As the world melts down over the statements of Kanye West, we fail to ask the most important question: is he right? Yes! he is. Although Kanye’s statements raise the most important question, it doesn’t raise the real one. That being did Africans, and by proxy, African-Americans choose slavery? It’s a common misconception, if not over simplification, that the result of black enslavement or the conditions of blacks in the west is the result of a conscious choice.
You know how I do it. Back we go. The origin of these deceptive images appears to be Harvard historian James Schouler, who in 1882, propagated the idea of the absurdly patient and overly compliant black race. However, the most basic review of the record shows otherwise. Sadly, many black historians and intellectuals have failed to rebut this most persistent pro slavery fable. What is more unfortunate is that many black people have internalized this pernicious propaganda and now wear it as a scarlet letter of shame within the darkest recesses of our collective imaginations. Therefore, let the record dispel this most noxious prevarication.
One of the largest colonial slave revolts of the 18th Century was Stono’s Rebellion in 1739. On Sunday, Sept. 9, 1739, approximately 20 slaves under the leadership of a man named Jemmy burned into the white psyche the indomitable will of enslaved Africans to obtain their liberation by force of arms. Many of the Africans were seasoned soldiers for wars in their native land where they were captured and sold, and had been trained in the use of weapons.
Gathering at the Stono River, they raided a warehouse-like store where they executed the white owners. To instill fear in white Floridians, they placed their victims’ heads on the store’s front steps for all to see. In one of the earliest recorded illustrations of urban guerilla war, they went from house to house killing the occupants and burning the structures, marching toward St. Augustine, Fla., where under Spanish law, they would be free. But like all insurrections, the revolt was not without its’ share of traitors as many slaves actually hid their masters from the rebel army. However, the revolt eventually grew to about 100. According to newspaper accounts of the revolt, the enslaved Africans paraded down the highways, carrying banners and shouting, “lukango” in their native Kikongo, a word that meant liberty.
The rebels fought off the English for more than a week before the colonists rallied and crushed the revolt. Even after their defeat, the contagious spirit of rebellion broke out in other colonies like South Carolina where colonial forces killed at least 50 additional rebel slaves. In 1800, Gabriel Prosser launched an audacious plot against the Virginian slave owning aristocracy. Gabriel formulated a plan with his brother Solomon and another servant on the Prosser plantation. Prosser attempted to rally 1,000 slaves under the banner of “Death or Liberty,” a play on the famed cry of the slaveholding revolutionary Patrick Henry. Prosser planned to march to Richmond, take the armory and hold Gov. James Monroe hostage until the slave merchants bent to the rebels’ demands of equal rights for all.
But on that day, it appeared that the fates conspired against him when one of the worst thunderstorms in recent memory pummeled Virginia, washing away roads and making travel all but impossible. Prosser soldiered on believing that only a small band was necessary to carry out the plan. He was betrayed by a slave named Pharoah, who feared retribution if the plot failed. The rebellion ended when the state captured Gabriel and several co-conspirators. They were all hanged with Gabriel going to the gallows last to be executed alone.
In 1811, about 40 miles north of New Orleans, Charles Deslondes, a mulatto slave driver, inspired by the Haitian Revolution, instituted a revolt on the Andry sugar plantation on the German Coast area of Louisiana. On the rainy evening of Jan. 8, 1811, Deslondes and about 25 slaves rose up and attacked the plantation’s owner and family. They hacked to death one of the owner’s sons, but allowed the master to escape. They ransacked the stores and seized uniforms, guns and ammunition. On the way to New Orleans, dozens of men and women joined the cause, singing Creole protest songs while pillaging plantations and murdering whites. South Carolina congressman, slave master and Indian fighter Wade Hampton was assigned the task of suppressing the insurrection. It took Hampton two days to stop the rebels. They fought a pitched battle that ended only when the slaves ran out of ammunition, about 20 miles from New Orleans. In the slaughter that followed, about 20 insurgents lay dead, another 50 became prisoners and the remainder fled into the swamps. By the end of the month, Hampton rounded up another 50 insurgents. In short order, about 100 survivors were summarily executed. Their heads were severed and placed along the road to New Orleans.
There were over 250 slave revolts in the colonies. And over 1,000 worldwide. Therefore, if slavery sounds like a choice, then we must say that the revolts sound like an overwhelming rejection of that choice. So what is Mr. West really saying? If he was speaking for the last 30 yrs, then maybe he’s reasonably accurate. But if he is talking about the last 3 centuries, then it’s clear that “Ye’s” statement is woefully misinformed. But this is what happens when you take political advice from a rapper. Kanye’s statement is not so much as incorrect as it is incomplete. Is this the same Kanye that said George Bush doesn’t like people? Or the Kanye that fingered Ronald Reagan as an FBI asset against the Black Panther Party? I am unsure. But what I do know is that if blacks have surrendered to slavery, then it sounds like a relatively new phenomenon.
TONY MACEO is a senior Blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com Like, share and subscribe to the website and the You Tube Channel. Become a Patron @ powerofstrategies @ Patreon.com. Till Next time I’ll holla!