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A Color Line Still Present Today – 9/2

In the “Drawing the Color Line” section of A People’s History of the United States, Zinn describes the inhumane actions of early white Americans as the institution of slavery became instilled into society. Through my years of schooling, I have been taught how horribly we treated black people during the slave trade (and how America still fails to treat members of the black community as equal), but it still makes me sick to my stomach hearing how these innocent African Americans were taken from their homeland and tortured just for the white man’s economic gain and insecure need for power. 

The commodification of African people during this time is portrayed through the description of how enslaved people were packed onto slave ships and sold into slavery. They were viewed as something to be traded for money and a resource for economic prosperity; they were not viewed as humans. In one of my previous history classes, I learned the slave ships could not leave the African coast until their ships were at absolute capacity, similar to how cargo ships pack goods tightly onto the ships. This illustrates that American’s dehumanized these enslaved people so they could be seen as a good to be traded, allowing all regard for their human needs to dissipate. 

Zinn also brings up the point that racism was not a natural idea, but that there was “a complex web of historical threads to ensnare blacks for slavery”. One aspect of this “web” that angered me was the fact that there were laws put in place to disable the collaboration of white and black people. The white Americans in power knew what they were doing was morally wrong and that rebellions would occur, therefore they had to do everything they could to prevent it. With these laws, the divide between whites and blacks worsened. Thankfully, laws like those do not exist anymore, but systematic racism still does. It is our job as a society to disassemble the racist institutions early America has created. 


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  1. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    Even though my schooling did not teach me how horribly my people were treated during the Atlantic Slave Trade, my eyes are wide open now and I am appalled by what European traders did to African slaves for selfish gain. From having them auctioned off like inanimate objects while being stark naked in public to being branded like farm animals to being packed like trade goods without any regard for if they could breathe or not, I am triggered by this information Zinn (1980) presents as these details have been excluded out of American and World History books- and in the classroom in general. To actually see how influential the victors- versus the victims- in history have been in telling the narrative of slavery in America is mind-blowing. I agree that a ton of work needs to be done now to deconstruct the racist institutions America prides herself on to this day.

  2. Kayla O'Connell Kayla O'Connell

    I also was disgusted to read about the inhumane conditions that the African people had to endure on the slave ships. Not only were they hoarded onto the boats like animals, but also experienced inhumane conditions. The majority of these individuals would die on their way to America. This once again highlights the Europeans complete disregard for the enslaved individuals lives and their desire to earn a profit through exploitation.

  3. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    I really enjoyed your response and how you discussed the purposeful separation between the blacks and the whites early on in American history to segregate our country and further the divide between race. Humans are not inherently racist, it is something that is taught and in this case forced upon us by others.

  4. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    The idea of racism as being constructed and not inherent was my biggest takeaway from the chapter. Throughout the segregation era, this system was justified as natural, but the Zinn reading disproves that rationale.

  5. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I agree with your post and think that the divide between blacks and whites was created and could have been avoided. The inhumane conditions that the whites in power made the blacks endure is disgusting and should have never happened.

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