Did Your Teachers Tell You These Lies About Slavery?

Inspection of a Slave/Brantz Mayer/Wikimedia/public domain

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The dominant society spreads many lies about Black people and slavery. Much of their “history lessons” are misleading and often blatant lies.

Even worse, the misinformation is delivered to children who are still developing an understanding of the world.

Here’s a list a ten lies that are taught to schoolchildren about slavery:

1.     Irish people were enslaved, too

a.     Absolutely not. While it is true that the Irish were in some bondage throughout history, they were never a part of chattel slavery in America or the West Indies. They were indentured servants with more autonomy than enslaved people from Africa.

2.     Africans had enslaved people, too

a.     Slavery in Africa has happened for thousands of years. It usually resulted from  intertribal conflict, but as historian Marcus Redliker writes, it was made worse by the Europeans with the introduction of race-based chattel slavery.

b.     Systems of slavery in Africa were far more complex. People were not born into slavery or kept in bondage for their entire lives. Often, they worked side-by-side with their owners and earned the same wage. In some areas, they could even hold esteemed government positions.

3.     Only a small percentage of Southerners owned enslaved people

a.     Not all whites in the South owned Black people. Often that was just because they couldn’t afford them. The ownership percentage varied from state to state, but the percentages are about equal to the percentage of people who have earned college degrees today.

b.     Even though many white people did not own slaves, it is likely that they were either employed on a plantation or financially benefited from the slavery industry and racism in other ways.

4.     Blacks Fought For The Confederacy

a.     Most historians have disproved this belief. This lie is generally told to downplay the role of slavery in the Civil War. Those Blacks who did support the Confederate troops were forced into the role as a captive.

5.     President Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery

a.     He had very conflicting views on slavery. Though he believed that slavery was morally wrong, he never saw Blacks as equals. In a letter to Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune, he said if he could save the Union without freeing enslaved people, he would do it.

6.     Most enslaved people were treated well

a.     An unfounded lie. A textbook called United States History for Christian Schools circulates this lie. Whether they were treated well or not, they were still enslaved people robbed of their dignity and freedom.

7.     The KKK were moral vigilantes

a.     The same book that says that enslaved people were treated well also says that the KKK’s mission was to restore morality. The KKK actually advocated for white supremacy and terrorized Blacks and other groups they denounced.

8.     Slavery only happened in the South

a.     Nearly all colonial slave ships originated in New England. Massachusetts colony was the first colony to legalize slavery in 1641. In the book “Africanisms In American Culture”, Joseph E. Holloway details how northerners even requested Black people from certain African regions due to the type of labor they were accustomed to perform.

b.    White people in the North owned fewer Black people than southerners, but that was largely because they owned less land than the large plantation owners.

9.     Slavery was about the denial of human rights

a.     A narrative that was promoted was that enslaved people were denied rights because they didn’t fight for them. Some histories ignore the mass murder, deception, theft, terror and starvation that enslaved people endured.

10. Slavery should be separate from capitalism

a.     Enslaved people built the US. It’s taught that the US economy was built by European immigration and inventors. Slave labor is never mentioned. However, without profit from slavery, the U.S. would not have been able to fund the Industrial Revolution.

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