In April, when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation reviving Confederate History Month in the commonwealth, he reminded us once again of the Confederacy’s staying power. Wittingly or not, McDonnell demonstrated that historical “memory disputes” are always about the present, as he spoke in the tradition of a long line of Southern leaders beginning with the founders of the Confederacy itself.
Immediately, Civil War causation and slavery became the lightning-rod issues as McDonnell’s defense of his proclamation flashed all over American media.
“There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states,” he said. “Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.”
It involved slavery. In that throw-away phrase, the governor spoke volumes, even if he didn’t know it. To put it simply, yes, slavery was the cause of the Civil War.
Dr. Ibrahima Thioub interviewed by Philippe Bernard discusses the legacy of colonialism, the problem of globalization and debates slavery and its impact on the African continent–including the idea of “predatory elites:”
“Vous contestez le récit de la traite négrière qui en fait un pur pillage des Africains par les Blancs. Pourquoi ?
La vision “chromatique” de l’Afrique aboutit à une vision fausse de l’esclavage. La traite ne se limitait pas à la vente de Noirs à des Blancs dans des ports africains. Elle englobe la manière dont les esclaves étaient “produits” à l’intérieur du continent et acheminés sur la côte.
Ce système atlantique était une organisation globale, qui mettait en relation, dans un partenariat asymétrique mais intéressé, les compagnies européennes avec des élites africaines. Celles-ci utilisaient la traite pour redéfinir les rapports de pouvoir sur le continent….”
Read the entire article here.
At TheRoot.com, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka discusses Africa’s role in the slave trade in the two-part series, “Between Truth and Indulgences:”
“The process of the independence struggle had already thrown up ominous signs of human inequities that would bedevil a newly liberated entity — a familiar tendency toward self-attrition, once the external enemy is gone. I staged the play on the “Fringe,” as it were, and still partook in other events that marked the Great Day. I experienced no contradiction in all this — to participate in the insertion of a landmark event in national consciousness, yet exhume a shameful, glossed-over history as a warning for the future. That history was that of African’s culpability in the enslavement of her own kind.”
Read the rest: Between Truth and Indulgences
excerpt from Op-Ed by Henry Louis Gates (read rest at NYT):
“The African role in the slave trade was fully understood and openly acknowledged by many African-Americans even before the Civil War. For Frederick Douglass, it was an argument against repatriation schemes for the freed slaves. “The savage chiefs of the western coasts of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily accept our moral and economical ideas than the slave traders of Maryland and Virginia,” he warned. “We are, therefore, less inclined to go to Africa to work against the slave trade than to stay here to work against it.”
To be sure, the African role in the slave trade was greatly reduced after 1807, when abolitionists, first in Britain and then, a year later, in the United States, succeeded in banning the importation of slaves. Meanwhile, slaves continued to be bought and sold within the United States, and slavery as an institution would not be abolished until 1865. But the culpability of American plantation owners neither erases nor supplants that of the African slavers. In recent years, some African leaders have become more comfortable discussing this complicated past than African-Americans tend to be.”
Excerpts from responses (Letters to the Editor, NYT):
“It was Americans, not Africans, who created in the South the largest, most powerful slave system the modern world has known, a system whose profits accrued not only to slaveholders but also to factory owners and merchants in the North. Africans had nothing to do with the slave trade within the United States, in which an estimated two million men, women and children were sold between 1820 and 1860….”
Eric Foner, Columbia University
It is true, as Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. says, that many African monarchs were complicit in the heinous Atlantic slave trade. But the demand for reparations has less to do with the mechanism that delivered the African captives than what happened to them during the hundreds of years of working without compensation.
Herb Boyd, CUNY
As Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. points out, the role of Africans themselves in slave trading is one that is sometimes ignored by advocates of reparations. I fear, however, that in looking at the role of Africans in creating or sustaining the slave trade, we will make the same mistake that we make in trying to assess blame for international drug trafficking — focusing too much on the supply side of trafficking.
Lolita Inniss, Cleveland Marshall College of Law
“Ahmed Saloum Boularaf is holding a leather-bound sheaf of documents that date back to the 13th century. The manuscript contains a poetic rendition of the life of the Prophet Mohammad, written in the lacy Arabic handwriting of an African scholar who knew how to read before some Europeans even knew of the existence of books.
Like most of the 1,700 manuscripts in Mr. Boularaf’s private collection – which includes ancient books on medicine and history, astronomy and mathematics — this one is beginning to crumble, and Boularaf knows that in a very short time, his manuscripts and the knowledge they contain, could be lost forever.
“For Africans, this is a treasury of our culture, and my home is open for all the researchers of the world to come,” he says. “My grandfather had the idea that we must copy these manuscripts before they are lost. We have some manuscripts here that are so fragile that if we don’t do something quickly to study them, conserve them, they could be lost.””
“For some, Haiti is the “poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere,” a “failed state,” long on the brink of collapse. For others, Haiti is a beacon of freedom, evidence of the only successful slave revolt in modern history. This forum brings together scholars from different fields of study, and different parts of the world, for a conversation about ways to think about challenges that Haiti has faced since independence, challenges that have been international in scope since this sovereign nation’s sudden and unexpected debut on the world’s stage. Thus besides considering Haiti’s vexed political history and pressing social problems, we are concerned with the way prevailing forms of diplomatic recognition and patterns of international exchange have served to worsen, rather than improve, social institutions and their capacity to serve the people of Haiti.
The title of this forum — Ayiti kraze — stems from a Kreyol expression that often surfaces in moments when political institutions splinter apart (as when Jean-Bertrand Arisitide was ousted in 1991 during a coup d’état). But, the idea of Haiti in fragments also suits this effort to piece together critical insights concerning this tragic predicament. The catastrophic events of January 12, 2010 have already transformed the way many researchers relate to their work. Scholars who typically take years to develop articles and books have organized symposia and published essays in a matter of days – this forum is but one example. We hope this critical practice will endure long after Haiti is re-built. — Michael Ralph, editor”
“Haiti is an alarming reminder that natural disasters have more devastating consequences where physical infrastructure is weak, where institutions are problematic, and where there is a lot of poverty. So trying to foster development is also a response to disaster. How humanitarian assistance is administered may make it more or less conducive to longer term development, may make a transition from one set of actors (emergency responders) to another (development aid agencies) go more smoothly, may lead to better preparedness for the next time.
The SSRC has asked people we believe are deeply reflective about the situation in Haiti to share their thoughts about the present moment and its relationship to humanitarian assistance and transitions to development. This collection of postings is the result of that effort.”
Find it here: Haiti, Now and Next — Social Science Research Council.
Table of Contents:
- Introduction: When Is Disaster Intolerable?
- by Craig Calhoun
- Beyond the Earthquake: A Wake-Up Call for Haiti
- by Alex Dupuy
- Country, City, Service
- by Ferentz Lafargue
- Cracks of Gender Inequality: Haitian Women After the Earthquake
- By Régine Michelle Jean-Charles
- Haiti Update
- by William O’Neill
- Haiti and the International System: The Need for New Organizational Lending Formats
- by Saskia Sassen
- Haiti: Can Catastrophe Spur Progress?
- by William O’Neill
- Mobilize the Diaspora for the Reconstruction of Haiti
- by Dilip Ratha
- Hope Admist Devastation: Towards a New Haitian State
- by Robert Fatton Jr.
- Haiti’s Earthquake and the Politics of Distribution
- by Andrew Apter
- Moving Beyond Disaster to Build a Durable Future in Haiti
- by Greg Beckett
- Haiti and the Unseen World
- By Elizabeth McAlister
- Rebuilding Haiti: The Next Two Hundred Years
- by J. Michael Dash
- Reckoning in Haiti
- by Jean Casimir and Laurent Dubois
- Run From the Earthquake, Fall Into the Abyss: A Léogane Paradox
- by Karen Richman
- Rebuilding Haiti, Rebuilding the Fragile State Framework
- By Yasmine Shamsie
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN HAITI: What is happening, and what can we do?
Prof. Mark Schuller, York College
HAITI IS EXPERIENCING THE MOST DEVASTATING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS OF OUR GENERATION. ESTIMATES OF 200,000 DEAD ONLY SCRATCH THE SURFACE. IMAGES IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA ONLY SERVE TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL POWERLESS. HAITIAN PEOPLE ARE THE HEROES OF THIS STORY, AND THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING THEY CAN. THE SURVIVORS DO NEED HELP – AND WE CAN AND SHOULD GIVE IT – BUT FIRST AND FOREMOST WE NEED A FULLER PICTURE OF WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WE CAN AID IN WAYS THAT TRULY HELP. PROF. SCHULLER WILL SHARE HIS EXPERTISE AND REPORT ON HIS EXPERIENCE PARTICIPATING IN GRASSROOTS RESPONSE EFFORTS. HE WAS PART OF ONE OF THE FIRST MEDICAL MISSIONS TO ARRIVE IN RESPONSE TO THE EARTHQUAKE.
Mark Schuller is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology at York College, the City University of New York. Prof. Schuller has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters about Haiti in addition to several articles in public media including Counterpunch, Common Dreams, and the Center for International Policy. He co-edited Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction<http://www.capitalizingoncatastrophe.org/> (2008, Alta Mira) and Homing Devices: the Poor as Targets of Public Housing Policy and Practice<http://www.lexingtonbooks.com/Catalog/SingleBook.shtml?command=Search&db=%5eDB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=0739114603> (2006, Lexington). Schuller is also co-producer and co-director of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy<http://www.potomitan.net/> (2009, Documentary Educational Resources).
Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
6:30-8.30 p.m. in the Recital Hall
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave. @ 34th St.
Free and open to the public
Co-sponsored by the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology, the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, & the Center for Humanities
“If there is a curse on Haiti, we don’t have to sully another person’s religious beliefs to find it. Perhaps curses, like charity, start at home. And the first two places to search for the source would be the White House and Congress, especially those historically dominated by Dixiecrats. Starting with Thomas Jefferson and continuing in a steady march that only really began to end when President Bill Clinton sent General Colin Powell to broker the deal for the generals to “retire” and restore Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a succession of American presidents and Congresses have systematically undermined the independence and integrity of the Haitian Republic. I thought about this ignoble, shameful history as President Obama proclaimed, for one of first times in the history of both republics, that “we stand in solidarity with our neighbors to the south,” they “who share our common humanity.” It was a noble sentiment, long overdue.
America’s ambivalence about a black republic of former slaves in this hemisphere manifested itself at the time the revolt broke out in 1791….”
Read the rest at History News Network via the Root.