You Can Hide, But We Can Seek

This chapter speaks to the constant mistreatment of African-Americans and the measures that whites took to hide the evidence of slavery and oppression. No one wants to speak on the horrid actions done to African-Americans and show with pictures, stories, and documentations the disturbing behaviors that were done to blacks.

It’s not taught in classrooms, its not discussed in communities, its not spoken of in appropriate and uncomfortable settings. Its hidden and shunned away so that no one can fully grasp the crude mindset and horrendous actions. But, the truth shall arise and be exposed to all who is unaware.

Empathy from a Distance

In “Chapter 6: Capital City of Slavery 1780 – 1861”, Campbell continues to describe the atrocious treatment of the enslaved in the growing culture of slavery in Richmond. After I have finished reading this chapter, one of the sections that intigued me the most is the recount written by Charles Dickens during his visit in Richmond in 1842. Before this, I was not aware that besides from being a famous writer, Dickens was also actively expressing his disapproval of the inhumane treatment of the enslaved. I have never studied his works before or even done a research about this person, therefore, this came as a surprise to me. The entire section that I have chosen to discuss is about his personal recount of his visit in Richmond city.

My first impression while reading this section was how empathetic of Dickens to describe the misery experienced by a recently purchased enslaved mother and her children in ‘the negro car’ that he was on board. I do think that it is inevitable to not sympathize when one is surrounded by a horrible surrounding that involves other beings. Dickens did a great job in painting a picture of the whole situation as he was being very detailed in his recounts. By adding his feelings of disgust toward a slave owner and the condition of the enslaved, I could vividly visualize the train that he was onboard on. I could also sense sarcasm and detestation toward the slave owner in his voice when he says “The champion of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, who had bought them, rode in the train…’. He moved me by his writing, from a point a view of a colonizer, that he actually realized how people like him (of European descend and white) brutally treated and enslaved other human beings.

Now, having done a tad of readings on who Dickens was, I found out that in one of his letters in 1868, regarding the uneducated African American population and voting; it was written “the melancholy absurdity of giving these people votes, which at any rate at present, would glare out of every roll of their eyes, chuckle in their mouths, and bump in their heads”. I was taken aback at how contrasting this message is compared to the recount that I read from “Richmond Unhealed History”. Hence, I decided to re-read the section in the book again. While reading this section I wondered how could Dickens be both sympathetic to the enslaved and at the same time perceived them as people who were not worthy of voting or human rights? This suggests that regardless how much he tried to sympathize with the suffering endured by the enslaved, there would always be a gap on how he placed himself above other races. I can only assume that this is the mentality of someone who reigned from an imperialist background.

This reading only adds in to how hopeless things were for the enslaved in Richmond. Regardless of how much hope I had gained reading about white people trying to empathize and ‘rescue’ the enslaved, most of the attempts or intentions were dampened or even if they succeeded, it was a painfully long journey for both the parties.

The Fruits of Denial

I believe that this section of the chapter ties into my other section from chapter 5. Those in power can create the narrative that is told throughout the country. They hid histories and facts from citizens. The downriver slave trade was virtually unknown until the last decade of the 20th century. This goes into more about how America tries to cover up their horrible histories. This relates to how most people, including myself, did not know about who Brother General Gabriel was or about the existence of the burial ground, I was not taught about him in school. It is the school’s job to teach students the truths of the past which does not mean only providing half-truths. What I mean by half-truths is only sharing certain information while manipulating or avoiding other information

Pretty Villas built on Ruinous Heaps

This chapter exposed how normalized slavery was to the people participating and growing up around it, because only those that came to visit were able to comment on the full extent of it all. “There are pretty villas and cheerful houses in its streets, and nature smiles upon Capital City of Slavery the country road: but jostling its handsome residences, like slavery itself going hand-in-hand with many lofty virtues, are deplorable tenements, fences unpaired, walls crumbling into ruinous heaps.” I find this passage very fitting because it goes along with the systemic structure of slavery that we have talked about, how the state was the one in control and that although everything looked nice on the outside, they were building it upon slavery which makes it wrong and ugly. But no one person or small group could really change much because it had been so embedded in the way the systems worked. I also found it very interesting that Richmond college, which is now the University of Richmond is so ingrained in Richmond’s history and we never even hear about the part that it played.

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