What Was the 2nd Middle Passage?

A second forced migration of slaves wasn’t transatlantic.

By Henry Louis Gates Jr., theRoot.com

Thanks to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by David Eltis and David Richardson,

Slaves captured in the interior being marched to the coast for sale

Slaves captured in the interior of Africa being marched to the coast for sale.

we know that about 388,000 Africans were transported directly to the United States over the course of the slave trade, which ended officially in 1808. This brutally cruel and disruptive phase of the trade, as all American schoolchildren should be taught, is known as “the Middle Passage.” But what is often left out of many survey courses is the second Middle Passage, and that dark chapter in American history involved far more black people than were taken from Africa to the United States. It was also uniquely cruel and brutally destructive. And it unfolded during the era when cotton was “king.”

That second forced migration was known as the domestic, or internal, slave trade: “In the seven decades between the ratification of the Constitution [in 1787] and the Civil War [1861],” the historian Walter Johnson tells us in his book Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, “approximately one million enslaved people were relocated from the upper South to the lower South … two thirds of these through … the domestic slave trade.” In other words, two and a half times more African Americans were directly affected by the second Middle Passage than the first one.

Mother Begs to Keep Her Baby at a Slave Auction in the 1840s

Mother Begs to Keep Her Baby at a Slave Auction in the 1840s

When we think of the image of slaves being sold “down the river” on auction blocks — mothers separated from children, husbands from wives — it was during this period that these scenes became increasingly common. The enslaved were sometimes marched hundreds of miles to their destinations, on foot and in chains. Indeed, the years between 1830 and 1860 were the worst in the history of African-American enslavement.

Why? Because…

Read the full story here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Painting Shows Slave-Auction Drama

An 1861 painting from British artist Eyre Crowe captures the anxiety before a sale.

By Image of the Black in Western Art Archive in theRoot.com

(The Root) — This image is part of a weekly series that The Root is presenting in conjunction with the Image of the Black in Western Art Archive at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

In May of 1861, a strikingly original painting was exhibited at the annual show of the Royal Academy in London.

Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia, 1861. Oil on canvas, by Eyre Crowe. Collection of Teresa Heinz.

Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia, 1861. Oil on canvas, by Eyre Crowe. Collection of Teresa Heinz.

The artist, Eyre Crowe, presented the public with a candid vision of the institution of slavery in the United States: A group of eight black women and young children sit within the dusky interior of a slave sale room. At right, a man is seated separately, his arms tightly folded, with a sober, even angry, look on his face. Behind the main group stands the auctioneer, who looks toward the doorway at the left. Three men have stopped there and seem to be discussing their prospects within. Outside flies a red flag, always put out when a slave sale was proceeding….

[Crowe] had published several other images related to slavery in the British popular press, as well as another painting showing slaves being transported to their new owners by rail. All of these images were based on his direct experience of the “peculiar institution” gained as an assistant to the popular British author William Makepeace Thackeray on an extended speaking tour along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in 1852-53.

Along the way, he made sketches of his travels. Supplemented by notes from a diary kept during the trip, these formed the basis for a vivid impression of North-South distinctions in the former colonies just before the Civil War. While Thackeray maintained a reserve discrete from the slavery question, Crowe explored it with keen interest.

Fired by his reading of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s just-released Uncle Toms Cabin, and having seen advertisements for slave sales in the Richmond, Va., paper, on the morning of March 3, 1853, he ventured into two of the many slave-auction rooms along Wall Street.

Read more about this painting and its artist here.

Find out about the Image of the Black project here.

Read more Breaking News stories here.

Films By and About African Americans Win Big at Prestigious Film Festival

‘Fruitvale’ Wins Big, ‘American Promise,’ Bradford Young, ‘Gideon’s Army’ Collect Sundance 2013 Awards

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

Congratulations to director Ryan Coogler, his cast and crew, for picking up, not one, but TWO major awards –

A scene from "Fruitvale," a new independent film about the real-life murder of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009 was fatally shot in the back by an officer after being detained in the wake of an altercation that he was not involved with. The incident, captured by the camera phones of numerous onlookers at the Fruitvale train station in Oakland, CA, prompted national outrage for the senseless murder of a young black man at the hands of law enforcement.

A scene from “Fruitvale,” a new independent film about the real-life murder of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009 was fatally shot in the back by an officer after being detained in the wake of an altercation that he was not involved with. The incident, captured by the camera phones of numerous onlookers at the Fruitvale train station in Oakland, CA, prompted national outrage for the senseless murder of a young black man at the hands of law enforcement.

the 2013 Audience Award in the US Dramatic category, as well as the grand-daddy of them all, the Grand Jury Prize….

The Weinstein Company acquired Coogler’s directorial debut, although no word yet on when exactly it’ll be released. Michael B. Jordan stars in the film based on the murder of 22-year old Oscar Grant (played by Jordan). Octavia Spencer, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz co-star. The film is produced by Forest Whitaker. Read our review HERE.

Read about the other films (by black filmmakers on black subjects) that won awards at Sundance 2013 – and patronize them when and if they come to a theater or film festival near you!

Read more Breaking News here.

Cinematographer Bradford Young won awards for two feature films at this Sundance. He heightens the human drama of "Mother of George" with shots that experiment with the use of light and color in striking ways. The film dramatizes the complicated lives of African immigrants in America.

Cinematographer Bradford Young won awards for two feature films at this Sundance. He heightens the human drama of “Mother of George” with shots that experiment with the use of light and color in striking ways. The film dramatizes the complicated lives of African immigrants in America.

Rosa Parks Stamp to Be Unveiled on Her 100th Birthday, February 4th

Cassandra Spratling and Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press, for USA Today

DETROIT — The first national unveiling ceremonies for a commemorative U.S. Postal Service stamp honoring civil rights icon Rosa Parks, will be held in Detroit and Dearborn, Mich., on Feb. 4.

This new "Forever" stamp will go on sale February 4, 2013.

This new “Forever” stamp will go on sale February 4, 2013.

Events at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn are expected to draw large crowds, including stamp collectors from around the country, on what would have been Parks’ 100th birthday.

The first Rosa Parks Forever stamps will be sold at the Wright museum, with a dedication ceremony starting at 7:30.a.m. The Henry Ford Museum, where the Rosa Parks bus is on permanent display, will host the First-Day-of-Issue stamp event at 10:45 a.m., as part of a daylong celebration dubbed the National Day of Courage.

Her 1955 arrest triggered the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. This was a part of the early Civil Rights Movement and the place that introduced Dr. King to the world as a leader.

Her 1955 arrest triggered the year-long Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. This was a part of the early Civil Rights Movement and the event that introduced Dr. King to the world.

Parks made history on Dec. 1, 1955, by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus — an act that spurred a movement to end legally sanctioned racial discrimination. She and her husband Raymond moved to Detroit in 1957.

Rosa Parks died Oct. 24, 2005, in Detroit, at the age of 92.

Rosa Parks died Oct. 24, 2005, in Detroit, at the age of 92.

Speakers at the Henry Ford event will include activist and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Detroit for whom Parks worked as a secretary and receptionist from 1965-88.

Read more about the event here.

Read more Breaking News here.

True Believers in Justice: Attorney Travis Williams

By Dawn Porter, for the New York Times

I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, but unlike Travis Williams — the subject of this Op-Doc video — I never wanted to be a public defender. prison industrial complexI didn’t understand how anyone could represent people who did terrible things. “Criminals” were not people I wanted to help.

Then, in 2009, while working in the legal department at A&E Television, I met Jonathan Rapping, the founder of what’s now Gideon’s Promise. He invited me to his client-centered legal training program in Alabama. At the start of training, Mr. Rapping asked each lawyer to articulate why he or she chose to become a public defender. One young man said he had a brother with Down syndrome, so he wanted to help people who could not navigate the legal system for themselves. Another said he had been arrested as a teenager, so he wanted to help kids like him who didn’t know their rights. Their stories moved me. I learned more about the true state of the criminal justice system during that week than I knew from all my years practicing law. I wanted other people to learn about what they were doing and so I decided to make this film.

prisoner aloneI was horrified by what I learned about the criminal justice system. Innocent people, in prison for months or years, sometimes plead guilty to get out of jail; onerous sentences are too often given for minor crimes; people can lose civil rights, like the right to vote, as a result of criminal convictions. In America, a felony conviction can be a lifelong sentence. In America, a felony conviction can be a lifelong sentence because of this multitude of collateral consequences.

I also saw what a difference it made to have lawyers like Travis fighting hard for poor people’s rights. I saw him tell clients and their families that they were facing long sentences, outrageous bail terms or prison. But I saw him deliver even the worst news with compassion, and I saw him fight for every client. He’s inspired me to judge less and listen more, to try to put myself in the position of people who face a terribly structured system that often provides justice to neither the victim nor the accused. Thanks to Travis and the other young lawyers I met on this journey, I can proudly say I’m a “true believer” in their cause.

Watch Porter’s 6-minute video about Travis Williams, public defender and unsung hero, here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Fear of a Black Gun Owner

Ironically, the NRA used to support gun control — when the Black Panthers were packing.

By Edward Wyckoff Williams, theRoot.com

The gun-rights movement has been co-opted in the post-civil rights era. Loud voices both inside and outside the NRA use the claxons of government tyranny and fear of supposed “street thugs” to justify deregulation. The Second Amendment text that calls for a “well-regulated militia” is often ignored in favor of the ambiguous phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Black Panther Party leaders Bobby Black and Huey Newton

Black Panther Party leaders Bobby Black and Huey Newton called for an end to police brutality in black neighborhoods. The Black Panthers also provided many free services, such as breakfasts for kids, rides to prisons for family visits with inmates, classes, and sickle-cell testing.

 

…It seems the arguments and the players have been reversed. At its founding in 1871, the NRA was an organization dedicated to promoting marksmanship, firearms-safety education and shooting for recreation. Today it promotes utter irresponsibility and unfettered access to deadly weapons.

In just a few short decades, what was once a reasonable debate in Washington has become corrupted. In 1989, Republican President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order banning the importation of semiautomatic weapons. Bill Clinton followed suit in 1998 and, in 2001, banned the importation of assault pistols. Today the inmates are in control of the asylum, with Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee refusing to entertain any civilian restriction to military-style assault rifles.

But unlike Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the NRA and their GOP allies find it hard to justify unbridled support of gun ownership and access. As MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry brilliantly described in a recent segment, the Black Panthers may not have been what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they described “a well-regulated militia” taking up arms against the tyranny of the state, but that is exactly what they represented.

The Panthers sought to protect themselves and other law-abiding citizens against indiscriminate violence perpetrated by police forces.

Gun control has a strange history in the USA.

Gun control has a strange history in the USA.

But firepower in the hands of black men was — and still is — seen as dangerous and wildly inappropriate. Unless, of course, that violence is intraracial. When black males from Baltimore to Chicago shoot each other, policymakers hardly notice. Apathy breeds inaction, and big business encourages that the status quo be maintained.

The justified anger that informed decisions by the likes of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers to fully embrace their Second Amendment rights has been bastardized by contemporary arguments for lax gun control. And as money continues to corrupt, it only gets worse.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Celebrating the ‘complete’ Martin Luther King Jr.; unfinished work and all

By Blair L. M. Kelley, theGrio.com

My 9-year old daughter came home this week raving about her class and their discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Homes, an infamously poor and overcrowded public housing project in Chicago, in the 1960s. (Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Homes, an infamously poor and overcrowded public housing project in Chicago, in the 1960s. (Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

She declared that she loved learning about his life and that she was thankful to him because without King, no change would have been possible in America on the question of race. I am a historian of African-American history specializing in social movements, so I quickly moved to correct her. Of course change would have happened, even if King had never lived! I described to her other leaders. I reminded her that movements don’t function because of just one great man. I told her that King was not a perfect person, and that even he had come short of meeting all his goals. In the end, I even resorted to reminding her that I wrote a book on a movement that took place 35 years before King was even born.

Clearly my daughter didn’t care. She insisted that her school would not be integrated, and that her whole world would not have been the same without King’s leadership.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that most people feel the same way about King that my daughter does….

President Lyndon Baines Johnson gives the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pen he used to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon Baines Johnson gives the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pen he used to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

As an icon, King is often thought of as flawless, so that we rarely reflect on his failures as a movement leader. Our collective memory of King only touches on the high points…We tend not to remember the moments when King faltered or searched for the right direction. We don’t recall the indecision about what to do next after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott; the challenge of the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement campaign, or his unfulfilled Poor People’s Campaign — cut short by his tragic assassination in 1968. These moments are forgotten when King is not remembered in his broader context.

It is especially telling that Chicago, Illinois was the site of one of King’s most difficult campaigns. King and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, were drawn into the struggle in the urban North after the Los Angeles riots of 1965. While the southern movement had been making strides in dismantling segregation and disfranchisement, the problems of black residents in the urban North and West had not gained sustained national attention.

Read about Dr. King’s Chicago campaign – and more – here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Where Was the 1st Underground Railroad?

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr., theRoot.com

We have all been regaled with stories about our slave ancestors escaping from the harsh life of the plantations in the South,

undergrd railroad finding their freedom in the North by “following the North Star” through alligator- and snake-infested swamps, hiding by day in dense forests, braving the elements, dangerous animals and disease-bearing mosquitos and eventually finding freedom across the Mason-Dixon Line, frequently guided by that courageous conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman.

Few elements of African-American history have been more mythologized or misunderstood than the legendary Underground Railroad….

But the question for today is, “Where was the first Underground Railroad?” I think that the answer will surprise you, just as it surprised me when we filmed this story for my forthcoming PBS series, Many Rivers to Cross: The History of the African American People.

It stands to reason that slaves in the Southern states had to flee north to gain their freedom, following the metaphorical “drinking gourd” (as the Big Dipper was called), right? And this was certainly the case after 1830, when what we now call the Underground Railroad came into common usage in the press. So you will be forgiven if you think that this has always been true. Actually, the very first slaves in what is now the United States fled to their freedom by running south, not north.

How could this have been possible?

Read the answer here.

More Breaking News here.

2nd Amendment Passed to Protect Slavery? No!

A legal scholar lambastes a Truthout article claiming that it was for preserving slave-patrol militias.

By Paul Finkelman, PhD, theRoot.com

Recently Thom Hartmann published an essay on Truthout titled “The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery.”2ndamendmt and gun Hartmann, who is described on the Internet as a radio host, author, former psychotherapist and entrepreneur and a progressive political commentator, said the amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended, in part, to protect slave-patrol militias.

If Hartmann’s political goal is to argue for reasonable firearms regulations, then he and I are in the same camp. I have long argued that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual’s right to own firearms, and that the purpose of the amendment was purely to guarantee that the states could maintain their own militias. I have also written a great deal on how the Constitution protected slavery (see my book Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson), and I am not shy about pointing out how the founders protected slavery. Indeed, my most recent public comment on slavery and the founding was an op-ed in the New York Times on Jefferson and slavery titled “The Monster of Monticello.”

Still, however committed one may be to a political outcome, it serves no purpose to make historical arguments that are demonstrably wrong, misleading and inconsistent with what happened. Hartmann does not serve his cause well by purporting to write history when his version of history is mostly wrong, and very misleading.

Read the complete, carefully argued refutation of Hartmann’s essay here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Leave a comment about this controversy below.

How We Can Truly Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Marion Wright Edelman, Huffington Post

At his death in 1968, when [Dr. King] was calling with urgency for an end to poverty in our nation, there were 25.4 million poor Americans including 11 million poor children and our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $4.13 trillion. Today there are 46.2 million poor people including 16.1 million poor children and our GDP is three times larger. Twenty million of our neighbors are living in extreme poverty including 7.3 million children.

Disgracefully children are the poorest age group in America and the younger they are the poorer they are and one in four preschool children is poor. More than one in three Black children and the same proportion of Latino children are poor. Children have suffered most since the recession began.

• The number of poor children – 16.1 million – exceeds the entire combined populations of Haiti and Liberia, two of the poorest countries on earth.

• The number of extremely poor children – 7.3 million – in our nation is greater than the population of Sierra Leone.

• The number of poor children under five – 5.0 million – exceeds the entire population of the state of South Carolina or Louisiana or Alabama.

I have no doubt that in our nation where the 400 highest income earners made as much as the combined tax revenues of 22 state governments with 42 million citizens in 2008, and the wealthiest top 1 percent hold more net wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. The rich don’t need another tax break and they need to give back some of their unfair share of our nation’s tax subsidies, loopholes and bailouts to feed and house and educate our children and employ their parents.

Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by naming and changing the continuing racial disparities, undergirded by poverty, that place one in three Black and one in six Hispanic boys born in 2001 at risk of prison in their lifetimes. Incarceration is the new American apartheid. Let’s reroute our children into a pipeline to college and productive work to compete with children from China and India.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.