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Blog Post M. Childress for class 9/2

Today’s reading in “A People’s History of the United States” shocked me by the way it seemed like the African Americans helped the Americans when they needed help the most, yet were then subjected to increasingly brutal conditions, regulations, laws, and oppression. Not that I was unaware of it, but reading about how the blacks taught the whites how to cultivate crops (pg. 24) and showed them ways to survive on their own without relying on cannibalism or other barbaric actions, then were still massacred was eye opening to say the least. I then thought about a point brought up later in the chapter: what would American be like without the hundreds of years spent in slave labor by blacks? Furthermore, if the initial African Americans hadn’t taught the Americans how to survive on their own, would the blacks have potentially taken over control?

This reading reminded me that early America was not only exploitation of labor of blacks, but also a robbery of their relationships, a stealing of their culture and resources, and a thievery of the African American’s pride, esteem, and self worth. However, the most thought provoking aspect of this reading was the inequality in punishment for crimes that, in my mind, was the beginning of systematic racism in the early Americas. For example, if a slave were to steal something they realistically probably needed to survive, they were commonly killed. However, if a white man stole from the slave nobody would bat an eye. Even if the white stole from another white, such an intense punishment as execution would never enter the debate.

Lastly, I wanted to highlight a very important point in the “Cape Comfort” reading. It highlights the fact that African Americans are more interested in connecting to their “roots”, showing that history is interconnected throughout time, and the relationships between people and families lead to beliefs, culture, and customs which form the identity of the individual. Without an understanding of this history we lose connection to our past, and in turn lose connection to the present.

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5 Comments

  1. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    I am glad you brought up the point about how the Africans actually taught the whites how to cultivate crops when they were brought over to enslavement. It is a very interesting debate to think of what the country would be like if the first Africans did not show hospitality and kindness to the whites and refused to show them their ways. It is amazing to me how the natives and the Africans seemed like much better people inherently than the whites. They were willing to make peace and help each other out when the whites were greedy and malicious. What does that say about our society that we perceived to be more advanced just because it had better military capabilities?

  2. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    The points you make in the second paragraph of this post really resonate with me. Of course I’d always been aware of the denial of rights and dehumanization faced by African American slaves in history, but I didn’t have a proper understanding of the full extent to which they were denied even familial or communal experiences. I was honestly shocked toward the end of the chapter when Zinn mentions that Virginia slave codes outlawed the gathering of two or more slaves out of fear of an uprising. This, along with the inability to trace personal lineage and other destructive obstacles for black families and communities must have been great contributors in what has morphed into the current cultural disparities for black communities in America.

    • Delaney Demaret Delaney Demaret

      I was also disheartened by the fact that gatherings were outlawed as a way to break down any sense of community. Zinn asserts that American slavery reached a level of cruelty beyond the rest of the world- this checks out with an account I recently read from a South African (Cape Colony) slave who was able to network among a community of other enslaved people. The level of intentional cruelty towards American slaves is difficult to grasp, given how much it shaped the rest of our history.

  3. Julia Leonardi Julia Leonardi

    I agree with you. This country would be nothing without the exploitation of African Americans. Every single European would’ve starved to death until the colonies were no more. They literally taught Europeans how to cultivate crops. Europeans ate and lived off of these people but still didn’t see them as people.

  4. Olivia Cosco Olivia Cosco

    I think it’s a very interesting point you bring up about African Americans teaching Americans how to cultivate crops. It does make you wonder, if this hadn’t occurred, would our history be what it is? I also feel like this is something we don’t learn about in history ever. I was in a class last year about slavery in America and we never learned about this. The class was great and I definitely learned a lot, but I feel like this is such an important piece to our history – considering everything could have been way different.

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