allowing it the perpetuation, we must understand how the revolution itself in the documents that follow it explicitly condone racially based indignation. historians argue the american revolution was at least partially connected to a decision in 1772 that occurred across the atlantic ocean as an enslaved man, james somerset,
12:18 pm
realizing london was deemed free soil, walked away from his master with intention to never return. he was eventually apprehended and his master intended to send him to jamaica, a sugar colony that served as a death warrant to many african-american people, unlucky enough to cultivate sugar. his case was taken up by a leading abolitionist in britain who had a successful track record in helping fugitive slaves gain their freedom. the lord chief justice of the king, william murray oversaw the case. after a series of difficult deliberations, he declared the following verdict "the state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reason, moral or political, but only by law which preserves its force long
12:19 pm
after the reasons occasion and time itself, once it was created is erased from memory. it is so odious that nothing can support it under this law." just when i read these types of tracks, i realize i was born in the right century. even though that was english, that is difficult to understand. in layperson's terms, mansfield believed there was something in -- nothing in english law that permitted slavery to exist, this was the argument. one can imagine, the some writing was on the wall. slavery had been relatively uncontested as an institution for multiple centuries, at the notion that slavery could be successfully challenged in the court of law surely worried colonist who were wholly invested into the system.
12:20 pm
clarence argues "the ripple effect was immediate, trance atlantic jubilation, brought in swift." he noticed some people escaped to great britain, hoping to obtain the same freedom granted to somerset, believing the british law would demand the same for them, colonies like virginia, north carolina, georgia had a heightened enthusiasm to sever the relationship with the british empire. such information is not to downplay the significance of the revolution's goals, freedom, liberty, the pursuit of happiness are worthy of praise , but we must understand that i colonists often claimed they were breaking the yoke of their slavery to the british empire. their in temperament of slavery
12:21 pm
did not apply to those individuals literally enslaved to the colonies. enslaved people of africa were considered racially subordinate in many white people may have accurate the poem by phyllis wheatley when she wrote "twas mercy brought me from my pagan land, taught my benighted soul to understand that there's a god, that there's a saviour too: once i redemption neither sought nor knew." while her poem is quite nuanced, many of her contemporary white americans believed that the notion of christian salvation was offered in exchange of enslavement and was a sufficient explanation for their apparent inconsistencies. slavery to their the british empire was political and economic, which they believe was forcing free people to bow to the pressure of resources without sufficient compensation. mod and readers -- modern
12:22 pm
view theurely hypocrisy of this viewpoint but earlier there was no conflict. they were carefully developed to ensure individual liberties were protected from governmental threats. in another twist of irony, individual liberties, especially those related to property rights , would have a devastating impact upon universal liberties that transcend racial boundaries. the declaration of independence arguably serves as the most powerful symbol for america's founding, crafted in elegant prose and unapologetically direct in its forcefulness, the document is celebrated by citizens throughout the country and sometimes internationally. black americans have held a complex relationship with the document, however as it reflects the deliberate hypocrisy of freedom given to only a select portion of the population.
12:23 pm
, namely declarations virginia's declaration of rights a month before had already declared that slavery would be a protected institution while simultaneously proposing that "all men are equally free and independent." jefferson's declaration followed these popular sentiments. ning the document that granted liberty and freedom to the newly american citizens, jefferson was served his nightly tea by a house slave named richard. the tea served by an enslaved hand like the aided jefferson's -- likely aided jefferson's concentration on his crowning achievement. while we do not have testimonials from either of the two men about this bizarre event, a historian proposes that "perhaps, the irony is not lost on either of the two." only mentioning slavery as a way to incite the fear of white colonists, the document shows a
12:24 pm
hunger for expansion freedom and slavery. it is no wonder that many decades later, frederick douglass, the foremost abolitionist in the united states, declared what to the slave is the fourth of july? obviously, there is a contradiction. as the country moved through warfare and work to establish governing principles, various principles were held to the -- conventions were held to determine the state of the republic. the articles of the confederation, hopelessly succumbed to slave owning interests, renouncing the somerset decision and foreshadowed the fugitive slave act by declaring the government held responsibility for returning any runaway slave to its owner. the articles also initiated vigorous discussions over state sovereignty, a debate that continues today.
12:25 pm
it is election season and we rights all the write time. perhaps, unsurprisingly, southern states lobbied for state rights. a not-so-subtle method for protecting these slaveholders interest in ensuring other states could not infringe on the racial practices. while slavery was gradually dying in the north, especially after the war's conclusion in the late 18th century, the southern states showed few signs to downsizing their investments. i would like to discuss the constitution a little bit. when i listen to radio programs and i sometimes hear conservative hosts talk about how americans do not know what the constitution really says, here is what the constitution really says. article one, section two "taxes should be enforced among several -- apportioned among several states that can be included within this union accorded to their respective numbers which
12:26 pm
can be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years and excluding 3/5 of all other persons." this is where the 3/5 compromise starts to get some of its language. -- some of its legs. article one, section nine, " to provide for the repel of to suppress insurrections and repel invasions. many have suggested that the suppressing insurrection meant
12:27 pm
suppressing slaves. article one, section nine "the migration of such persons by any of the states existing shall properly admit, shall not be prohibited by the congress prior to the year 1808 but a tax may be imposed on such persons." this expanded the years of the transatlantic slave trade. they were still allowing some leeway to slaveowning interests. sorry, the constitution is a lot longer than many may think, so i am trying to move through here. "the united states shop protect -- shall guarantee to every state in the union a protective government to protect each of them against invasion and an application of the legislature when the legislature cannot be convened against domestic violence." all right. so, essentially the importance of understanding what the constitution says and the bizarre belief that you cannot
12:28 pm
change the wording of the document, means some people think these were progressive -- these regressive things could be stated. while amendments are nice, the fact that the original document still says these things, disenfranchises part of the population, and people wonder why individuals are frustrated in their current circumstances when not even the founding document of their history suggests they are even citizens. best equal citizens to everyone else. are equals they citizens to everyone else. black americans have always had a complex relationship with these founding documents. while those like former
12:29 pm
secretary of state condoleezza rice who despite her affiliation with a predominantly white and traditional republican party still asserts that "when the founding fathers said we the people, they did not mean us." the continuous issues surrounding equality in the nation's founding manifest deep contradictions that birthed the american republican contextualize and the founders possible motives surely remains a challenge with a modern philosopher. i will propose a few things. this context leads us to the pertinent question of presidents who owned slaves. how they justified owning people. we should understand the founding fathers anticipated that slavery would die, but this did not mean black and white coexistence. pertinent point of confusion that people often make is the link between anti-slavery and
12:30 pm
conceptions of race. anti-slavery did not mean to be pro-black. that. >> the founding fathers envisioned america as a reflection of euro-american achievement. eliminating the african inulation from imagery imagery we're still painstakingly trying to get over. many i james madison believed that relocation was the best option. the issue that relocated african-americans to the west african country at liberia which was a u.s. colony. the two races cannot coexist free and equal.
12:31 pm
despite the expansion, slavery expanded rapidly. at age 11, his dying father bequeathed his large virginia plantation to the young washington which included the inheritance of 10 slaves expanded his holdings and purchased a more for young adults. americans are a key factor. custis, also known as martha washington dramatically expanding his home in -- holdings in human
12:32 pm
property. of time of his death, 300 slaves remained at mount vernon. ashington fancied himself kind of slave owner. expressing shock and dismay when he saw bondage. there is no account to whether he was or not. some believed he was excessively stern. while some visitors to his plantation suggested he held a very gentle approach to slavery. but, it was washington's relationship with a few slaves that provided significant insight. he fled and was recaptured. she would die slave. other slaves were more successful. , one enslavedfate man named kerry washington ran away to the british army to fight against the national. despite the promises of a
12:33 pm
liberty and freedom promoted by the declaration of independence, harry knew what many of his counterparts understood. it was not for him. harry would eventually join black loyalists in canada prior to sailing to the british colony. although he would be exiled by british authorities for his participation in an uprising in colonial administrators. as revolutionary spirit was manifested on both sides of the atlantic. his situation simultaneously reveals that racial inequality and unjust governance was a transatlantic issue. figurey the most unique among his late population was his world-renowned chef hercules. washington expressed a connection towards it. scholars of slavery suggested that primary a slave with the name hercules plays on the
12:34 pm
sadistic motivation of slave masters. as they a lot the name of greek heroes and champions who legally held no agency over their person , and no concern over their own bodies. outside the possibility, they knew that hercules, at least from a comparative perspective gained a certain amount of economy as washington's slave and earned an additional income. some that was likely higher than many free white people earned during the same time. hercules addressed lavishly, traveled with washington, and the man moving outside the washington home. hercules.ckoned now, march 17 97, he was part of washington's home.
12:35 pm
it seemed hercules relived reasonably well. nothing could replace ownership over his own person. is something the slaves would take throughout the 19th century, much to the chagrin of the master school. can say his slave should be liberated by the time of death. he fervently believed that freedom provided few benefits to black people. it was common among white colonists in early americans to conclude that black people held intellectual deficiencies. he sent washington a letter
12:36 pm
after his point as commander-in-chief of the continental army. letter included a palm of his place in history. including with declarative affirmation "proceed great chief with virtue on my side. let the goddess guide. a crown, a mansion, and a throne that shines with a gold in washington. receivedn eventually weekly in his home in 1776, although neither of the two left any testimonials. i do wonder sometimes what both of them actually thought. slightly,hing gears thomas jefferson, the third president was arguably the most polarizing figure in the discussion of slave owners who promoted liberty. although progressive in many respects, jefferson not only held many slaves, he subscribed to extreme forms of racism that
12:37 pm
analyzed black people into a subspecies of the human family. he explores the habits and customs. even explain the concepts of romance. they loved themes of them to be in eager desire and a tender delegate mixture of sensible sensation. sexualized andly impassioned africans creating a genuine concern for requiring women. the ability to love
12:38 pm
the way white people did. jefferson was also privy to the bizarre discussions that sexually connected africans and orangutans. following the hypotheses of a jamaican planner, jefferson surmised that africans desired white mates in the same way that the orangutan demonstrated a preference for black women over those of his own species. theory was one of the more bizarre intellectual currents produced from the atlantic slave trade. writers even believed that orangutans could be trained to perform similar tasks in similar was theafricans which notion that further stabilized the position of european superiority over the analyzed slaves of african descent, just a side note, armor watching 12 years a slave towards the end when they are building the house or shed, and the slave owner
12:39 pm
claims that he saw black people perform in new orleans, and he was surprised at intelligence of the enslaved people. this is not just something jefferson thought, this is something a lot of people actually subscribes to. >> this theory of interspecies copulation between africans and primates again with slave traders along the african coast who claimed to witness these interactions. such notions became embedded in the development of science in the 18th century, images depicting orangutans carrying off african women were also distributed throughout the 18th entry and accepted as legitimate. while it is tempting to dismiss a jefferson's statement as an elite planter who was detached for most americans, his acceptance of these ideas reveals the gullibility that many colonial americans likely possess when confronted with stereotypes of african sexual practices, no matter how bizarre
12:40 pm
they appeared. but, jefferson also approach slavery from economic perspectives, determining the advantages of slave breeding over implantation. thomas jefferson considered the labor of a breeding woman is no object and that a child raised every two years is of more profit than the crop of the best wavering man, with respect to women and children, i must pray you in coal creek that it is not their labor, but their increase which is first consideration with us. , essentially that what he is determining is that the practice of slavery which will become popular in virginia became a primary economic incentive for slaveowners. and, often, these were violence, psychologically and physically violent and which enslaved
12:41 pm
people were forced to copulate with one another. for jefferson and other slaveowners, it was not so much the marital rights that was the primary issue, but the assurance of a national increase to bolster the slave population. as many know, jefferson's interests in slaves sexual encounters were also cross racial. remiss if i did not mention this. while i have no new research to contribute to him it is a relationship that will never cease to be fast-moving. for those of you who what scandal, there is an episode where olivia is mad for continuously pursuing her. she said she felt very sally hemming. so come at sally hemming was very much a part of popular conscience, but also on a debate. i listen to radio programs. people would try to deny this dna evidence. but, in many ways, jefferson's
12:42 pm
story remains unresolved. knowhing that we have to is that this was not an invention of the late 20th century as far as accusing jefferson of sleeping with his woman or forcing her to lie with him. this is something that his contemporaries accused him of doing. not just something people accused him of doing. while i do not think you would ever admit it, he did take her with him to france. he seemed somewhat open with the relationship, and they usually tell students to garner their interest in history, if you want , scholarsp opera propose that sally hemmings was the half-sister. so, she won a very scandalous
12:43 pm
relationship. that is one of them. must reckon with reality that the designer of the declaration of independence held hundreds of people in slavery. most of him he never freed. the vast majority of whom he never free. hopefully, historians will continue to interrogate the intellectual history of jefferson. they will have it intersect the historical reality. the washington and jefferson are the two most prominent examples of slaveowning presidents come it is important to highlight key factors of their successors, especially those who did so while they occupied the white house. who followon jefferson is the fourth president of the united states owned over 100 slaves, owning a large percentage while he occupied white house. he is responsible for x gaining
12:44 pm
the compromise which guarantees that the south held a disproportionate influence on congress to preserve and uphold slaveowning interests. most uniquely, one of medicine slaves published a memoir of his experiences as an enslaved president. jennings casually inserts his deepest criticisms towards dolly madison. surrounds grievances her reluctance to deliver payments to him. she kept the last red cent of all of his earnings. forcing him to seek additional employments to pay for his wardrobe and laundry. he was also forced to live away from his wife who lived on another virginia plantation. slaves referred to these as a broad marriages. which meant enslaved has-beens engage in a practice called might walking. sometimes dodging the surveillance of a slave patrol to visit their wife one or
12:45 pm
tonight out of the week. historians have uncovered that jennings actively resisted the system, even after he was free. he purchased his freedom through negotiation in 18 or seven with another master he was sold to. he participated in the attempted escapes of many people. although he would assist dolly madison during the duration of her life, his forgiveness is especially compelling when one considers that james madison did not free any of his slaves. monroedent like james held 75 slaves during his life. many during his administration. he followed the strange contradiction of his counterparts. expressing a disdain for slavery while owning slaves himself. this was very common. he is most well-known for his support of the american colonization society and a
12:46 pm
modern capital of monrovia. there, his name is a testament to his ambitions. andrew jackson, the seventh president owned massive numbers of slaves. he gave permission for southern postmasters to detain abolitionist trash that state throughout the south. coupled with his forced removal of native americans, many have wondered correctly by jackson's face remains on the $20 bill. , he escapeduren 1914. exposed thel party expansion of slavery to the west. mean he not necessarily opposed the existence of slavery, just the expansion. william henry harrison owned 11 slaves prior to entering the
12:47 pm
white house. he had a successful lobby to legalize slavery in indiana. which, interestingly enough was opposed by thomas jefferson. john tyler, a virginian, staunchly defended the preservation of slavery. he is oftentimes voted one of the worst presidents. james k. polk owned slaves in the white house, commissioning his wife to free their slaves after her death. the 13th amendment beat them to the punch. she did not die until the 1890's. zachary taylor owned many slaves. but generally advocated against the expansion of slavery. this was a surprising maneuver for taylor. which challenged the ire of proslavery ideologues. taylor died in 1850 during a heated debate over the expansion of slavery. andrew johnson and ulysses s. grant, two post civil war presidents, also at one point owned slaves. the main point here despite a dearth of resources we find that each unique and interesting president was surrounded by interesting enslaved people. historians must continue to find the stories and secure their place in the canon of american historical figures. these individuals should be more than secondary figures in high school history textbook. you have they make about far. this causes me to wonder what can we say about the american revolution? the ideas of freedom and
12:48 pm
democracy were compelling and revolutionary among themselves, some people compose the idea behind a revolution is that you can turn the house down and build up to something new and better. get rid of everything that was bad about it. the great irony of calling it an american revolution is that the most nefarious aspect of the colonies was glossed over and protected in the interest of a few elite people who wanted to keep others in bondage. even though many of them knew that what they were doing was wrong. their statements from these individuals that condemn slavery despite the fact that they continued to own slaves. which means you get rid of everything that was bad about
12:49 pm
what you had previously done. the great irony of calling it the american revolution is that the most nefarious components of the nationstate was glossed over and protected the interest of a few elite people wanted to keep others in bondage. despite the fact that many of them seem to know what they were doing was wrong. there are too many statements from these individuals that can then slavery despite the fact that they continue to own slaves. so i would like to end this presentation now with my own words but with somebody who i think could say it much better than i can. i like to end with a quote from david walker's appeal as he eloquently takes on the blatant contradictions of the founding principles in the u.s. nation. he says, "to prove that the condition of the israelites was better under the egyptians.
12:50 pm
i call upon the professing christians and the philanthropists and the tyrant himself to show me a page of history either sacred or profane on which a verse can be found which maintains that the egyptians held the insupportable insult upon the children of israel are telling them that they were not of the human family. can the whites disprove it? have they not after having reduced us to the horrible condition of slavery under their feet. as descending originally from a tribe of monkeys or orangutans? oh my god, i appeal to every man of feeling. is this not insupportable? is it not keeping the most gross insult upon our miseries because they have got us under their feet and we cannot help ourselves. pity on us, lord master. has mr. jefferson declared to the world that we are inferior to whites? both of the endowments of our bodies and our minds?
12:51 pm
it is indeed surprising that a man of such great learning combined with such excellent natural heart should speak so of the sin of man in chains. i don't know what to compare it to. unless by putting one wild deer in a cage work will be secure and hold another by the side then let it go and expect the one in the cage to run as fast as the one in liberty." thank you. [applause] let's give dr. perry another round of applause. [applause] >> what political price did these presidents who owned slaves while in office pay? dr. perry: this is a good question. i don't see any indication that their politics or their influence suffered from these decisions. thank you.
12:52 pm
let's give dr. perry another round of applause. go to the microphones or can behold. [applause] >> what political price did these presidents who owned slaves while in office pay? dr. perry: this is a good question. i don't see any indication that their politics or their influence suffered from these decisions. this is largely because the 3/5 compromise insured that southern slaveholding interest dominated the politics of washington dc. being a slave owner even if you claim to did to dislike it people may have been ambivalent about the idea that slave owning seemed this type of normalcy where it would not of been
12:53 pm
suffered from these decisions. this is largely because the 3/5 compromise insured that southern slaveholding interest dominated the politics of washington dc. being a slave owner even if you claim to did to dislike it people may have been ambivalent about the idea that slave owning seemed this type of normalcy where it would not of been surprising for someone to own slaves while occupying the white house. even though we are talking about 12 u.s. presidents first this seems bizarre and strange. for an 18th or 19th century white to voting individual, this would've been normal for the day. i don't think they paid any price. >> my question is in relation to justice scalia.
12:54 pm
this notion of pure constructionism as you were talking about it, they really didn't embrace the idea of slavery but practiced it. these amendments didn't really alter the philosophical premise of us being 3/5. is this conservative constructionist review of the constitution then problematic based on what you said? dr. perry: i think that sometimes we have to try to understand how certain people perform in a way that is expected of them. in the 21st century there is a lot of discussion about capitalism versus socialism. one thing that interests me is i see a lot of very prominent wealthy people rail against
12:55 pm
capitalism. while making their money from capitalist ways. this is something i think about when i try to get into the minds of an 18th-century individuals. the idea that the founding fathers were banking on the possibility that slavery would die. and that they were simply just condescending the conditions of their time and in some ways that was a method to downplay the significance of what they were doing. if you are george washington and you are saying slavery is going to die anyway, that takes a psychological burden off him.
12:56 pm
he can see like a progressive individual because he hopes it will go away at some point. in some ways a lot of people living in the modern conditions say this all the time. you just have to play the game. get the job. then you can make a difference. the founding fathers, we have propped them up so much that there is this national memory to which everything they were doing was somehow infallible. but i think washington knew that what he was doing was wrong. >> if you are a strict
12:57 pm
constructionist than the decisions that he made are all saying that in the light of current reality today we should not change anything because that was the foundation. dr. perry: we hear a lot of discussion about the law of the land. legality does not necessarily mean morally right. the context of the 19th century slavery was a legal institution but we would condemn it as an immoral practice. one of the problems i have with conservative supreme court justices is the unwillingness to believe that things change. and they change for the better. there is not this linear way that we get to certain things. things changed a lot. some traditionalists refuse to see it that way. >> the letters that slaves exchange. i heard that slaves were killed
12:58 pm
if they were even thought to have reading ability. so where do these letters come from? dr. perry: these letters were dictated by the enslaved people through the masters. for the woman her mistress wrote the letter as she spoke it. for historian using certain methodological practices i have to be very careful in understanding there is a filter operating there. in what could actually be said. the same goes for the man william butler as well. his master wrote the letter. he does add footnote on the letter and says i wanted to do this to prove it us louisiana slave owners aren't so bad at all.
12:59 pm
so there was an incentive for writing a letter for enslaved person to promote yourself as a benevolent paternal slave owner. there are examples of enslaved people learning to read. i think frederick douglass said that one of his mistresses taught him to read because she believed personally that was ok to educate some people. the vast majority of white people feared slaves becoming literate because the make and read what the bible actually said. >> we know many of the slave women were taken advantage of. our people handed down stories through each other so they going to talk.
1:00 pm
is there any record of how many presidents had children by slave of these slave women? dr. perry: this follows up with thomas jefferson's very unique existence. the idea of oral traditions and whether or not it makes it into the canons of history. scholars have found that jefferson's descendents have known for a while through family traditions that they were descendents of the third president. academic historians were reluctant to accept these oral traditions. they were largely distrustful of these histories. with the advancement of dna evidence, they have been able to
1:01 pm
trace a dna link to those who claim to be descendents of thomas jefferson through sally hemings. they have linked the same dna to the individuals. some people who deny this claim, you can divide it all you want. it seems pretty definitive that not only did they think that jefferson was doing this while he was alive it has now been proven. he is the only one that i personally know of because he was kind of an open book with his relationship. whether or not there were others i'm not entirely sure. >> j.a. rodgers wrote a book and said that some of the presidents had black blood.
1:02 pm
dr. perry: i know that alexander hamilton was mixed race. he was born in the caribbean. i think to a mixed-race mother. he would've been a quadroon. i'm not sure about other presidents being of african descent. i think some of them were indigenous or american indian. prominent members were but they were able to pass. >> christianity in america. how they reconcile owning slaves and also be christian? dr. perry: the question is the problem with saying you are a christian holding slaves. how that reflects the current circumstance of the country. they would reconcile it the same way that many white southern slave owners were done so. the bible can be very selectively utilized depending on what somebody wants to look on such with it. jesus was a very nice revolutionary figure. peace and love.
1:03 pm
but there is a passage in the new testament in which paul says that slaveowning and christianity can coexist. paul himself was a product of the roman empire. it was a massive slaveowning society. essentially the way that most slave owners would say it just as paul did with rome as long as it was a legal institution you can legally owned slaves. you supposed to treat your slaves well. they would say we are following christian slaveowning. look at this elaborate wedding i just gave my favorite domestic slave. they would promote these proslavery apologetics to deem themselves the nine paternalistic.
1:04 pm
slaves were more like children than they were like laborers. simultaneously they were ripping apart millions of people from one another. like most slaveowning presidents, jefferson was dubious on the literal notion of the bible and being christian. jefferson was more of a deist. he was not a true believer. even something like washington could read a biblical passage and see that slavery is endorsed in both the old and the new testament and declare that as long as the country allows slavery to exist you can be both a christian and a slave owner. but when the law of the land erases it is when you can no longer owned slaves. >> using white supremacy they could justify slavery. these aren't full people. they are closer to apes or
1:05 pm
baboons or whatever. i can own them and still talk about this democracy. dr. perry: it becomes the central question of public versus private. the way you publicly act might not necessarily be the way privately think. one of the interesting things about jefferson, there was an individual named benjamin banneker. he was a prominent scientist to survey the land of washington dc. he was highly intelligent. publishing almanacs and scientific investigations. he chastised jefferson and said you cannot suggest that people of african descent are lower human beings. this is proof of their capabilities. jefferson wrote a very nice letter saying that sounds good. privately he corresponded with somebody else distancing himself from what banneker did. when the founding fathers were challenged, they were willing to concede is in the back of their minds they didn't. they were not willing to challenge the vast and powerful slaveowning interests. >> to say that i'm not a bad slave owner is like saying you're not a bad stormtrooper
1:06 pm
when you're off duty. slavery is not anything new in the world. there are many egyptian slaves. slavery in america was a different type of slavery. you could go back to wherever you are from. can you elaborate on how it was so much different from anywhere else in the world? dr. perry: this is a great point. even when you look at the entire transatlantic era in which it wasn't just the british, it was the spanish and the french and the portuguese and the danish dr. perry: it becomes the central question of public versus private.
1:07 pm
the way you publicly act might not necessarily be the way privately think. one of the interesting things about jefferson, there was an individual named benjamin banneker. he was a prominent scientist to survey the land of washington dc. he was highly intelligent. publishing almanacs and scientific investigations. he chastised jefferson and said you cannot suggest that people of african descent are lower human beings. this is proof of their capabilities. jefferson wrote a very nice letter saying that sounds good. privately he corresponded with somebody else distancing himself from what banneker did. when the founding fathers were challenged, they were willing to concede is in the back of their minds they didn't. they were not willing to challenge the vast and powerful slaveowning interests. >> to say that i'm not a bad slave owner is like saying you're not a bad stormtrooper when you're off duty. slavery is not anything new in
1:08 pm
the world. there are many egyptian slaves. slavery in america was a different type of slavery. you could go back to wherever you are from. can you elaborate on how it was so much different from anywhere else in the world? dr. perry: this is a great point. even when you look at the entire transatlantic era in which it wasn't just the british, it was the spanish and the french and the portuguese and the danish and the dutch, multiple european countries were invested in slavery. some came with their own idea of what it meant to be an enslaved person. did they have any legal rights? i think what i usually tell my students why slavery here was a different institution. people say rome had a lot of slaves. as a way to dismiss the significance of it. but usually say what happened
1:09 pm
here is unprecedented in human history. it was certain islamic regimes in the middle east that a racialized form of slavery. what happened here was this idea that because of one's skin color that person was considered human property or chattel and their descendents were also born to be slaves. in rome he was much easier for your children to become free. it was determined to ensure that a specific racial group would be slaves for as long as human history would continue. i'm glad you asked that question. slavery here was unprecedented and different. >> how much of an impact was language within the documentation? a lot of people couldn't read.
1:10 pm
they would associate black to that it was assumed that these people were justified to be labeled 3/5 of a human being. dr. perry: the number of people work on this. the changing of names was deliberate. you are now just african and a negro in the slaves. terminology does matter in this context. we'll call it that enough in the 18th century. just as we use language today to convey the intensity of certain points. changing somebody's name, if you have seen roots, which i think is being remade by the history channel, kunta kinte contested the name and he was beaten into submission to accept the name. privately he still called himself that. there was a deliberate social conditioning to accept the names jefferson or johnson or these anglo names to forget the heritage. former slaves would talk about africa they would largely modeled the beliefs of their white counterparts. this was something that was ingrained in people from multiple generations. after marcus garvey and black nationalism we are now starting to get out of that and seeing the connections to africa.
1:11 pm
howard has influenced the very unique development of african americans the names do matter. even if it is an idea of reinventing urself. >> what is your view on the new tax for the same outcome as far as the government relationship with industry and modern-day slavery in the form of mass incarceration? dr. perry: i wish michelle alexander was here. the new jim crow is a great book.
1:12 pm
what i usually tell my students is that here is evidence that just as we use language today to convey the intensity of certain points. changing somebody's name, if you have seen roots, which i think is being remade by the history channel, kunta kinte contested the name and he was beaten into submission to accept the name. privately he still called himself that. there was a deliberate social conditioning to accept the names jefferson or johnson or these anglo names to forget the
1:13 pm
heritage. former slaves would talk about africa they would largely modeled the beliefs of their white counterparts. this was something that was ingrained in people from multiple generations. after marcus garvey and black nationalism we are now starting to get out of that and seeing the connections to africa. howard has influenced the very unique development of african americans the names do matter. even if it is an idea of reinventing yourself. >> what is your view on the new tax for the same outcome as far as the government relationship with industry and modern-day slavery in the form of mass incarceration? dr. perry: i wish michelle
1:14 pm
alexander was here. the new jim crow is a great book. what i usually tell my students is that here is evidence that becomes very difficult to deny that there are not historical linkages of race. to those who say slavery happened 150 years ago, it is an annoying excuse in which the narrative goes like this. you enslave these people for multiple generation. a civil war has to be fought. people are freed and given a few rights for maybe a decade. reconstruction and its due to a very shady presidential election in 1876 with rutherford b. hayes and jim crow is allowed to flourish. in the 1960's you have the civil rights movement the voting rights act of people and affirmative action policies. that largely benefit white women statistically. in the next 40 years everything is supposed to be ok. when we look at people fleeing the jim crow south to settle in urban centers in los angeles or chicago or new york all throughout the united states
1:15 pm
subprime loans are given to many of these individuals locking them into perpetual debt. the argument is that the racism now is much more subtle. which many people say is the very dangerous form. if you are down to 1940's mississippi you at least know what you're going to get. now under the assumption of the post-racial nation-state we can dismiss racism by saying my son or daughter goes to school with all these various people. we can dismiss this idea that there's is not a deliberate attempt to incarcerate particularly young black men. much more so than privileged white males. statistics have borne this out.
1:16 pm
if you are down to 1940's mississippi you at least know what you're going to get. now under the assumption of the post-racial nation-state we can dismiss racism by saying my son or daughter goes to school with all these various people. we can dismiss this idea that there's is not a deliberate attempt to incarcerate particularly young black men. much more so than privileged white males. statistics have borne this out. this is something that much more
1:17 pm
qualified people have explored. you can look at the comparison of young black men who have crack against white men who have cocaine. young black men with smaller amounts of crack received a much harsher sentences. there is an excellent documentary you might need to watch when you have some alcohol available called kids for sale. it essentially discusses how there were people who were literally invested in locking up people of african descent. it is harder to identify. unless you see those documentaries you simply don't know. you just assume that individuals are doing it to themselves. >> and thank you so much. we have one final lecture in the series. four black governors since reconstruction. two of them elected. i hope you'll come back. and spread the word. thank you for spending your afternoon with us. [applause]
1:18 pm
if you don't have a membership to the museum may i ask you to please consider getting a membership. you can do it online. let everyone know the great things we do here at the california african-american museum. thank you dr. perry. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule. and to keep up on the latest history news. weekend, american history tv
1:19 pm
is featuring tuscaloosa alabama. c-span city tour staff recently visited many sites showcasing the city's rich history. theo liska's home to university of alabama founded in 1831. learn more about tuscaloosa here on american history tv. >> if there is a remand that ,eserve recognition, so often the men and women deserve recognition cannot receive it, and to see him receive it was a wonderful thing. standing in the main library in the center of campus of universe of alabama. this is the first courage award from the john f. kennedy library foundation.

37 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on