By: Quenton Horton
“The native of New England is attached to his township because it is independent and free: his co-operation in its affairs ensures his attachment to its interest; the well-being it affords him secures his affection; and its welfare is the aim of his ambition and of his future exertions…” –Alexis de Tocqueville
Black, not the color, nor all of its people; the color designating the prisoners that rebuilt the South after the Confederacy fell to the Union; prisoners to the exemption that kept them from being called slaves, which is they truly were under the guise of being criminals; “Already, whites realize that the combination of trumpeted-up legal charges and forced labor as punishment created both a desirable business proposition and incredibly effective tool for intimidating rank-and-file emancipated African Americans and doing away with their most effective leaders”1. Blackness is a moniker carries an array of stigmas: nefariousness (Thug); poverty (Ghetto); incompetent (Boy); and servile (Butler); Blackness a collection of counternarratives, lives lived, groundbreaking accomplishments, a heritage of articulating adversity through the arts, and making landmark legal strands that serve the adopted nation of a people forcibly transported for labor—many through trade deals from West Coast African peoples—to nation over the course of centuries has developed a complicated relationship with the land that divorced the community from a heritage prior to bondage. Black, as in Black Americans, is a community whose social capital appears to be consistently at odds with how to live with the reality of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade impact on the legacy of being Black in America. This Internal Intellectual Soliloquy takes a survey of the Black American in the American community after the Civil War to see how the Black American fits within the broader “Township” of America.
1 Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II (New York: Anchor Books, 2009), 55
“…he takes a part in every occurrence in the place; he practises the art of government in the small sphere within his reach; he accustoms himself to those forms which can alone ensure the steady progress of liberty…”
--Alexis de Tocqueville
The legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade placed within the framework of American civic and legal life has casted the legacy of Black Americans as being incapable of self-sufficiency, and thus prone to criminality: “they were creatures bought or bred for the production of wealth”2. These are the words reference the penal system continued the attitudes of the Antebellum South in a Postbellum America; words that contextualize the expectation of Black bodies to serve at the behest of White Planters, which sets the groundwork for Black bodies to serve the Union as a whole even after the abolishment of chattel slavery in the United States.
The Lost Cause myth of Black Americans being prone to criminality and dependent upon others for survival as encapsulated in Birth of a Nation (1915); the former (criminality) is often used a guise to exploit the exemption of the Thirteenth Amendment; the imprisonment of Black American men depletes communities of human capital as they (Black American men) become state-property; whereas: the latter (dependency) carries the tropes of Sambo Art, and the paternalism that characterizes Jim Crow America. In chapter three “Framing Blackness”:
“These symbolic narratives of transgression unfolded in the American racial unconscious, in paired on binary constructs, fused, Janus-faced opposites: power and helplessness, fantasy and repugnance, desire and rejection, attraction and repulsion, seduction and violation, beauty and the bestial, the sublime and the grotesque, all within the larger, convoluted frame of monstrous depravity and licentiousness of slavery”3. In other words, the echoes of the Lost Cause myth causes a rift amongst Black Americans as it (The Lost Cause) colors Black American dependent Americans in constant need of philanthropic efforts and etiquette training. The Atlanta Compromise best illustrates this rift; however, for now focus shall return to the Amendments at the prohibition of Slavery in 1865. Amendments that in spirit of the law addressed the damages of three-fifth comprise (Article One; Section Two (2), Clause Three (3)) that represented the bodies held under chattel slavery in the South that was addressed by Thirteenth Amendment (1865) by guaranteeing freedom chattel slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) sought to establish citizenship and equal protection under the law for the newly freed: in addition to the Fifteenth Amendment seeking to establish voter rights for the newly freed. The letter of the law, however, reflects the socio-political attitudes of Redeemers at the failure of Reconstruction; peonage practices would come to challenge the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment in the early 20th century after being abolished in the 19th century (1867): Bailey v. Alabama (1911) and United States v. Reynolds (1914). “Across Alabama, individual property holders—slaveholders specifically—were aggressively encouraged to attempt primitive industrial efforts to support the Confederate war effort”4; akin to peonage was convict leasing, whereas peonage allowed for private citizens to use Black labor for profit; convict leasing enabled the state to benefit from Black labor by leasing to corporations: case in point Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. Francis Biddle’s Circular 3591 (1941) compelled the nations’ Attorney Generals to focus on the servitude component of Peonage and Convict Leasing without needing the element of debt. Biddle’s order resolves Peonage and Convict Leasing after Pearl Harbor (December 7th, 1941) after America declares war on Germany (December 11th, 1941); that establishes a pattern Black Americans’ rights—although written into the constitution—are protected in the letter of the law after an ongoing period of egregious violations of those rights. The spirit of the law the laws that protect after Black Americans continue to fall under myths.
Although the Southeast region of our Nation is often front and center in discussions of systemic racism; the color line followed Black Americans that began to leave the region at the turn of the twentieth century: The Great Migration (soon followed by the immigration of the African Diaspora in the 1960s) the complexity of Anti Blackness myths and ideologies revealed their pervasiveness and reach within the North. One does not have to commit a great deal of time to Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America to verify the South was not unique in its exclusion of Black Americans in “White” communities: “Today’s residential segregation in the North, South, Midwest, and West is not the unintended consequence of individual choices and of otherwise well-meaning law or regulation but of unhidden public policy that explicitly segregated every metropolitan area in the United States”5. Housing discrimination also is a denial of capital; the creation of the suburbs from the G.I. Bill offered housing to “White” American veterans while explicitly excluding Black American veterans allowing their “White” counterparts to build generational wealth. The ramifications of segregation cannot be minimized; therefore, this paper limits the discussion to wealth: employment discrimination of King’s Other America; capitals ability to uproot communities; and a lack of civil protection that has kept Black Americans in what Dr. Kenneth Clark calls the Dark Ghetto. Ghettos that would bequeath to the world many wax bards and most notably Malcolm Little; better known as the Late Malcolm X.
2 Blackmon, 17
3 Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Stony The Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and The Rise of Jim Crow (New York: Penguin Boo