Tuesday Cotton & Slavery Thread

Picking Cotton in the Mississippi Delta

When Cotton Was King 

Looking forward from the dawn of the American republic, it was easy to assume that slavery would soon fade away. Slaves were primarily used to produce staple crops like tobacco, rice, indigo and sugar, all of which were in decline under competition from the Caribbean. Without these, slavery could not survive.

“Slavery in time will not be a speck in our country,” opined Oliver Ellsworth, a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Indeed, it was that assumption that allowed the anti-slavery delegates to cede easily to a compromise in writing the Constitution: slavery would never be mentioned, but it would be given legal protection. Founding a nation, Ellsworth and others decided, was more important than eradicating a “moral anachronism.”

That assumption, however, proved disastrously wrong, thanks to a new, much more valuable cash crop then still on the horizon: cotton.

and this,

The mass production of cotton was accompanied by a dramatic 90 percent drop in the price of a cotton textile garment. This in turn led to a consumer revolution whose raw material was slave-produced cotton – 80 percent of which was produced in the South. As a result, American cotton production exploded from almost nothing in 1787 to over 4.5 million bales, at 500 lbs. a bale, by 1860. On the eve of the war, cotton comprised almost 60 percent of America’s exports.

Slavery expanded accordingly. The number of slaves increased from 700,000 in 1787 to over 4 million on the eve of the American Civil War; approximately 70 percent were involved in some way with cotton production. Indeed, so closely tied were cotton and slavery that the price of a slave directly correlated to the price of cotton (except during years of excessive speculation). Interestingly, slaves were considered too valuable in the cotton states to be used for dangerous work in the malarial swamps that bordered levees and canals. Irish immigrants were the truly expendable class.

Eugene Dattel grew up amidst the descendants of African slaves in the predominantly black Mississippi Delta.  He is sagacious, thoughtful and accurately describes himself as a financial and cultural historian.  The excerpt above is from a 2011 New York Times opinion page piece.  And now we have this:

Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure, by Gene Dattel 

The great Myron Magnet of City Journal reviews Dattel’s newest book beginning with:

What gives Gene Dattel’s Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure its special power is that, even after its bracingly original and thoroughly researched account of the racism of the abolitionist North from the late eighteenth century until long after the Civil War, the book nevertheless does not shrink from laying the ills of today’s black American underclass not at the door of a painful history, with ample blame for northern as well as southern whites, but squarely at the feet of black Americans themselves. Yes, shameful, deeply shameful, were slavery, Jim Crow, and northern racism, and who can doubt that they left grievous scars? Still, America fought a war to end the evil institution, had a civil rights movement to try to erase its malign remnants, and spent decades on affirmative action and other nostrums to expunge even the faintest remaining traces. Whatever white Americans could do to atone for and repair the damage they caused, they have done, as much as imperfect humans in an imperfect world can do. Now, Dattel argues, it’s up to black Americans to save themselves.

and to the present,

Dattel isn’t so sure. He joins Ben Burns, a white friend of Wright’s and an influential, longtime editor at black publications Ebony and the Chicago Defender, in doubting—as many of Burns’s black friends doubted—that poverty and slum misery were the sole causes of such disproportional black crime. If that were so, asked Burns, “Why did so many black gangs thrive while committing mayhem against their own people?” Late in life, Burns, without a racist bone in his body, nodded in agreement when Benjamin Ward, New York’s first black police commissioner, complained that black youths were “committing genocide against their people.” Burns was amazed that even ultra-left-wing black judge Bruce Wright—“Turn-‘em-Loose Bruce”—chimed in that “if you don’t talk about it, it will remain a dirty little secret,” while black Brooklyn College professor Carlos Russell observed that “no white person comes into Bedford-Stuyvesant and rapes a grandmother.” And in 1994, even New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, always ready to cry racism at the jerk of a knee, called for cops to “grab the felons,” after a black thug violently mugged 89-year-old black civil-rights icon Rosa Parks—a long-forgotten moment of clarity.

Dattel refutes a number of myths, large and small, but the one I most appreciate is correcting the record on the brutal racism in the North, before and after the Civil War.

Buy the book here.



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32 thoughts on “Tuesday Cotton & Slavery Thread

  1. My Brother Kevin’s Not Tired of Winning.
    Maureen Dowd

    WASHINGTON — Wherever I go, people ask me the same question: “How can he?” How can Kevin support President Trump? Why isn’t he bothered by all the things others find appalling and frightening? Thanksgiving weekend is here, so it’s time for my Republican brother to share his bounteous harvest of thoughts:

    Every time I hear Neil Gorsuch’s name, I smile.

    It has been a year since Donald Trump was elected, and his thrill-a-minute White House is still causing acid reflux for half the country and all of the mainstream media. There is always a lot of background noise buzzing around the president, and it’s catnip for his detractors.

    Full disclosure: I am not a Trump disciple. His manners offend me and the tweeting is overdone, but I do admire his resiliency against an unrelenting and unfair press. His tweeting is annoying, but it can be an effective defense. He has 43.2 million Twitter followers. The New York Times has 3.1 million subscribers.

    Trump got into office because of Congress’s inability or unwillingness to do its job. The voters were so fed up, they turned to a reality TV star instead of the 20 politicians on the menu. (Or 20.5 if you want to count Martin O’Malley.)

    Trump delivered on his promises to shake things up with a slew of executive orders undoing much of Barack Obama’s burdensome regulations and, more important, started to reshape the lower courts decimated by Obama’s appointments. The nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court may be his most lasting legacy.

  2. I don’t know if any of you have the seen the short video of the White House decorations for Christmas.

    Beautiful. Classy. Gorgeous. The card says “Merry Christmas”. There’s a nativity scene.

    I don’t think there’s an ornament with Mao’s picture on it. Nor is there an image of Mt. Rushmore with Trump’s face on it. (You can guess who did that last year.)

    I also saw a video of Melania joining some school children who’d been invited to the White House to make some Christmas decorations. She walked into the room wearing a white dress with some bell-like sleeves, and a thin gold belt. You can hear the kids: “Are you an angel?” “You look just like an angel!” And they all swarmed around her to get and give hugs. Then Melania greeted the teachers and sat down with the kids to join in the activity.

    I’ll bet the Wookie never got that response.

    It’s nice to have beauty and grace in the White House.

  3. Morning, everyone. Seeing what they’ve done with the White House may inspire me to start bringing down my Christmas decorations today!

  4. Dan Patrick posted on his FB page about Giving Tuesday and being thankful.

    Man, he’s getting trolled big time. There’s a suggestion that one of the great charities deserving of our giving dollars would be Planned Parenthood Infanticide.

  5. A friend told me that she’s bringing me more yarn next week when we see each other.

    I may never have to buy yarn again.

    The pest guys are here to finish their work. Once that’s finished, I can start organizing my crafts materials, including my yarn, in that space.

    I am so happy right now. It’ll take a while, but I’m bound and determined to take control of my home. I keep waiting on Hubby to finish stuff so I can find final resting homes for stuff, but that’s taking so long I need to take the bull by the horns. If and when he gets around to the flooring upstairs, the crew will just have to move my stuff around.

    Given his back issues and the kind of year(s) we’ve had, holding my breath for him to focus on our house isn’t an option. It takes time, money, and good health to get things done, and we seem to be short on one or more of those items constantly.

  6. Puleeze spare me the following topics – racism, sexism, Christmas, NFL, Trump tweets, charities, and most other social issues. How about a discussion on taxes, government spending, foreign affairs, wars, states’ rights, government corruption, or other meaningful topics. I know that these subjects are difficult to wrap your brain around, less subject to “feel good” emotions, and require some understanding of history, and some might even consider boring. Jus’ sayin’.

  7. #10

    I don’t care. I just wanted Lucille out of my house. Her and all the related odors, scrapings, rattlings, chirpings, and any friends that followed her into my home.

    The minute I saw that raccoon streaking out of that cage into the brush, the day before Harvey, was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

  8. Yes, trapping and dispatching destructive varmits is a good discussion topic. Skunks are my favorite, but raccoons can be a real pain. Skunks are the only ones I dispatch since they are most likely to contract rabies and also most likely to camp out on the back porch and surprise you when you walk out in the morning. I’d just about as soon be bitten by a rabid skunk as sprayed by one.

  9. destructive varmits is a good discussion topic.

    Which is the perfect segue back into a conversation about government corruption.

    Have the Super Con-servatives in the halls of congress demanded the taxpayer know the names of the congresscritters who used the sexual hush, slush fund to fund their penchant for hush puppy squeezin’ and turtledove feelin’?

    Look!…Up in the sky…..!!

    Someone? Anyone? Ferris?

    Do they make raccoon clips? Are they hard to smoke? Like crawdads?

  10. Dang. Why didn’t you just get Harper to come over to your house and invite the critters over to her place for a cushy stay with the cats, possums, and rabbits?

  11. We’re nearing the end of the turkey sammich easy lunchtime option. I stocked up on some good exotic breads to make it a little more interesting. Of course, we could quit at any time and give the rest to the cats, but it’s more fun to give them kitty bites and get them to stand up for them.

  12. Have the Super Con-servatives in the halls of congress demanded the end of or have they even attempted to end Mayo Stained Schumer’s Diversity Visa Lottery yet?

    Have they ended Ferris Mueller’s taxpayer waste of funds farce yet?

    Look!…Up in the sky…..!!

    Someone? Anyone? Ferris?

    What’s next? Scratch off tickets sold at a Syrian Stop-n-Go?

  13. What ever happened to the spy ducks. Did we eat them all for Thanksgiving? I hear by the grapevine that there are several congresscritters who were caught holding their ducks in their hand. Or something.

  14. SpyDuckus got pinged
    In a clipped wing sting
    His feathers mayo stained
    Which left him quite pained

    His beak And his bill
    Got plenty of thrills
    And you paid the price
    To hush up the lice.

  15. Good afternoon Hamsters. Another beautiful fall day that really shouldn’t be this warm this late in November, but it is.

    Saw the wonderful tour of the White House Christmas decorations conducted by our lovely First Lady. As mharper42 commented (#5), that is also an inspiration for me to get the Christmas things out and up as a treat after washing sheetrock dust out of clothes during the switchover from the summer ones to what passes as winter ones this far south.

  16. I spent some time today packing away my pumpkins and scarecrows, and after a short while, I had a backache! Had recently spent THREE DAYS with the leaf blower and a rake and a box of leaf bags, never got a backache. When Hubs was holding up bags for me, he asked “How can you keep bending over like that??” I had no explanation. Oh and ALL my newly filled leaf bags were wisked away by friends who took them to various gardens needing leaves for various reasons.

    On the Fall decor, I got everything into the boxes, including the one big scarecrow who is permanently seated on his own bale of hay — had never been in a box before! — I used to store him in the craft room. Well, there is this wire and plastic black cat that I could NOT fit in a box today. It has also never been stored in a box, even though I had one box left over today with nothing put into it. Every box is labelled with the sort of things that should be in it, but I guess I was repacking more ferociously today.

  17. Have the Super Con-servatives in the halls of congress demanded the end of or have they even attempted to end Mayo Stained Schumer’s Diversity Visa Lottery yet?

    Why, yes. Yes they have.

    The House Freedom Caucus announced Monday that they would back a bill to end the diversity visa lottery.

    The conservative group of lawmakers joined President Trump’s call to end the program in the wake of the terror attack in New York City last week. The suspect in the attack, Sayfullo Saipov, used the program to enter the U.S. in 2010.

    The group threw their support behind a bill introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.).

    Try to keep up. This is important stuff.

  18. My house guests left Sunday, so this evening I decided that it was about time to strip their beds and wash the linens (which are now actually micro-fiber). I started with the micro fiber sheets for the hospital bed after hip replacement surgery, and I liked them so well that I’ve added them to all the beds in the house. Now, maybe tomorrow the good fairy will come in and reinstall them on their respective mattresses – except I washed mine too, so I’ll have to make it tonight. Darn housework. Also hard at work to locate a new football coach for Rice. Haven’t had any applicants yet, but the job just came open yesterday, so it may be another day or two before resumes start showing up in the mail. I suppose I could post the job opening on the internet, but it’s hard to contact references there. First crop of signees is due December 20, and we don’t have anyone out there on the recruiting trail. Gonna put us even farther behind.

  19. I wish I had gotten a photo of this, while Hubs & I were in the family room doing the family hour: OJ for him and a Crystal Lite mix for me. On the now mostly bare hearth in front of us, there are 2 things: that black Halloween cat, and the empty box that it will not fit into. Suddenly there are 3 things: Our 10 y.o. brown tabby jumped up on the hearth, nosed open the flaps on that box, and proceeded to crawl over and in.

    I’m sure there is a lesson in that somewhere. Maybe phil can discern what it is.

  20. Why, yes. Yes they have.

    The House Freedom Caucus announced Monday that they would back a bill to end the diversity visa lottery.

    I’ll believe it when it’s law. The Cons are always good at (grand)standing but when it comes to delivering it’s usually nothing more than windmills of the mind.

  21. I’ll believe it when it’s law. The Cons are always good at (grand)standing but when it comes to delivering it’s usually nothing more than windmills of the mind.

    Well, we’re making progress then.

    Just a couple hours ago, you didn’t believe that they’d filed a bill or had said anything about it.

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