Sins of Omissionrnby Roger D. McGrathrnSlavery’s Inconvenient Factsrn1 learned firsthand how distnrhing faetsrneonld he when teaehing a U.S. historyrneonrse at UCTA in 1987. One of mvrnteaehing assistants, a politieallv eorreetrn()nng woman, beeanie tcrrihK’ upset afterrnlistening to m leetme on slaer.rn”I le shouldn’t be sa ing sueh things!” shernexelainied to another teaehing a,ssi,stant.rnWhen asked b’ the other T.A. if sherneonld ehallenge urn of nn faets, she exploded,rn”There arc some faets that studentsrnjust shouldn’t know. ” Facts dornhae a rather ineomenient wa’ of interferingrnwith political eorrcetncss and withrnthe imposition of theoretical models ocrrnthe historical record. For a generation, atrnleast, there has been a concerted effort tornleae ineoneuient faets out of tlic classroom.rnDiscussions of sla’er’ are particularKrnnotorious. When I reintroduce arnfew of the facts that were once comnronrnto man college lectures, more than a fewrnstudents look at me incrcdulousK, as if Irnhad inxcuted the material. ‘l’he canrnhardK be blanred. The material is new tornthem, and it wreaks lunoc widi the politicalKrncorrect dogma riie hac been fed.rnNow that the issue of reparations hasrnbeen raised, it becomes een more importantrnfor the polihcalh correct to suppressrnfacts. The reparationists claim thatrndie United States must compensate therndescendants of slaes for 400 ears of sla-rner. Since the United States was not establishedrnunHl 1788 (when the requiredrnthree-fourths majority of the states ap-rn]3rocd die Constitution), slavery existedrnfor only 77 ears before the 13th Amendmentrnabolished it. Add fi’e vcars to includernthe go’ernment under the Articlesrnof Confederation, and another seyen ifrnw c go back to die Declaration of Independence.rnBefore then, die reparationistsrnha e to look to Crcat Britain.rnMore importantly, though, Britain andrnoHier luiropean powers did not enslayernblack Africans. Europeans (and, later,rnAmericans), acting privateh’ (althoughrnsometimes widi go ernment charters), simpl’rnhaded barrels of rum and other items torntribal chiefs for already ensla’ed Africansrnand then relocated the skncs to the Americas.rn11 ins, the reparationists should be concentratingrndicir efforts on the tribes thatrndominated ccjuatorial West Africa. Thernwhite skne-tiadcrs who came to die shoresrnof iAfriea were responsible for buying skncsrnand hel]3ing to perpetuate the eyil instihition,rnbut not for enslaying the tribe Hiat hadrnlost a war or the man who had fellen intorndebt or the child sold by his famiK’. ThernU.S. go’ernment had nothing to do widirnany of this.rnIn the American colonies, the firstrnAfricans arrived as indentured servants,rnnot as slaves, because sla cr w as not Icgal-rn1 recognized. I x’gal status was inspired hrnAndiony Johnson, a former Mrican .slavernand colonial indentured senant who hadrnbeen granted land in Virginia and had ace|rnuired several indentured servants hinrselrn£ One of his servants, John Castor, anrni’Vfrican who had been sold in the colonies,rnsued for his freedom, claiming diat he hadrnserved his ears of indentme. Johnsonrnfought back, argrung diat Castor had neverrnentered into a contract of indenture, asrnEuropeans had, but had been bought inrnAfrica as a slae. In 1654, the Virginiarnhigh court decided in Johnson’s £ior, declaringrndiat Castor was a “servant for life.”rnThis preeedent-sethng case was cited inrnodier Souriiern colonies, and sla’er, underrnwhatever name, became firndy entrenched.rnAndiony Johnson, a black man,rnshould properly be called the I’adier ofrnAmerican Slaven”.rnBlack Americans continued to holdrnslaves dirough Hie Civil War. In I860,rnsome 3,000 blacks owned nearly 20,000rnblack slaves. In Soudi Carolina alone,rnmore than 10,000 blacks were owned b^rnblack .slaveholders. Born a .slave in 1790,rnWilliam Ellison owned 63 sla-es b-1860,rnmaking him one of Charleston’s leadingrnslaveholders. In the 1850 census forrnCharleston City, die port of Chadeston,rnthere were 68 black men and 123 blackrnwonien who owned slaes. In Louisiana’srnSt. Landrv Parish, according to die I860rncensus, black planter yVuguste Donattornowned 70 slaves and farmed 500 acres ofrncotton fields. Black slaycholders were diernexception to the rule, but so, too, werernwhite ones. Only a small minority ofrnSoudiern whites owned slaves, little morernriian five percent of the white populationrnif calculated by individual owner, or .somern20 to 25 percent if all the members of diernslaveowners’ fiimilics arc included. Thisrnmeans that 75 percent or more of Southernersrnncidier owned slaves themselvesrnnor were members of families who did.rnWhen U.S. parheipation in die slaverntrade was ended in 1808 (as required b’rndie ConsHtuhon) and cotton became anrnim]3ortant crop, skncs became vcr’ aluable.rnA good fieldhand might go forrn$2,000 (some $150,000 m todav’s inflatedrncurrencx). This meant diat die most sc-rnere and dangerous work was left to hiredrnwhite laborers, usualh’ immigrant Irish.rnT’rederick Law Olmsted, die architect ofrnNew York’s (Central Park, tia’eled throughoutrndie Soudi on die ee of die Civil Warrnand was surprised to find, again and again,rnthat Irishmen were used instead of slavesrnfor the work of preparing swampland,rnfelling trees, digging ditches, quarringrnrock, and clearing forests because “it wasrnnnicli better to have Irish do it, who costrnnodiing to the planter if they died, diaii tornuse up good fielcUiands in such severe eiiiplorniiieiit.”rnAt a landing on the Alabama River,rnIrish deckhands were employed in eateliiiigrnand stowing cotton on ships after thernliea\’ bales had come hurding down arnlong chute from a towering bluff. Whenrnasked wli’ slaves were not used to do diernjob, die ship’s captain replied, “The niggersrnare worth too much to be riskedrnhere; if the Paddies are knocked overboard,rnor get their backs broke, nobodyrnloses anydiing!” The death rate amongrnIrish laborers vas shocking. The constructionrnof the New Basin Canal inrnLouisiana alone cost the lives of morernthan 10,000 Irishmen. Tlic-were buriedrnwhere die’ fell, in mass graves. Throughoutrnthe South in the antebellum era,rnblack slaves were better fed, clothed, andrnhoused, ^’orkcd shorter hours, and livedrnlonger lives dian inimigrant Irish laborers.rnIneoiivenient ftiets, one and all.rnNOVEMBER 2001/1.5rnrnrn