Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass | posted in African American

The Scene Of The Crime

It is a fact that the history of people of African descent was destroyed by government-sanctioned system of slavery. However, I have resurrected our amazing and often horrific journey many times through this blog. I have tried to bring into remembrance some heart-wrenching events and glorious victories resulting from the unimaginable struggles that African Americans have had to endure. Therefore, I would be remiss if I did not start at the beginning with what I call the scene of the crime.

The Jamestown Colony, England’s first permanent settlement in North America, was a marshy wasteland, poor for agriculture and a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The settlement was such a harsh environment that only thirty-two of the estimated one hundred original settlers survived the first seven months. HIS-Story describes this as the “starving times,” but all would change.

On August 20, 1619, the first African “settlers” reached North America as cargo onboard a Dutch man-of-war ship that rode the tide into the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, carrying Captain Jope and a cargo of twenty Africans. It seems strange to me, but history cannot tell us why this mysterious ship anchored off Jamestown. It is believed the cap­tain needed food and in exchange for food he offered his cargo of Africans as payment.

When the deal was consummated, Antoney, Isabella, and eighteen other Africans disembarked. Although they were not the first Africans to arrive in North America, they were the first African “settlers.” Regarded as indentured servants rather than slaves, fifteen were purchased to serve their redemption time working for Sir George Yardley, the Gover­nor of Virginia and proprietor of the thousand-acre Flowerdew Hundred Plantation. In ten years, by the 1630’s, the colony, through the use of the Africans, had established a successful economy based on tobacco.

Slavery was born, and the slave trade became big business. These human souls were acquired in Africa for an average price of about twenty-five dollars each, paid primarily in merchandise. They were sold in the Americas for about one hundred fifty dollars each. As the price of slaves increased, so did the inhumane overcrowding of the ships.

This was the beginning of the worst crime ever inflicted upon a people and the most morally reprehensible agenda the world has ever known. Adding to this injustice and more horrifying was that the perpetrators believed their actions were sanctioned by God with a religious manifestation that justified slavery. The next two-hundred years were a designed systematic effort to destroy millions of lives through indoctrination, brutality, savagery, and terror.

I am always struck by the use of the word civilization in this matter because the root word is “civil” and there was nothing civil about the institution of slavery. To be clear a slave is chattel – a human being considered property and servant for life. The business of slave trading had one purpose – profit. The process would begin with an African being paid to venture into the interior of the continent, capture other Africans, put them on a death march to the coast and sell these captives to Europeans. Now, if stealing and capturing the victims was not misery enough, what was to follow surely was in every sense of the word.

This horrible journey, known as the “Middle Passage,” ended with a lifetime of bondage awaiting the captives at the end of the voyage. A typical slave ship traveling from Gambia, the Gold Coast, Guinea, or Senegal, would take four to eight weeks to reach New England, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, or the West Indies. Women, men, and children were crammed so tightly in the cargo ships that out of a load of seven hundred, three or four would be found dead each morning. Africans from Senegal were the most-prized commodity be­cause many were skilled artisans. Ibos from Calabar were considered the most undesirable because of their high suicide rate.

Most ships had three decks with the lower two used for transporting slaves. The lowest deck extended the full length of the ship and was no more than five feet high. The captives were packed into tomb-like compartments side by side to utilize all available space. In the next deck, wooden planks like shelves extended from the sides of the ship where the slaves were chained in pairs at the wrists and ankles – crammed side by side. Men occupied middle shelves and were most often chained in pairs and bound to the ship’s gunwales or to ringbolts set into the deck. Women and children were sometimes allowed to move about certain areas of the ship.

A typical slave ship coming directly to the American mainland from Africa weighed about one to two hundred tons, although some were slightly larger. Slave ships were eventually built especially for human cargo. These slave ships could carry as many as four hundred slaves and a crew of forty-seven, as well as thirteen thousand pounds of food. They were long, narrow, fast, and designed to direct air below decks. Shack­ling irons, nets, and ropes were standard equipment.

The competition at slave markets on the African coast grew so exceptionally that historians estimate that as many as 60 million human souls were captured and taken from the continent of Africa to be sold into bondage. It is estimated that as many as one-third of that number did not survive the “Middle Passage” to reach the shores of a place like Jamestown.

Did you know the first registered slave ship was named “The Good Ship Jesus,” and in the name of God the greatest crime the world has known began in this place called Jamestown? The devastating effects of bondage would have an effect on the race of people for centuries.

I will continue to pray that we will be able, one day, to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
 

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Crispus Attucks

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There are so many misrepresentations, stories rewritten, changed, or just simply true facts unknown when it comes to historical significance regarding African American’s and American history. In fact, it was not until the 20th century that any of our history was even recorded. Another fact: most slaves or African Americans prior to the 20th century never received a certificate of birth. This brings me to the subject of the first Negro killed in the Revolutionary War for America’s freedom.

No much is known about Crispus Attucks and all we do know was produced by those who had a vested interest in using his name or color for their cause. Attucks was born into slavery around 1723, in Framingham, Massachusetts. He was the son of a slave father shipped to America from Africa and a Natick Indian mother. This is an important piece of evidence regarding his place in history. We are supposed to believe that a slave was on the forefront of the movement to free the nation from British rule.

Therefore, what is claimed or taught though history is that Attucks was supposed to be the first to fall during what’s called the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Personally, I think this claim was to disguise the fact that the new land was a major purveyor of slavery where many states sanctioned such by law or what law there was.

What has been pieced together paints a picture of a young man who showed an early skill for buying and trading goods. He seemed unafraid of the consequences for escaping the bonds of slavery. Historians have, in fact, pinpointed Attucks as the focus of an advertisement in the 1750 edition of the Boston Gazette in which a white landowner offered to pay 10 pounds for the return of a young runaway slave.

“Ran away from his Master William Brown from Framingham, on the 30th of Sept. last,” the advertisement read. “A Mulatto Fellow, about 27 Years of age, named Crispas, 6 Feet two Inches high, short curl’d Hair, his Knees nearer together than common: had on a light colour’d Bearskin Coat.”

Attucks, however, managed to escape for good, spending the next two decades on trading ships and whaling vessels coming in and out of Boston. Attucks also found work as a ropemaker. As British control over the colonies tightened, tensions escalated between the colonists and British soldiers. Attucks was one of those directly affected by the worsening situation. Seamen like Attucks constantly lived with the threat they could be forced into the British navy, while back on land, British soldiers regularly took part-time work away from colonists.

On March 5, 1770, a Friday, a fight erupted between a group of Boston ropemakers and three British soldiers. Tensions were ratcheted up further three nights later when a British soldier looking for work entered a Boston pub, only to be greeted by a contingent of furious sailors, one of whom was Attucks.

The details regarding what followed have always been the source of debate, but that evening a group of Bostonians approached a guard in front of the customs house and started taunting him. The situation quickly escalated. When a contingent of British redcoats came to the defense of their fellow soldier, more angry Bostonians joined the fracas, throwing snowballs and other items at the soldiers.

Attucks was one of those in the middle of the fight, and when the British opened fire he was the first of five men killed, which is why he is claimed to be the first casualty of the American Revolution. However, as a runaway slave it is highly doubtful that Attucks would challenge the British authorities for a cause that he had no stake in.

In fact, this episode was nothing more than the actions of an unruly mob, and there was no war at the time. John Adams the second president of the new country represented the British Soldiers in court who fired the shots charged, though debate has raged over how involved he was in the fight. One account claims he was simply “leaning on a stick” when the gunshots erupted.”

Regardless, Attucks became a martyr and post-harmoniously received a statue as a hero. His body was transported to Faneuil Hall, where he and the others killed in the attack lay in state. City leaders even waived the laws around black burials and permitted Attucks to be buried with the others at the Park Street cemetery.

In the years since his death, Attucks’s legacy has continued to endure, first with the American colonists eager to break from British rule, and later among 19th century abolitionists and 20th century civil rights activists. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1964 book, Why We Can’t Wait, lauded Attucks for his moral courage and his defining role in American history.

 


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