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The Tortured Soul of America: The Word Negro and Slavery

MG is a keen political observer and commentator who has a ringside seat to the turbulent years of the present political scenario


The Negro

The word Negro appears to have entered the English language around 1600 AD. It meant "member of a black-skinned race of Africa." The word traces its etymology to the Spanish word negro "black," which in turn derived from Latin nigrum (nominative niger).

The word began to be used with a capital N and generally referred to U.S. citizens of African descent. The word was replaced with black from the 60s approximately because a general perception appeared to people that the word Negro was associated with white imposed attitude and slavery.

Another archaic word is mulatto. This generally referred to the offspring of a black man and white woman or vice versa. From my travels in America, I find that this word is basically for the woman and girls more in a derisive sense than anything else.

After Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 while searching for a route to India the first American settlers arrived. They were all whites from England and Spain. By 1600 a fair number of Europeans primarily from England made their home in America. As the settlers were too few they needed help and that was the origin of the slave trade. The white man with the help of Arabs and local African tribal leaders were able to entice black Africans and ship them to America.

The first captives were brought in 1619 to Virginia. They were treated as indentured labor. This was the start of a period in history that Americans cannot be proud of. While I was in America the general perception which the Americans have been trying to create for the last 400 years is that when you talk of America you think of it as a white nation.

I have been trying to talk to so many Americans but there is no explanation as to why slavery commenced in America and continued for the next 400 years. A factor is the role of Christianity. Most of the church leaders at that time in sermons to the black Africans told them that this was the will of God and they should accept it. I had been to the slave castle at Cape Cod in Ghana and also the chapel where the priest would be preaching to the slaves that they were now going to the promised land as per the will of Jesus Christ.

Miscegenation and slavery

Another affront was the miscegenation statutes. These laws prohibited marriage and sexual relations between races. The law was generally one-sided and the whites took great care to see that no white woman could go to bed with a black man.

In 1661, Maryland passed one of the first miscegenation laws. By 1960 or so 21 states in America still had these miscegenation laws. It was only in the year 2000 that Alabama the last state did away with this law.

America meandered along for the next 100 years till the American war of independence in 1776. The charter for the revolution was idealistic like stating that all men are born equal and all that blah blah but this was not applicable to the black, who continued to be enslaved. Many wonder how the founders of the American Constitution could put such a statue and at the same time apply it only to the white race. A big culprit was Thomas Jefferson. This man let America down while removing a reference to condemn slavery on pressure from Slave owners.

Slavery flourished initially in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina which were tobacco-producing areas. In these areas, slaves constituted more than 50% of the population by 1776. Slavery later spread to the rice plantations deeper into the south.

A census was carried out in 1790 revealed that in the southern states, the black slaves had reached a sizable number off of the population and were anywhere between 39 to 45%.

By 1860, the slave trade had become a very lucrative business and this slave trade was mostly operated by the British across the Atlantic. Some estimates of the number of slaves transported across the Atlantic refer to figures of 10 million. Congress banned the slave trade in 1808 but did not ban slavery. Millions of slaves also died because of malnutrition, poor treatment, and even despite that by 1860 the United States recorded 4,000,003 Black people, or roughly 13% of the population.

After the war of independence in 1776, the Americans could have done away with slavery but it is in the record that eight of the first 12 presidents of the United States were slaveowners.

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The civil war and after

Another important timeline is the 1865 Civil War. It is generally touted as a war to abolish slavery but I think Lincoln didn’t have this in mind. His basic purpose was to ensure that the southern state was defeated because there was a chance that the British would support the southern states and a separate country could be formed.

I believe the men who became US presidents should have been farsighted men whose main interest should have been racial equality and development but this was not the case. In most American states, the discrimination against the Negro continued though the 14th amendment gave them the right to vote yet in practical terms segregation was rampant. The Supreme Court played a dubious role as well.

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the United States Supreme Court ruled that blacks were not citizens of the United States and denied Congress the ability to prohibit slavery in any federal territory.

Then came the Jim Crow era. in this era segregation was enforced. African Americans were forbidden even from drinking from the same water fountains, eating at the same restaurants, or attending the same schools as white Americans – all lasting until, and sometimes well past, the 1960s.

The United States Army was another big culprit and it was only in 1948 that desegregation was enforced otherwise. The blacks were also summarily hanged for even trivial offenses. Many white gangs moved around the southern state hunting blacks just as you hunt blackbuck. The biggest crime was a black sleeping with a white woman.

I will now add a very contentious point here as to why many of the white women preferred blacks. This is as per Darwin's theory of natural selection because out of the millions of blacks brought to America the few who survived were the ones who were super superior. The black who survived was physically superior and this can be seen from the Olympics where most of the American medals in track and field and power sports like boxing are dominated by the blacks.

America has a long way to go to transform into a just and fair society. Times have changed and now the black man is not ready to accept domination by the white. There is every possibility that America would implode from inside because almost 30% of the population is now non-white and I think it was President Obama who said that America is no longer a white nation.

Last word

An interesting hypothesis has been put forward by certain writers who have brought out after research and asked a question; would America have become a great nation without slavery? I think this calls for further study and research

Further reading

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E Baptist;

American Slavery, 1619-1877 by Peter Kolchin;

Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy by Nikhil Pal Singh.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 MG Singh emge

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