Modern Day Slavery, 150 Years Later

I’ve heard it described as “The War Between the States,” “The War for States Rights,” “The War for Southern Independence,” and even “The War of Northern Aggression,” but until last night–the eve of the 150th anniversary of the first shots being fired–I have never, ever, ever heard the Civil War referred to as “The War of White Supremacy.”

But that’s exactly what the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, vice president for stakeholder relations for the NAACP, called it during a press conference yesterday afternoon as he and his associates voiced their discontent over the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration. See the report from our local CBS affiliate here in Charleston:

“Of course, the NAACP’s view is not that the war was about states’ rights, but rather that it was about states’ wrongs,” Rivers said. “Where would we be if the South had won the War of White Supremacy to maintain slavery?”

I attended elementary, middle and high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and, while I was fortunate enough to have benefited from an absolutely fantastic public school district in Radnor Township, the very concept of states rights figured into my education about the Civil War then about as much as alfalfa sprouts figure in to my diet today. Growing up and attending school there in a blue end of a perfectly purple state–Pennsylvania is essentially Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between–the history books pinned the cause of the war and the passion of the confederacy squarely on the issue of perpetuating slavery.

Yes, slavery was indeed an issue during that time, but the Emancipation Proclamation was not delivered until approximately two years into the conflict, by a president that would have left the issue of slavery well enough alone if he could have kept the union together without touching upon it — instead, Lincoln found himself in a situation in which the moral outrage was needed in order to gin up support for the Union cause. Before that, in the years leading up to the war and during the first two years of bloody conflict, the issue of slavery was merely one issue which provided context for the bigger issue of the state sovereignty and the states’ nullification of federal law.

Nevertheless, as you know, history books are written by the winners, and so it should be no surprise that the soundbite leading the evening news on the eve of the anniversary of the start of the Civil War here in Charleston chastised the modern day South for “celebrating” the “horrors of the Civil War” and the “barbaric enslavement of human beings that led to the war.”

Nor should it be surprising that the organization responsible for said soundbite is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization which traditionally sits square in the corner of big government liberals and progressives and, by extension, advocates in favor of politics and policies that stifle the growth and potential of the very people they purport to advance. In discounting the importance of states’ rights, not only for its role in bringing about the Civil War but for its relevance in the context of today’s political debate, the NAACP is once again taking the side of the federal government, an institution that continues to enslave African-Americans to this day through forced dependence upon entitlement programs indigenous to our growing welfare state.

Volumes and volumes of books have been written about where this nation would be had the result of the War Between the States been different, and I cannot get into every postulation and theory in the limited space here. Suffice it to say that the practice of slavery, once a terrible reality of our fledgling mercantilist economy, would likely have ended as a natural consequence of technological innovation and enhanced economic growth. Recall, of course, that many of our founders–including those who owned slaves–acknowledged the sad reality of the practice at that time and set forth the mechanism by which the practice could be eliminated. I can only imagine whether a Confederate States of America would have gone down the same road as the United States of America has, with regard to everything from the Civil Rights Movement to the War on Poverty. I can only imagine how–or whether–all people, black and white and everywhere in between, could have flourished had the balance of power remained closer to the people at the time when the Progressive Movement came into the picture in American politics.

I look at the opportunities out there for black Americans at this point in time–we have a black American in the Oval Office, remember?–and cannot help but wonder whether more people in this country and in that community would understand that achievement and potential are there for the taking if they did not first have to break free of the shackles of the policies brought forth by the very people the NAACP claims to support.

Thinking about how the politics and policies perpetuated by the very people with whom the NAACP is aligned have hurt and hindered the black community in America, I am reminded of African American author Star Parker’s book, Uncle Sam’s Plantation, and what she wrote back in February 2009 to commemorate its sixth year of publication:

I said in that book that indeed there are two Americas. A poor America on socialism and a wealthy America on capitalism.

I talked about government programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS), Emergency Assistance to Needy Families with Children (EANF), Section 8 Housing and Food Stamps.

A vast sea of perhaps well-intentioned government programs, all initially set into motion in the 1960s, that were going to lift the nation’s poor out of poverty.

A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mindsets from “How do I take care of myself?” to “What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?”

Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems – the kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others.

The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools and broken black families.

And then, I consider those words from the Preamble to the Confederate Constitution:

…each State acting in its sovereign and independent character…

Would the nation have been better off had the South reigned victorious in Rev. Rivers’ “War of White Supremacy”? I don’t know. I really don’t. What I do know, however, is that our current federal government places such restraints on descendants of those emancipated that their potential is mired down in bureaucracy and a system in which continued dependence is inextricably intertwined with the lust for power in perpetuity exhibited by those inside the Beltway.

While it may have looked peaceful on the horizon across Charleston Harbor this morning, 150 years ago today Fort Sumter was anything but. (Photo by Jeff Schreiber.)

 

150 years ago today, when those first shots were fired upon Fort Sumter a few hundred yards away in Charleston Harbor, I cannot know whether anyone would have imagined that we’d be where we are today. What is apparent, however, is that American blacks will never truly be freed from the bonds and horrors of enslavement until the mantle of victimhood is permanently dispelled, and until black America understands that liberty and personal responsibility are not mutually exclusive.

The terrible realities of slavery aside, Rev. Rivers and the NAACP should embrace, rather than reject, those core values for which so many southerners fought and bled and died. The Confederate Army fought for sovereignty at the state level — shouldn’t the NAACP be advocating in favor of sovereignty at the personal level?

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Comments

  1. American blacks will never truly be freed from the bonds and horrors of enslavement until the mantle of victimhood is permanently dispelled, and until black America understands that liberty and personal responsibility are not mutually exclusive

    Well said. Now could you pass this along to the NAACP? They aren’t getting the memo….

  2. Bob Upton says:

    Sovereignty? What an archaic concept.

    Who could possibly hold to the belief that sovereignty originates with God and flows from him: first to the individual then the household, the town, the county, the state and finally the nation.

    Repeat the new pledge after me class!
    “Government first, then State, County, City, collective citizens, victims. There are no individuals and there is definitely no God!”

    Remember class…..
    History must be forgotten. We must focus on our new future. Ignorance is bliss. This is all you need to know.

    You may be seated now.

  3. Laurie says:

    “What is apparent, however, is that American blacks will never truly be freed from the bonds and horrors of enslavement until the mantle of victimhood is permanently dispelled, and until black America understands that liberty and personal responsibility are not mutually exclusive.”…..Jeff, as usual, another of your statements worth noting and hopefully food for thought for many….Excellent write-up.

  4. L. Banks says:

    Jeff,

    This is a great article and right to the point. Your assessment is right on! I too was born in a Northern state, but moved to Virginia with my parents when I was fifteen. I went to public school, but it was in the shadow of the seat of the Federal government. When I went to college, I went to school in the South and I was a history major. My professors were very wise and learned men who wanted our American History classes to see both sides of the story. Most of the story for the South was not focused on slavery though they condemned the practice of holding slaves. They did speak a great deal about “States Rights” and about looking around to see who stood to gain. I have previously stated that the North needed cheap labor to provide grist for the industrialization of many activities. The South had cheap labor in the slaves. After the Civil War many slaves left the South to seek their fotunes in the big cities only to be trapped once again in the factories of the North and for little pay. Education of the released slaves was still an issue so the freed slaves because economic slaves to the Northern manufacturers. Over time many transferred to being economic slaves to the Federal Government and within our inner cities today the situation is disasterous. Having worked in Social Services both in the North and the South, I can tell you this dependence upon the federal government is ingrained into many families. They have lost sight of responsibility, independence and self-worth. It is sad to see, but the NAACP is not there to help its own, but to perpetuate itself and those in power in this organization. They will continue to blame someone else for the problems they themselves cannot or do not know how to address. They will continue to want the government to do it for them rather than to do it for themselves.

  5. Gail B. says:

    I’m still stunned by the first paragraph!

  6. William A. Rose says:

    This is totally off subject, but I cannot remember seeing anything having to do with the little girl that was molested by the TSA most recently. Anyone got anything to say about that? Jeff, I apologize if you wrote up an article concerning this and I missed it. Send me a link if you did. If you did not, then why not? This is NOT ok for the government to be doing.

  7. T.I.M. says:

    I would strongly recommend a book I’m now in the middle of by Thomas Sowell: “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” for a well-reasoned and rather different perspective on this issue from what we normally hear (“Roots” is a fictional and wrong depiction of the history of slavery, Lincoln had a sea captain hung for trafficking in slaves (to Cuba, no less), and many slave owners were so against their own wishes, and were against abolition for the sake of the country). Fascinating material if you want to look into it.

  8. Jeff Schreiber says:

    William — I saw that and meant to write something, but I’m not getting much sleep recently as my newborn son seems as though he is hard-wired into my brain and wakes up as soon as REM sleep begins.

    I’ve been slacking, folks, and I’m sorry!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    We’ve missed you, Jeff.
    Infants…. been there done that.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The states will rise again!, I hope,

  11. Bobby K. says:

    Very well written Jeff. “2012 Hoping for Change”

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