Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #2 Nikole Jones

In Nikole Hannah Jones 1619 essay, “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made It One” Jones highlights the idea that America wouldn’t be as advanced if it wasn’t for slavery. There were “12.5 million Africans who would be kidnapped from their homes” to go through the middle passage which led to “almost two million” people passing away due to inhumane conditions. African slaves were just seen as property to the white slave owners to use however they wanted and to expand their own business. In addition, slaves couldn’t be legally married to each other but slave owners had the ability to “rape or murder their property without legal consequence” and when the slaved women fell pregnant it was a good sign because that means that slave owners would get more workers for his business. If the child was born half white and half black it would become a slave because the child wasn’t purely white. Kinship between a mother and her children was not allowed because they held no right over their children. The slave owners would decide what to do them wether that being them making the children work or were put “behind storefronts that advertised Negroes For Sale”. Through time slaves were the ones who “lugged the heavy wooden tracks of the railroads that crisscrossed the South and that helped take the cotton they picked to the Northern textile mills, fueling the Industrial Revolution”. If it weren’t for the slaves labor America wouldn’t have been able to expand in the market. What stood out to me was the irony in “all men are created equal” but yet white men felt that they were superior to black people. Even if they weren’t born to be a slave if a black person family had a history of being in slavery, that person would be considered as inferior to a white person.

One thought on “Blog Post #2 Nikole Jones”

  1. It’s good to see you share a sense of outrage about the injustices of slavery from the essay, and perhaps also from our class discussion, but after reading this I don’t get a clear sense of what Hannah-Jones’s essay was really about. Why does she propose 1619 as an alternate date for America’s founding? Aside from the fact that slavery continued to exist for about 75 years after the Constitution, what are some of the specific ways that she says that people of color were excluded from or marginalized in the early nation? What is her argument about the Revolution, for example?

    One further thought experiment: if the sentiments in the Declaration are ironic, if not hypocritical, given that they were written by a slaveowner, what would the United States have been if that statement of fundamental human equality had not been part of its founding? Does the fact that such “ideals” have not always been lived up to make them a “lie,” to paraphrase Hannah-Jones?

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