Friday, April 20, 2012

The Question of Slavery

So, how is it that some of the good folks selected to be the focus of "Who Do You Think You Are?" are always somewhat surprised and also somewhat embarrassed to discover that their middle-class white ancestors in the the South were actually slave-owners?

And that they sold slave children at slave auctions? And that some of those children were mulattoes, and probably the children of their owners?

In other words, they sold their own children?

Do we not teach this? Is this a mystery?

History is hard, apparently.

It's much easier if we don't dwell on the really complicated parts, like slavery.  Of course, that's why slavery comes as such a surprise to many folks for whom the Civil War was supposed to be all about "states' rights" (whatever that might be) and the "war of northern aggression."

Nobody wants to address the hard parts, like buying and selling people.

It's simple, really. 

There were parts of the United States in 1860 where people - real people with names and faces and personalities - could be bought and sold like houses, horses and sacks of potatoes.  The "state's rights" in question were the rights of slave-owners - often lower middle class white folks, not plantation owners - to be able to buy and sell people and in the process, divide up families.

 It's just that simple.

Everything else is commentary.


  1. I have this is in my family's history. It is sad but a part of our history. Nothing to be proud of but it is something I did not personally take part in. When I write about that branch of the family I will not sugar coat it.