Slavery & the making of america (pbs, dvd)

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Marvin Dulaney: The more slaves that you brought gave you more land. You got 50 acres of land for every person that you brought into the Carolina colony. And so slavery was encouraged, ah, from the outset here. And of course the key was to find ah the, the type of work that slaves could do to make the colony profitable.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: As the enslaved cleared land the planters searched for a way to exploit the Carolina low country. They tried growing cotton and indigo and raising livestock. The more they tried the more they failed to find a lucrative cash crop. The enslaved were growing something they called oryza (or rice) for themselves. They had grown it for hundreds of years in West Africa.

Peter Wood: Now it's not knowledge that they hold to themselves. Once they have shown other people how to plant this crop they've lost control of the knowledge. And an entire economy based on exploitation of Africans is in place within a generation. And the shipment of Africans to South Carolina skyrockets.

John K. Thornton: So many of the Africans who were enslaved during the 17th and 18th century were ex-soldiers some of them would be captured through wars or civil wars. And these victors would sell the captives off to the Europeans. This had the advantage from their point of view of reducing their numerical strength, especially the solider population, of the opponents.

Jim Horton: They're marched to the coast. Many of them had not been to the coast before -- they had not seen the ocean. They see white people for the first time. Who are these people? There was this folklore about cannibalism. Lots of slaves who were brought to the coast really were so afraid that these people were gonna eat them.

Peter Wood: Some of the people owning South Carolina are also invested in the Royal Africa Company, in the slave trade themselves. They're getting a profit at both ends out of this.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: The major profit came from the "human cargo" of enslaved Africans. Slave trading had become the basis of an international economy.

Ira Berlin: There are a variety of auxiliary industries, that is -- ship building, insuring, ah, those ships, ah making sails for those ships. So the expansion of slavery is an essential part of the expansion of capitalism.

Edward Ball: As the ships came from West Africa and people were dying, their bodies would be thrown overboard usually in the middle of the Atlantic. But once in a while the captains would wait until they arrived Charleston Harbor. So one of these captains threw several dozen over board and their bodies including children began to wash ashore. So the governor became very upset. And it wasn't because this was a crime against humanity. It was because the smell was irritating to the white population.

Norrece Jones: In many African communities there's this reverence for the ancestors and this reverence for those who are now in the spirit world -- a belief that they're watching over. And I think that that is what sustained so many people at their, their weakest and their lowest moment.

39:00 Scene #6 Sullivan’s Island

Peter: On Sullivan's Island the English established a pest house where they could quarantine people off of incoming ships.

Jim Horton: These people were thought of as goods, as cargo. And in the language of the slave trader this was a place where goods were held until they could reach full market value. This is the perfect example of the inhumanity of the slave system.

Edward Ball: The most valuable workers were men younger than 20. And the second most valuable were women younger than 20. Children were young and inexpensive and they would grow up and live a long time and produce a lot of rice.

Jim Horton: For a person just arriving, you know, you've been aboard this ship for a long time but you probably don't know exactly how long. You don't know where you have gone. Of course the number one thing on your mind is how do I get out of here? How do I get myself free?

Edward Ball: Those who died were probably buried in mass graves. The people who had died en route were probably one quarter to one third of those who had actually boarded the ship. Those who finally survived were taken to Charleston where they were waxed down with oil, fed a good meal, and put on the auction block.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: For the enslaved, survival took many forms. Some pretended to be ignorant or represented their masters' interests. However, many refused to conform. They maintained their dignity by drawing strength from their spirituality and culture.

Norrece Jones: Even though people may not have spoken the same language and even though people may have been rivals traditionally in their homelands there would've been a certain spiritual bonding that took place -- that people came together and fused themselves together in this new world.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: By the 1720s enslaved black people outnumbered whites by more than two to one in the Carolina low country.

Edward Ball: Slavery was probably unique in every region where it flourished -- in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Barbados. But in South Carolina, it was probably the most industrial form of slavery. Because the scale was so, so great. The task system was something that was unique to South Carolina whereby enslaved people had a given assignment on each day. So they usually went to work in the morning at sunrise and a day's task in the field would be to hoe a quarter of an acre, which was 105 feet square. And people spent most of the year up to their knees in mud bent over tilling away at the soil under the sun. Rice was a very demanding master.

Deborah Gray White : In South Carolina slaves are worked almost to death. And then they go back to Africa and they go get some more and they're continually replenished.

John K. Thornton: In Central Africa, men generally don't do agricultural work. There's even a proverb: if you want to humiliate another man you say, "you're no man take up a hoe." Um, indicating that only women would do this kind of work and yet here in South Carolina men were being forced to work, right along side of women.

Peter Wood: In West Africa, the mother would pound a little bit of rice everyday to prepare the evening meal. It was a -- it was an art form -- it was a skill you could be proud of it. You then found yourself doing the same thing. You're growing rice, but now it's completely different.

Daniel C. Littlefield: The sound of the pounding of rice in Africa was the sound of domesticity. Ah -- but the sound of pounding rice in South Carolina was the sound of exploitation.


Edward Ball: Well the more money that the white elites made, the more it was in their interests to make the slave system a kind of invincible fortress that would perpetuate the -- ah -- comforts of the few. And so the incentive was for those who ran the society to set up extensive policing systems.

Jim Horton: A slave, a slave especially under these circumstances wants to survive, wants to be free. And it also doesn't take much imagination to understand the anger of being enslaved of being held against your will of seeing your loved ones subjected to treatment that no human begins ought to experience.

Edward Ball: The first time your punishment was whipping. If you ran away a second time there would be an "R" branded on your right cheek. The third time one of your ears would be severed and another "R" would be burned onto your left cheek for runaway. And if you ran away a fourth time -- if you were a man the punishment was castration.

Peter Wood: Gruesome punishments that had been familiar in England were exaggerated in the slave society. The planter had to calculate that I can punish this person even if they die I can import new people from West Africa. And I'm making so much money in this process that I can afford to do it.

Marvin Dulaney: The inhumane treatment says a lot -- that indeed they're resisting their enslavement. That -- like any other human being whose rights and opportunities are being taken away that they are going to resist and fight back.

Peter Wood: Burning down barns was something that occurred regularly and increased during harvest time when the workload was heaviest. Poisoning could not be caught readily. And it was often something that was feared by whites even when it didn't exist.

Edward Ball: One symptom of their fear was that there was a law that white men had to carry guns when they went to church. Sunday was the only day off for enslaved people. And so people the white folks feared that the uprising, if it ever came, would happen on Sunday when all the whites were gathered in church. Therefore the white men were required to carry their guns to church.

48:30 Scene #7 Stono Rebellion —This part is really good

Peter Wood: It was on a Saturday night September 1739. It was a work crew. Many of them are Angolans, including a man named Jemmy who becomes the leader.

Edward Ball: The fated Sunday finally came on the Stono River southwest of Charleston. And they got to a store and broke in and they killed a Mr. Hutchinson. Decapitated him and put his head on a pole and cleared out his store of guns.

Peter Wood: It happens at harvest time, which is the time when blacks are being worked the hardest. It also happens in malaria time and there is an epidemic going on in Charleston which has virtually shut down the town.

John K. Thornton: They must have realized that they couldn't possibly take over the area and drive out the, the Europeans, but they did recognize the possibility that if they took common action as soldiers they might be able to escape.

Marvin Dulaney: The government of Florida had already issued a decree that any African who was a slave who made it to Florida would be free. And there was indeed a colony there of ex-slaves.

Jim Horton: There is this African manned fortification. And when the Stono rebellion breaks out it becomes clear that what these people are trying to do is to reach Fort Mose.

Peter Wood: People begin to join them. They burn successive plantations. Kill some of the white people living there. Draw some of the blacks with them. Others are afraid to join in and refuse to go. But unfortunately for them they meet the lieutenant governor riding north.

Marvin Dulaney: They gave chase to him but he was able to sound the alarm. And then of course sort of a -- a posse is formed and they set out after this group of Africans.

Peter Wood: It's an amazing moment. If they had been able to take him hostage who knows what the dynamics would have been. These people are pursued south for a day or two. If they had been able to go another 24 or 48 hours so -- that more people could have joined them their strength would have been greater and who knows what the prospects would have been.

Edward Ball: And the whites came on them, they surrounded these men and they fired on them. A lot of them were scattered, many of them were killed.

Marvin Dulaney: Some of them escape into the swamp, but those that they did capture they chopped their heads off. Put their heads on poles leading out, down what is today US 17 out of Charleston -- to send a message to the other Africans this is what will happen to you if you rebel.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: After the Stono Rebellion, all of the separate laws governing slavery were consolidated into a single code. This "black code" restricted the movement of black people and regulated almost every aspect of the lives of the enslaved.

Peter Wood: The crushing of the Stono Rebellion was a tragedy. To me, these people were freedom fighters. Someone like Jemmy, newly arrived from Angola, is able to show others around him that this is not the only way to live, this can change -- it may not change this time but it will change in the future.

Jim Horton: Under the most inhumane conditions that you can possibly imagine, people were able to maintain their human dignity. It gives you some insight into the resilience of the human spirit. That it is possible for human beings to make the decision: I will not be defeated.

ENDS 53:40

From the 1740s to the 1830s, the institution of slavery continued to support economic development. As the slave population reproduced, American planters became less dependent on the African slave trade. Ensuing generations of slaves developed a unique culture that blended elements of African and American life. Episode two follows the paths of several African Americans, including Thomas Jefferson's slave Jupiter, Colonel Tye, Elizabeth Freeman, David Walker, and Maria Stewart, as they respond to the increasingly restrictive system of slavery. At the core of this episode is the Revolutionary War, an event which reveals the contradictions of a nation seeking independence while simultaneously denying freedom to its black citizens.


Episode 2: "Liberty in the Air"

1:34 Scene#1 Organzizing Rebellion --**very good**
Morgan Freeman, Narrator: New York City, 1741. Quack, enslaved to a house painter, approached Fort George -- the seat of British colonial rule in New York and home to the governor.

Thomas Davis: Quack was also married to the governor's cook, a slave. The governor did not like Quack's behavior and did not like when Quack came visiting and the governor gave orders to the fort's centuries that if Quack should appear he should not be allowed entry. Quack uttered certain imprecations that he would burn the place down but he would be with his wife. And when the fort did subsequently burn down Quack was a prime suspect.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: When fires erupted in a number of other buildings, warehouses, and stores, it was clear that this was more than romance thwarted.

Thomas Davis: The cry went up, "the negroes are rising, the negroes are rising."

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Rumors of slaves organizing rebellions traveled the Atlantic seaboard. Two years earlier in an uprising of slaves in Stono, South Carolina some whites were murdered. Now, white New Yorkers panicked.

Thomas Davis: Almost every adult black male who was over 14 years of age was picked up by the city constables, by the militia, and placed in jail.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: As the inquiries began, Caesar, slave of a baker, was the first to be marched to the gallows. His body would hang in a public space while a conspiracy trial accused dozens of slaves and a few whites of plotting to burn down New York City and foment slave rebellion.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: The trial revealed bitter details about the lives of the enslaved in New York, home to the second largest slave population after Charleston, South Carolina.

Graham Russell Hodges: There was a sense among all of these slaves that they were trapped into a system that offered no yield at all. That there was nothing that they could do if they wanted to be free except to revolt.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Slaves complained about being overworked and that they weren't supplied with enough clothing or fuel to keep warm. They lashed out at the laws that prohibited them from gathering together. But their most common complaint was not being allowed to visit their loved ones.

Graham Russell Hodges: In the mid 18th century African Americans in New York knew that liberty existed for others. They knew it was denied to them.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: As slaves faced the court they were confronted by all the laws that had accumulated over the past one hundred years restricting and degrading their lives.

Thomas Davis: The law of slavery deemed that persons who were patently human beings were not in fact persons. They were not persons at law rather they were deemed property. Well that is a patent fiction. Anyone can look at Caesar , at Quack ... and say well yes these are persons. And much of slaves' existence was geared to the fact of demonstrating their humanity.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Early in the proceedings, Quack was accused of burning down Fort George. He and twelve other black men were burned at the stake, seventeen were hanged. Four whites were also hanged.

Thomas Davis: After each rebellion, what the society seeks to do is pass a more repressive set of laws. And so we have a continually upward cycling of violence because the violence of slaveholder repression produces the violence of slave reaction.

6:19 scenes of the middle passage shown

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: By the 1750s some five thousand Africans a year were brought to American docks in crowded filthy, stinking ships ...

Jim Horton: And for weeks they are confined to these places, people being chained together. People dying and being chained to dead people for periods of time until somebody decides to take the dead people above decks and throw them into the ocean.

Peter Wood: Some people it didn't last two weeks but for other people they began mustering the human resources that it would take to figure out the predicament they had been thrown into.

Peter Wood: The planters, the exploiters have rationalized what they're doing. They've worked it out with the law. They've worked it out with their god one way or another. And they've begun the long trek into American racism. That is to say they've reduced these people to less than human beings. And that's the way they're gonna make it work.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: A hundred years after the first Africans arrived -- most colonies were heavily dependent upon slave labor. By 1750 a quarter million enslaved blacks now made vast wealth possible for their masters.

Peter Wood: Slavery it seems to me was an extraordinary goose that laid the golden egg ... .You had workers that you didn't have to pay and you owned their children as soon as they were born. It's a preposterous system . All you have to do is visit one of the huge plantations in Virginia or South Carolina to see the wealth that flowed ...

8:18 Scene#2 Jupiter and Thomas Jefferson—Jeff part too hypothetical, then the resistance part is quite ethnographic, and most compelling is 14:50-16:50 b/c of commentary)

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: At Shadwell -- a tobacco plantation in the Piedmont region of Virginia -- two young boys are growing up together. Jupiter was born a slave. The other, Thomas Jefferson, would one day be president of a new republic. Jupiter was one of more than sixty slaves who sustained Jefferson's family.

Ira Berlin: A new generation of black people -- of slaves is coming of age. These are people who are born on this side of the Atlantic. These are people who know how to operate within the society.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: When Thomas Jefferson went off to study the classics, Jupiter was trained to be Jefferson's personal valet. That training would include sophisticated lessons in psychology and power.

Jennifer Morgan: Certainly as he grew up one of the things that he was gonna have to learn is that a boy who is his same age, Thomas Jefferson's, is going to grow up to be his owner, is gonna grow up to be his master.

Ira Berlin: He came to understand something about the politics of that world... The word liberty of course would come to be used much in the years that followed. And his own owner, Thomas Jefferson became a great merchant of the language of liberty. Jupiter understood that as well.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Jupiter's status and work conditions were privileged compared to most other slaves at Shadwell. But for all of them -- including Jupiter -- it would be endless work, from sun-up to sundown and beyond.

Norrece Jones: And all of them also would have experienced a punishment. The severity of the lashings, the cutting off of ears, the kind of contraptions that are placed around people to prevent running away. All of these tortuous weapons are realities that enslaved people everywhere would have experienced.

Jennifer Morgan: Jupiter, like any child, would also have to deal with the fact that while his parents have authority over him their authority is secondary to the authority of the slave owner. He might have to witness his mother being schooled by her owner. He would have to watch his mother being punished, being whipped or being raped.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: In this lopsided balance of power slaves found ingenious ways to resist the master. Some subtle, some overt, some suicidal.

10:50 resistance

Peter Wood: Arson was one of the primary forms of resistance because it was hard to track. Poisoning was another. Running away was another because you were literally stealing property from the master if you ran away.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: A runaway ad in 1746 describes sixteen-year-old Stephen Thusly. He has been "much whipped, which his back will show..." Another ad describes Peter, as Virginia born, running away with iron shackles on his legs...

Thomas Davis: ... Day after day slaves are refusing to obey. They are saying listen we have our own lives. We will not go that far. We will not submit totally.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Slave and master knew each other well. Using this familiarity slaves constantly tested the boundaries. They negotiated with their masters for more time to work on their own gardens or to sell and trade produce they cultivated.

Ira Berlin: It would seem that somebody who's a slave would have no power and would have nothing to negotiate. But slaves found that they could negotiate. They danced the dance of domination and subordination.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: One of the most profound forms of resistance was the preservation of African religions, values, and beliefs.

Sylvia R. Frey: What it did is create an internal universe, which is separate and apart from and beyond the control of a white master.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Yet something else was emerging.

Jennifer Morgan: The first generation of American born descendants of Africans are really in the process of creating something that has a very strong link to Africa but which is really quite new.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: On plantations new African arrivals mixed with American born slaves to shape a new culture.
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