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Historical Intensions: Blog Post 2

One of the most striking things I read in Zinn’s second chapter, Drawing the Color Line, was a particular combination of statistics. I was shocked that two out of five people captured died on the death marches to the coast, and only two out of three of those who survived the marches survived the travel to the west. Usually, the slave trade is talked about in more general terms like Atlantic slave trade, labor shortages, and the “slave coast”, but this was the first time I have heard concrete numbers associated with the brutality of the slave trade. These statistics highlighted the unspoken horror and severity of what the slave trade really was in a new way I was never taught. It was not only upsetting to realize how large of an impact the West had on an entire region, but how it was “glossed over” or excluded by historians. 

 

As said in class, all history is written with a specific intention, but how does one go about repairing long-lasting racist intentions, whether calculated or unintentional? In order to answer this, I think what needs to be examined is what was once considered “fact”. When Zinn quoted what was defined as Black in 1600 England, it made me question the foundation upon which people make assumptions. As Black is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “dirty”, “death”, “sinister”, ect, people perpetuated what they considered “fact”, therefore created one of many causes that maintained and enabled racism and slavery. This definition has a clear historical intention: to dehumanize those who are black in order to elevate white people and justify systematically killing people for personal and regional utilization. Although this definition is just part of the complex web that enabled slavery, it confirms that the root of many issues are historical, and not naturally generated as facts are written by people. Only through questioning what is fact and what is a historical interpretation can one move forward earnestly, and only with time could questioning and holding analysts accountable help change the effects of historical racism.

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5 Comments

  1. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    It has always confused me as to why the conditions on the slave ships were so awful. Wouldn’t the slave traders want the slaves to survive? It just shows the lack of thoughtfulness and dehumanization that went on throughout the slave trade.

  2. William Coben William Coben

    Like you mentioned, and Chrsitina touched on, it is incredibly unusual to me that lack of attention payed to the well being and the upkeep of slaves as the sale of them was a significant source of money for slave traders and owners. I understand the racism that infected the hearts of the people involved in the trade, but from a financial standpoint, that principle does not make sense to me at all.

  3. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    I found that statistic striking as well. It expresses how slave traders commodified human life with indifference to the lives that were lost.

  4. Delaney Demaret Delaney Demaret

    I read a devastating passage from the book “Saltwater Slavery” by Stephanie Smallwood last year, one describing the ways the horrific conditions of the Middle Passage psychologically damaged generations of slaves. Zinn touched on it, but the amount of human beings that drowned in the Atlantic instead of endure conditions and displacement is horrifying. The conditions of the slave ships were so intentionally disgusting as a way to mentally break down the newly enslaved humans.

  5. Olivia Cosco Olivia Cosco

    I agree with you on the first point of how shocking and brutal the statistics show the slave trade to be. I was actually in a class last year called “Slavery and Freedom in Early America.” One interesting piece we read was Silencing the Past by Michael-Ralph Trouillot. He discussed a lot about how many details from our history are silenced, which we have touched on in this class. More specifically, he discusses details from the Atlantic slave trade to demonstrate how horrible it was. We also read primary sources from people on the ship. One quote I still remember, is a man saying he wishes he could have jumped over the side of the ship, but that they were always being watched and in handcuffs.

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