Archive for Slavery

Presidents’ Day

Jeff Jacoby reaches into the trough of 19th century mediocrity of Polks and Fillmores and plucks for our consideration a great president—perhaps—given half a chance:

NEARLY 1,000 days stretch between this Presidents’ Day and the next presidential election. Yet already it is impossible to escape the maneuvers, machinations, and media coverage of men and women so consumed with winning the highest office in the land that the lust for power all but oozes from their pores. For as long as most of us can remember, the obsessive quest for the presidency has been an indelible feature of American politics. Try to envision successful candidates for the White House who don’t have that “fire in the belly”: candidates prepared to accept the job if it seeks them out, but not driven by such insatiable ambition for it that everything else pales by comparison. It would be easier to envision a team of unicorns.

And yet America once had such a president. He was James A. Garfield of Ohio, a remarkable individual who rose from grinding poverty to the presidency of the United States without ever thrusting himself forward as a candidate for election to anything. It is a shame that Americans don’t know more about this gifted yet modest leader, as they doubtless would had he not been shot by an assassin just four months after becoming president.

Garfield was nominated with 399 votes. As the convention erupted in cheers and song, a “shocked and sickened” Garfield was beset by well-wishers. To one delegate’s congratulations, he replied: “I am very sorry that this has become necessary.”

Five months later, he was elected president. On March 4, 1881, he was sworn in, and delivered an inaugural address passionate in its emphasis on the rights of freed blacks. “Former slaves in the crowd openly wept,” Millard recounts. Many more Americans wept six months later, when Garfield died of the gunshot wound he had received on July 2, 1881.

A few keystrokes brought up Garfield’s Inaugural Address:

The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. NO thoughtful man can fail to appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people. It has freed us from the perpetual danger of war and dissolution. It has added immensely to the moral and industrial forces of our people. It has liberated the master as well as the slave from a relation which wronged and enfeebled both. It has surrendered to their own guardianship the manhood of more than 5,000,000 people, and has opened to each one of them a career of freedom and usefulness. It has given new inspiration to the power of self-help in both races by making labor more honorable to the one and more necessary to the other. The influence of this force will grow greater and bear richer fruit with the coming years.

No doubt this great change has caused serious disturbance to our Southern communities. This is to be deplored, though it was perhaps unavoidable. But those who resisted the change should remember that under our institutions there was no middle ground for the negro race between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.

The emancipated race has already made remarkable progress. With unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness not born of fear, they have “followed the light as God gave them to see the light.” They are rapidly laying the material foundations of self-support, widening their circle of intelligence, and beginning to enjoy the blessings that gather around the homes of the industrious poor. They deserve the generous encouragement of all good men. So far as my authority can lawfully extend they shall enjoy the full and equal protection of the Constitution and the laws.

The free enjoyment of equal suffrage is still in question, and a frank statement of the issue may aid its solution. It is alleged that in many communities negro citizens are practically denied the freedom of the ballot. In so far as the truth of this allegation is admitted, it is answered that in many places honest local government is impossible if the mass of uneducated negroes are allowed to vote. These are grave allegations. So far as the latter is true, it is the only palliation that can be offered for opposing the freedom of the ballot. Bad local government is certainly a great evil, which ought to be prevented; but to violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than an evil. It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to compass the death of the king, it shall be counted no less a crime here to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.

It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this question of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and keeps the ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.

But the danger which arises from ignorance in the voter can not be denied. It covers a field far wider than that of negro suffrage and the present condition of the race. It is a danger that lurks and hides in the sources and fountains of power in every state. We have no standard by which to measure the disaster that may be brought upon us by ignorance and vice in the citizens when joined to corruption and fraud in the suffrage.

But the responsibility for the existence of slavery did not rest upon the South alone. The nation itself is responsible for the extension of the suffrage, and is under special obligations to aid in removing the illiteracy which it has added to the voting population.

That is more than a passing reference. It puts into perspective the true shame of the United States: not slavery (which nearly every country practiced), but the century of Jim Crow that followed its abolition. Garfield saw it for what it was—a national stain, born of ignorance—and was determined (at least in words) to stop it in its tracks.

Garfield is not the only revelation to us since we started blogging. Perhaps no one has grown in our estimation more than Calvin Coolidge. If he seemed small of voice, it wasn’t from smallness of his beliefs. His vision of government—and the Executive’s role—stands in the starkest of contrasts to today’s model. More’s the pity.


The Massah Will See You Now

Speaking of slavery (see below), it’s been in the news lately:

[A]t the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C., I stated that Obamacare was the worst thing in our country since slavery.

The PC police immediately went to work with their mission of distraction by trying to tell everyone that I was equating Obamacare with slavery, which of course I was not, but it makes for a good headline.

For those who did not hear the speech or understand its meaning, let me recapitulate. When looking at the self-inflicted wounds of our nation, physical slavery is widely regarded as the worst, with deleterious lingering effects that still are manifested 150 years after it was abolished.

Despite this malady and many other severe problems, including attacks from foreign enemies, we have managed not only to survive, but thrive as a nation where freedom and responsibility are revered. As was intended by the Founders of our nation, a power structure was put in place with “the people” at the pinnacle of that power pyramid.

The implementation of Obamacare places the health — and, ultimately, the lives — of the people in the hands of the government. Over the course of time, such a relationship places the government at the top of the power pyramid, thus putting “the people” in a very dependent position.

A statement ascribed to Vladimir Lenin and widely disseminated in 1948 by the American Medical Association, implies that the establishment of government control over health care is foundational to the creation of the socialist state. The exact quote: “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.”

There is controversy as to whether Lenin used these exact words, but the larger point is that he and his followers certainly subscribed to the philosophy symbolized by these words. Some will rant and rave about whether slavery and mandated governmental control of our health are equivalent, and others will be foaming at the mouth about who Lenin was and what he said, but fortunately, many others will actually recognize the fundamental power shift occurring in our nation and its implications for our future.

Those secular progressives who want to fundamentally change the nature of America hate those who expose their modus operandi, but those of us who embrace traditional values and love the freedom and opportunity that has characterized our nation in the past will not sit idly by and go along to get along.

Proponents of ObamaCare haughtily point out how many other countries have socialized medicine. And look at them (as we will in a moment). But we are not that sort of country. We were proudly founded on what Professor Obama—sorry, Lecturer Obama (best title evah!)—dismissed as “negative liberties”, not on what government “must do on our behalf”. Even glitchless, ObamaCare would be on offense, a corruption of the historic role of government in the lives of free people.

Bur speaking of glitches, remember this fiasco, extracted from our archives?

Lives will be put at risk unless the Government suspends the new 111 NHS advice line, doctors warned yesterday.

Patients have been left hanging on the phone for two hours or told to call back tomorrow because overstretched operators of the service were too busy to help.

The problems led to a surge in ambulance call-outs and casualty visits as the desperate dialled 999 for help instead.

In Manchester, the situation was so bad the previous provider, Mastercall, had to take over the phones just hours after the launch to sort out the mess.

A group of nurses, who were on a night out, were even drafted in to staff the phones. The service has now been shelved in the city until the end of April.

Sound familiar?

That was Britain in March. This is Britain today:

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has taken over the running of the NHS 111 helpline from NHS Direct across most of the West Midlands.

WMAS will run the project for Birmingham, Solihull, the Black Country, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Coventry and Warwickshire.

An NHS commissioners’ report in April 2013 found the NHS Direct service in some areas was “unacceptably low”.

In July, Dr Robert Morley, from the Birmingham Local Medical committee, said the 111 service had been a “disaster” in the city.

At the time, the regional project director for NHS 111 in the West Midlands, Wayne Bartlett, said the testing phase “encountered some significant operational and technical issues on implementation”.

And Britain has had an NHS for 65 years. They’ll work out the bugs any day now. Feeling better about socialized medicine now?

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Of Human Bondage

I came across a news story recently headlined something like “The shame of American Slavery”. I guess “news story” is the wrong term, since slavery in America was abolished 150 years ago.

The rest of the world, not so much:

Nearly 30 million people around the world are living as slaves, according to a new index ranking 162 countries.

The Global Slavery Index 2013 says India has the highest number of people living in conditions of slavery at 14 million.

But Mauritania has the highest proportional figure with about 4% of its population enslaved.

India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people enslaved, the charity said.

Together with five other countries, they account for three-quarters of the total estimated number of people in modern slavery worldwide.

While the highest proportion of slaves is in Mauritania, with many people inheriting slave status from their ancestors, Haiti is second in the index and Pakistan is third.

Thirty million people—nearly half in India—are enslaved today. Right now, as you eat your cereal.

How does that compare to the evil, evil US of A?

Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.

In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade.

So, the evil of American slavery—over the course of 341 years—amounts to about 1.5% of the slavery in the rest of the world today. Right now. As you eat your buttered toast. Even if you compare the total number of slaves in bondage at its height (4,000,000 est., as the captives had babies), it’s still only 13.3% of the slave population this morning. As you sip your Costa Rican blend or Earl Grey (hot).

All slavery is evil. But it has been practiced throughout time, throughout societies, across the world. America answered for its evil with a Civil War, which took an estimated 620,000 to 850,000 lives. Significantly more than the total number of Africans captured and brought to America, colonial and independent.

Do with these facts what you will.

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Say, You Know What ObamaCare Reminds Me Of?

Slavery! What, you don’t see it?

He does:

Controversial physician-turned political commentator Ben Carson has claimed that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to America ‘since slavery’.

The incoming Fox News contributor made the statement during a fiery speech at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington on Friday.

‘You know Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,’ he said.

‘And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care – It was about control.’

‘Slavery was a clear evil which had a very negative impact on everything in our society, and ObamaCare is a clear evil that is also going to have a very negative impact on everything in our society — in addition to the fact that it subjugates the population to the government,’ he said.

You remember this guy, don’t you? President Obama sure does:

Carson has become known for his acerbic statements following his speech at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, during which he criticized a number of President Obama’s policies as the president sat nearby.

But he is arguably best known for a speech where he called white liberals ‘racist’.

‘[White liberals are] the most racist people there are,’ he said in April.

‘You know, they put you in a little category, a little box — you have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?’

Someone sounds a little obsessed with the topic—understandably. Slavery was a Very Bad Thing. One to which Carson’s forebears were subjected, presumably, and one to which the president’s were not (presumably). I believe it was Maureen Dowd who cited the Doctrine of Absolute Moral Authority as it applies to those who have suffered such wounds and abuses. Like the Pope’s supposed infallibility, the DAMA put those like Cindy Sheehan—perhaps only Cindy Sheehan—above reproach. Where she still stands (presumably not), like one of those statues barricaded from view by the National Park Service SWAT Team.

Perhaps Carson is falling into the trap of Godwin’s Law, only this time with reference to slavery, not Nazis. Likening a national health care law to the Peculiar Institution of slavery is a bit of a stretch, wouldn’t you say? I mean, sure, each is imposed by a distant and inhuman federal government upon a powerless, subservient populace that barely knows any other way of life. Both are (were) also practiced in many other countries, with mixed results. Both might have been (are) benign in nature, but led (lead) to unimaginable cruelty when taken to their logical (illogical) extremes. Both are/wee the Law of the Land, reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.

Then again, maybe Carson is on to something, and Godwin can shove his Law up his keister.


Fecund Foreigners Flock to Our Friendly Confines


Making an argument for overhauling the nation’s immigration system Friday to a crowd of conservative activists, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush claimed immigrants were “more fertile” and thus a great benefit to American society.

His remark appeared to be an inarticulate reference to immigrants’ fertility rates, which data show are higher than native-born Americans.

“Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years. Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity,” Bush said at the annual Faith and Freedom conference in the nation’s capital.

Before we ridicule, can we at least agree on “immigration”? We love immigration. Love it as no one but descendants of immigrants can. But we don’t love illegal immigration. For while illegal aliens can be “fertile” and can “love their families” (native-borns don’t?), they can’t create businesses. Taking jobs from native borns, living tax-free, burdening the social welfare system, their “engine of economic prosperity” sputters at best, and at worst drags down the rest of the economy.

Now, to the ridicule. Rush?

Did you know that? Did you know that immigrants are more fertile than native born Americans? Did you know that immigrants create far more businesses than native born Americans? Did you know that? Did you know that they love their families and they have more intact families than native born Americans? And they bring a younger population and an engine of economic prosperity. I don’t know. I’m looking at the economic engine that they brought to California. I’m looking at the economic prosperity that’s, I mean, barely containable out in California. I’m looking at it, I don’t really see it, but I’m looking at it.

“Fertile” is borderline racist. In fact, it crosses the border about as easily as those fruitful “immigrants” about whom he waxes so rhapsodic. It summons images of packs of “immigrant” children, barely a year apart, swarming over their weary but high-yielding “immigrant” parents. I love immigrants because they fervently believe (or should) in the political and economic systems we native-borns take for granted. I do not love them (or not merely) because they are rich in loam and composted material.

But looked at more broadly, “fertile” is purely and vilely racist. Many black Americans, native-borns all, oppose the push for amnesty and increased immigration, legal and illegal, because they need the work. The unemployment rate for black men, aged 20 and over, jumped last month from 12.6% to 13.5%. Among black youth, aged 16 to 19 (both sexes), unemployment stands at 42.6%. Don’t they love their families? Can’t they create economic prosperity?

What Jeb Bush, as compassionate a conservative as there is, seems to be getting at is that black Americans aren’t fertile and their families are less intact. On that, as much as it pains me to concede, he is right. The statistics on abortion in the black community are blood-curdling, the “intactness” of the black family only slightly less so. After centuries of slavery, and another century of Jim Crow, we’ve added an additional half-century of holocaust on black Americans and their families. I don’t know what black people did to deserve it, but I think it’s more than enough punishment.

The facts of life are conservative, as Maggie Thatcher said. We have an underclass of people crying out for economic justice, while our political establishment (both left and right) seeks to push them further down the ladder of opportunity. Rather than keep them in want, supplying them with the barest necessities but no chance of advancement, we should insist that they work, and give them every opportunity to do so. The immigrant experience that we romanticize describes people arriving here with nothing, and building lives for themselves and their (many) descendants, under the protection of the freedoms we guarantee.

You might say African slaves were the original illegal immigrants (slavery being a crime against God, if not man). Where’s their pathway to citizenship?

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Barack “Massah” Obama

When last we heard from this dingbat, she was telling us that our children weren’t ours to raise, but the “community’s.”

We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

Maybe Melissa Harris-Perry just wants ratings, because she just topped herself:

“I also appreciate that the hunger strikers are not trying to die. They’re trying to generate autonomy in the context of something that strips their humanity — something we certainly know about from the experience of American slavery, and that the language of ‘before I be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free’ — just that idea of creating human freedom within the context of horrible human conditions.”

So, if the Gitmo detainees are “slaves”, who would their master be? That’s right, The Nation’s First Black President (TNFBP). If that’s not irony enough for you, how about the fact that what slave blood he has himself comes from his white mother (via his “own white grandmother”)?

According to the New York Times, a team of genealogists has discovered the president’s slave ancestry.

However, the researchers say that not only did the president descend from an enslaved African, his ancestor was likely the first ever documented black slave in America. Furthermore, Obama’s slave heritage unfurls from perhaps the most unlikely familial line: his white mother.

To follow Ms. Harris-Perry’s line of thinking (to use that word in its most generous sense), President Obama is a slaveholder, if a reluctant one. (That’s what they all said.) That’s pretty hateful speech, and I don’t know if I feel comfortable spreading it.

Instead, I’d rather consider what she “appreciates”: I also appreciate that the hunger strikers are not trying to die. They’re trying to generate autonomy in the context of something that strips their humanity…

Hunger strikers who are not trying to die are merely dieters. The only way to “generate autonomy” (as she means it) is to take one’s mortality in one’s own hands. And being force-fed through a tube erodes autonomy-generation like you read about.

But my first point is my main point: calling President Obama a slaveholder (or worse, an overseer), threatening to communize our children, “appreciating” hardened Islamist enemy combatants captured in battle against us—these are all attempts to get attention. When you look at the rest of the MSNBC stable (and Ms. Harris-Perry aside, I do mean stable), that’s network policy.


Useless Symbolism Update

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Emancipation Proclamation:

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…

Beautiful. And fully worth recitation.

But as the film Lincoln amply demonstrated, it took two and a half years more war—and an amendment to the Constitution—to actually make it happen.

So, while I salute this, it ignores the bloodshed and sacrifice that brought it to pass:

Communities in western Massachusetts are planning to mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that at least 20 churches, the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College will ring bells at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation declared that all slaves in the states in rebellion were “forever free.”

The emancipation affected about 4 million men, women and children and energized anti-slavery groups.

Many slaves in the South were not freed until Union soldiers arrived and the Confederacy was defeated.

Even in the adoring film, Lincoln is shown acknowledging the essential irrelevance of the Proclamation without putting down the rebellion to enforce it.

I would also hope the pious liberals of Western Massachusetts—Amherst, to be precise, a hotbed of pious liberalism—will also recite some of the names of the dead from their local Civil War cemeteries. Again, the words are nice—but it took years and hundreds of thousands of further casualties to enforce them.

And I hope the pious liberals of Amherst take note of the many Irish names buried therein—many from young men just off the boat.

To be sure, there were Irish in the South—Gone With the Wind is about the O’Hara family whose plantation is named Tara—but the North very well might have lost the war without a steady supply of Irishmen conscripted and sent into battle upon first setting foot in America.

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The World Needs More Republican Presidents

Abe Lincoln freed the American slaves; Ronald Reagan freed half a continent from Soviet slavery; even future Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush fought in the war to rid the world of militant fascism (in Europe and Asia) waged by Democrat President Roosevelt. I could even add that Iraqis have George W. Bush to thank for freeing them from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. (Afghanistan… meh.)

Boy, could we use more of that!

For thousands of African asylum seekers fleeing danger via Egypt’s Sinai desert, one woman serves as an oasis after their harrowing journey into Israel.

She was born in Eritrea as Azezet Habtezghi Kidane. In the migrant shelters of South Tel Aviv, she is known simply as Sister Aziza.

In the free clinic for migrants run by the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, where she volunteers as a nurse, Sister Aziza examines the African refugees. She sees burns and whip marks on the body of one of the men who fled to Israel though the Sinai.

“See how they tortured him,” she asks. Then she sighs.

Another man describes how he crossed the River Nile, after which he was taken to a tent and beaten for two hours. He thought he was going to die. We don’t know exactly what happened to him, but the migrants often fall prey to Bedouin gangs, which traffic people and extort money from them.

Over the last two years, Aziza has tirelessly conducted more than 1,300 interviews exposing chilling tales of kidnap, rape, torture, forced labor and sexual slavery.

“If anyone in the world today knows what is happening to people in the Sinai, each and every story, this is Aziza,” says Ran Cohen, a colleague at Physicians for Human Rights.

Now, regular readers already know all about this because if we’ve covered one story of African refugees seeking freedom and opportunity in the only oasis of those rare commodities for hundreds of miles around, we’ve covered a thousand. (That’s Israel, if you couldn’t follow.) Betrayed by their own country, enslaved by Bedouin Arabs, shot (often in the back) by Egyptian border patrol guards, these refugees find the only solace (though not permanent asylum) on offer in the Jewish state widely slandered as racist, apartheid, greedy, heartlessly cruel.

And while the US is singled out for its history of slavery, just about every country benefitted from the African slave trade (including Africans themselves), and many still do. Truth, anyone?

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Join the Club

I’ve made the point several times before: America’s unique sin was not slavery (as abhorrent and unspeakably cruel as the practice was and remains); we had too much company. Rather, a century of Jim Crow was our special crime.

And neither were we the the first “invaders” to displace indigenous people—however evil American expansionism made us.

Lord knows we aren’t the last:

More than 50 gunmen have launched a full-scale attack on an Indian community in southwest Brazil, shooting, threatening and then reportedly kidnapping one of their leaders.

The violence began on Friday, shortly after the Guarani community reoccupied part of its ancestral land, which is now occupied by ranchers.

A Guarani spokesman described how 50 gunmen surrounded around 400 Indians, firing shots at them, whilst laughing and shouting, “You Indians! Today, not one of you Indians will get out of here alive!”

He says hundreds of shots were fired at the Guarani men, women and children, who fled into the forest to try to escape injury.

The Guarani say that one of their leaders, a man in his fifties, was taken by gunmen and put into a car. He has not been seen since but the burnt remains of some of his clothes have been discovered.

Maybe they took him to Sao Paulo Law School to make him a full professor of contract law. At 32/32nds Indian, he sounds qualified.

Well done, Brazil. Racism and genocide is easy if you just let it happen.


So Much for Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

The history of the US’s involvement in the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries is well-documented and common knowledge.

Other countries, not so much [via Jungle Trader]:

The slave trade once made the people of Nantes rich, but the French city covered up its dark history for decades. It recently erected a memorial to the victims in a project believed to be the first of its kind in Europe. But the effort to shed light on the Continent’s role in the 18th century slave trade with Africa and the New World has not been popular with some residents.

In the 18th century, cruelty had poetic names, like Le Prudent (“The Prudent”), La Légère (“The Light”) or Les Trois Maries (“The Three Marys”). The ships, named in the hope of a good voyage or baptized with Christian first names, were part of a brutal business between Europe, Africa and America: the slave trade. During a period of approximately 400 years, at least 13 million people were transported under horrendous conditions from Africa to the colonies of the New World.

The northwestern French city of Nantes played a central role in what has been described as the largest forced migration in global history. Although the city’s merchants came late to the lucrative slave trade, long after the Portuguese, Spanish and British, over the course of the 18th century the city on the Loire River became a central hub of the Atlantic triangular slave trade — and with it the most important port city in France.

Over 40 percent of the French slave trade was carried out via the city, with around 450,000 men, women and children abducted from Africa to America. According to curator Marie-Hélène Jouzeau, who is responsible for the city’s historical heritage, it wasn’t just the major merchant families who specialized in the business. “The entire mercantile community was involved, and the whole region profited from it,” she told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Late last month, and with little fanfare in the international press, Nantes officials opened the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, which the organizers claim is unique in Europe.

“A kind of memory work,” is how Nantes Mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault describes the monument, with which Nantes is openly confronting its past. “It’s an invitation to reflect on a dark chapter in the history of our city,” he says.

Nantes had long suppressed the brutal origins of its wealth. A collective silence covered up the fact that the prosperity of the city’s great families, like the Michels, Montaudouins and Sarrebourse d’Audevilles, not to mention the splendor of the city’s architecture, were built on the slave trade.

Awfully grande of you for acknowledging your role, France. Your self-congratulation is merited. Funny, though, that when I toured the Loire with my family last summer, they never mentioned the role of bondage in the obvious wealth of the region. Isn’t that just like the Europeans? Oops!

And next time Reverend Wright and his ilk want to run down the US of KKKA for its original sin of slavery, I hope he brushes up on his French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and a Babel of West African languages so that he can dish out the insults in all the tongues of all the nations that participated in African slavery.

Les poulets de France reviens de nicher. (Or some such.)

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In a story about slavery in Mauritania and Sudan, I commented that slavery was forbidden in Islam. Reader Carol piped up to cite theory and practice indicating otherwise.

But not only is she not a Moslem, she’s not male, so why should I believe her?

Now, I’m a believer:

Following are excerpts from a statement by Dr. Saud Al-Fanisan, former dean of Islamic law at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, Saudi Arabia, which aired on Al-Risala TV on March 16, 2012:

Dr. Saud Al-Fanisan: Allah permitted the purchase and sale of slaves. Slaves are the property of their owners. This is slavery in the shari’a, yet a slave enjoys a great deal of freedom. The only thing he is deprived of is the right to own [himself]. That’s it. He enjoys freedom of thought, freedom of belief, the freedom to work, the right to deny [Islam], and the right to command good and forbid evil. A slave enjoys all these liberties, so how can it be claimed that there is no freedom [in Islam]?

I regret the error.

PS: While we’re on the subject of sharia:

Following are excerpts from an interview with Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Yaaqub, which aired on Al-Nas TV on March 16, 2012 :

To the lives of people and to the life of the Islamic nation… The shari’a must be exalted.

Anybody who attacks a home, a shop, a bank, a factory, or anything… When an armed gang enters a place in order to take things by force, they are fighting Allah and His Messenger.

The [hiraba] punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and who strive to spread corruption in the land, is for them to be executed, or to be crucified, or to have their hand and foot chopped off on opposite sides, or to be banished from the land. The implementation of this punishment will guarantee security.

I’ve argued against the notion of sharia law in Western societies. But if it’s what they want…

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Serf Mauritania!

I said “serf”, not “surf”!

Hey, I give credit to CNN. Others have been talking for years about slavery still being practiced in Africa, but if the Most Busted Name in News finally gets the scent, why should we quibble?

An estimated 10% to 20% of Mauritania’s 3.4 million people are enslaved — in “real slavery,” according to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian. If that’s not unbelievable enough, consider that Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. That happened in 1981, nearly 120 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. It wasn’t until five years ago, in 2007, that Mauritania passed a law that criminalized the act of owning another person. So far, only one case has been successfully prosecuted.

The country is slavery’s last stronghold.

As I say, good for CNN. As many as 680,000 people are held in slavery in Mauritania. (The cite I link to above,, notes that Sudanese—now South Sudanese—suffer from the same affliction, or did until very recently.)

But I knew I had something to add. Maybe that Mauritania is a Muslim country—when Islam is supposed to forbid the abomination of slavery. No, as messed up as that is, I knew there was something else I had to add.

Oh yes, now I remember:

Mauritania is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

Just trying to do my part.

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