Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #2

In “America wasn’t a democracy Until Black People Made it One” by Nicole Hannah-Jones, she emphasizes slavery began from the very begining of the nations formation, stating “the Jamestown colonists bought 20 to 30 enslaved Africans from English pirates”. Slavery, according to Jones, is one of the nation’s most important backbones for colonists. She even mentions that protecting the institution of slavery was one of the key reasons why the American colonists decided to declare independence in the first place. She goes on to say that the colonists thought they were slaves of the British. Jones tries to exploit this hypocrisy by saying that the colonists fought for independence and freedom, but failed to give freedom to slaves. The first person to die in the American Revolution was an enslaved black man fighting for independence and liberation from British oppression. Jones claims that he gave his life for a new nation in “which his own people would not enjoy the liberties laid out in the Declaration”. Gordon Woods objects to her essay because of the use of unbacked evidence. He adds on to prove that during the American Revolution the sole reason of colonists revolting against Britain to keep slavery is simply not backable.


 Gordon Woods does not disprove the essay in its entirety, but her primary claims are undermined by the lack of provable evidence. If the protection of slavery was truly the cause of the revolution against Britain, why didn’t Southern planters join forces with planters in the British West Indies, according to Woods. It wouldn’t make sense if slavery was the main reason because the founding fathers of the republic, such as John Adams, were abolitionists. John Adams was responsible for The Declaration of Independence. Gordon Woods tries not to dispute any of Jones’s claims or ideas, but he believes her work is unsupportable and has too many factual inaccuracies.


One thought on “Blog Post #2”

  1. A good and balanced post–I like how you hone in early on Hannah-Jones’s discussion of the American Revolution, and Wood’s criticisms, since that was the focus of our discussion.

    Organizationally, it may have made more sense to include the last two sentences of the first paragraph in the second paragraph, since that’s when you go into the discussion of Wood. On a more substantive level, if Wood is correct about Hannah-Jones’s inaccuracies re: the American Revolution, are there other aspects of her essay that ring true? How central was her argument about the American Revolution to her overall interpretation?

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