Slavery

The Fearless Benjamin Lay

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The just man who is resolute/ Will not be turned from his purpose/ Either by the rage of the crowd or/ By an imperious tyrant. Roberts Vaux, an early biographer of Benjamin Lay, quoted these lines by Rome’s lyric poet of antiquity, Horace, to describe the fortitude and courage Lay showed throughout his remarkable life in the face of the ill will and taunts expressed towards him by those who benefitted from the vile transatlantic slave trade. And where not better to start a review of this simply very good book?

Why our rulers created racism

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Racism is regarded as “natural” or a result of ignorance but, writes Antony Hamilton, the notion of a hierarchy of races has material roots in the birth of capitalism.

Racism is one of the most favoured weapons in the arsenal of the ruling class. Whenever there is economic or political crisis, instead of pointing the finger at a banker, a scapegoat is created, a minority to blame. Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out and ban Muslims from travelling to the US; Theresa May has blamed migrants for falling wages and “displacement of jobs”, and has prioritised the Tory promise to reduce immigration in her election campaign to the “tens of thousands”.

Black experience in focus

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The runaway success of the searing artistic triumph that is 12 Years A Slave has illuminated a wider shifting landscape of black cinema. We are at a pivotal moment for black experience stories driven by black talent or led by a black majority cast.

Recent headlines about these films aptly encapsulate this period. In Bloomberg Businessweek, for instance, there's: "In Hollywood, Black is the New Black"; Vanity Fair, "Emancipating Hollywood"; New York Times, "A Breakout for Black Filmmakers", and from Hollywood Reporter, "Whites Suddenly Gripped By Black Dramas".

Thaddeus Stevens and the legacy of radical reconstruction

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Thaddeus Stevens may not be as famous as Abraham Lincoln, but he played a major role in defeating slavery in the US. Gary McFarlane tells the story of this radical Republican senator who pushed for a thoroughgoing transformation of the slave-owning south and for rights for ex-slaves

Not many people have heard of Thaddeus Stevens. If you've seen filmmaker Steven Spielberg's Lincoln you will be aware of his central role in the framing and passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banning slavery. Stevens has been played on film before, but as the villain.

Proclaiming the end of slavery

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In September 1862 the conclusion of the Battle of Antietam led US president Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation declaring the end of slavery. On the 150th anniversary Camilla Royle looks back at this crucial turning point in the American Civil War

In 1864 Karl Marx wrote a letter on behalf of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln congratulating him on his re-election. In it he describes the American Civil War as initiating a new era of ascendancy for the working class. The Emancipation Proclamation issued on 22 September 1862 - in which Lincoln ordered the end of slavery - helped make this war one of the most significant periods of American history.

The war that became a revolution

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The US Civil War began 150 years ago in April 1861. It ended with the abolition of slavery in the Southern states. Mark L Thomas spoke to historian James McPherson about this turning point in US history


To what extent was the Civil War a war to preserve the Union and to what extent was it a war to abolish slavery?

It was primarily a war to preserve the Union and that was the sole objective at the beginning of the war for the North. Indeed President Lincoln said on many occasions in the first year and a half of the war that it was not a war to abolish slavery.

Haiti - repression and resistance

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The staggering poverty in which the vast majority of Port-au-Prince's population live is a shock to anyone. Yet it is not because of some peculiar Haitian backwardness but the result of centuries of exploitation.

At the end of the 18th century Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known) was the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean, and its then capital, Cap-Français, was one of the world's richest cities.

When the French Revolution began in 1789 the island had nearly 800 sugar plantations and 3,000 coffee, cotton and indigo plantations, all destined for France under a colonial trade monopoly. Its population of 35,000 whites and 27,000 mulattoes (people of mixed race) controlled the island economy, while 1 million slaves were brought from Africa to work the land.

Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Gilded African

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Locked in an Alpine castle, Toussaint L'Ouverture died in April 1803 having led the slave insurrection of Saint-Domingue and challenged French domination of the Caribbean.

It was a cruel irony to take this great leader from his Caribbean island and incarcerate him through a freezing winter.

Born a slave around 1743, Toussaint enjoyed a degree of privilege as a house slave and coachman and was taught to read and write. At 33 he was given his freedom and adopted the name L'Ouverture ("opening"). Like others he must have anticipated that the French Revolution of 1789 would liberate the slaves. Instead wealthy planters remained in control of an island vital to the French economy.

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