Slavery: Stop White Guilt

Sorry, we missed Black History Month – we were too busy detailing assaults on European people. Nevertheless, to show we're not completely politically incorrect, here's our contribution. One of the tools used to extort undeserved concessions – affirmative action/employment equity – from the Majority in both Canada and the U.S. is ceaseless references to the institution of slavery. From programmes like Roots to endless docudramas, the history of Black slavery is rehearsed and the argument advanced that Blacks today, 135 years after the abolition of slavery in the U.S., are entitled to special treatment and special consideration for criminal behaviour or family breakdown. The reality is that there were White slaves. Even less well known is that there were Black slave owners. The guilt must melt away and people must live in the present and be accountable for their own actions.

There is an article in the Feb./Mar. 1993 issue of American Heritage, Vol. 441, that should be incorporated into all Black History curricula. It is entitled "Selling Poor Steven". It begins in the 1640's with the story of John Casor who was brought from Africa to America where he toiled as a servant for a Virginia landowner. In 1654, Casor filed a complaint in Northampton County Court, claiming that his master, Anthony Johnson, had unjustly extended the terms of his indenture with the intention of keeping Casor for life as a slave for life. Johnson, insisting he knew nothing of any indenture, fought hard to retain what he regarded as his property. After much wrangling, on March 8th, 1665, the court ruled that "the said John Casor Negro shall forthwith bee returned to the service of his master Anthony Johnson," consigning him to a lifetime of bondage. Given the vulnerable legal status of servants – black and white – in Colonial America the decision was not surprising. But the documents reveal one additional fact of interest: Anthony Johnson, like his chattel, John Casor, was black. He had come to the colony as an indentured servant, and served his indenture and was now a prosperous plantation owner. He is also the father of American slavery. The story goes on for 6 pages of very interesting reading – how free black women owned their husbands, cases of free black parents selling their children into slavery, and so forth. The official US Census of 1830 revealed that 3,775 free Negroes owned 12,760 Negro slaves. What justification can our educators offer for withholding this remarkable bit of Black history?

From C-Far #333 Newsletter, March 1999
Paul Fromm, Etobicoke, Ontario