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Exaggerated History


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#1 TheBigDog

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 07:20 PM

It was the British Department of Education that was reporting on individual teachers who failed to teach history about the Holocaust. It was not that the teachers did not know about the Holocaust, it was that they did not want to be confronted by students who may object to the truth about the Holocaust. Those teachers need to find a new career! I teach history and I never would allow the truth to be hidden from my students. Perhaps some graphic details do not need to be presented. Teaching them that 11 million people, including 5-7 million Jews, were murdered by Hitler and the Nazis is basic historical fact that must be included. My students are taught about the Native American holocaust 1607-1890 and the 400 years of African American slavery. Besides it all is part of MA curriculum and must be taught. Also included is the Hidden Holocaust, where Japan invaded Manchuria, Manchuko, China, The Philippines, and Southeast Asia and proceeded to murder countless millions, more than twice as many as the Nazis did.

Freddy, I have borrowed this from another thread in hopes of having a separate discussion on it here. What I would like to examine is how exaggeration is used in portraying historic events, and how that impacts current day politics. The specific line that I am commenting on is...

the 400 years of African American slavery.

There is no doubt that slavery existed in the United States and that the practice was barbaric. But 400 years is flat out wrong.

Here are some facts for the conversation…

400 years of slavery is the number I always hear. Yet Columbus was in 1492, and Emancipation Proclamation was in 1863. My math has that at 371 years. My research shows the first African slaves coming to the colonies around 1619. That makes 244 years. Calculate to the ratification of the 13th Amendment and you get 246 years. That still splits the burden between the British government and the colonies. From the ratification of the Constitution in 1789 to the ratification of the 13th Amendment is 76 years. Disgraceful, but less than the 400 years proclaimed by activists. In fact there have only been 388 actual years since the first slaves arrived in the Colonies in 1619 (assuming slavery was still being practiced to this very day).

So my question is, where does the "400 years of slavery" come from? What is the purpose of exaggerating historical facts such as this one? Doesn't it serve to build distrust of the historical institutions that perpetuate that information, opening the door for legitimizing arguments like holocaust denial?

Bill

#2 Freddy

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 07:45 PM

I think because it lasted through 4 centuries they round it off to 400 years.

#3 TheBigDog

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 07:50 PM

I think because it lasted through 4 centuries they round it off to 400 years.

OK, but what four centuries? 1600's, 1700's, 1800's. Only 3 centuries. What is the purpose of rounding up? I can only think that it is to accentuate guilt or victimization. That does not serve to keep history accurate, that is bending facts for political purpose. What purpose?

Bill

#4 Freddy

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 08:10 PM

Slavery in the Americas began in Hispaniola 1503 and ended in Brazil in 1888. That is only 385 years. I guess 385 years would have been more accurate than 400. African Americans use the 400 years often and refer to slavery in the Americas when they say 400.

#5 InfiniteNow

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 08:16 PM

1500s - Slavery occurred
1600s - Slavery occurred
1700s - Slavery occurred
1800s - Slavery occurred

Slavery went on across four centuries. For four centuries, slavery was an issue. You want them to break it down by month too, so you can nit pick that? :D

#6 Buffy

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 09:24 PM

I'm pretty sure the Egyptians used "Nubians" as slaves. There's references to slavery in the Bible. Peoples were regularly enslaved throughout human history, and Africans were easy to exploit, just not get your hands on through large blocks.

I'm not sure why this discussion is significant....

Magnitudes of badness,
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#7 Turtle

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 12:33 AM

So my question is, where does the "400 years of slavery" come from?
Bill


I think it's just a meme BD. Someone said it at a rally or speech or in a church or wrote it in a paper or other public venue and then it just spreads. Easy number to remember & it's tied to an 'authoritive' source. The 'leader' said it, he said it, she said it, they said it, it said it; must be so.

Centuries of slavery, and the world's not done yet; no Sir. So it goes. :piratesword:

#8 Boerseun

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 05:32 AM

Good question, Bill.

And I think one with a pretty easy, simple and straightforward answer.

The victims (or descendants of the actual victims) will round up, which is to their political benefit, and the perpetrators (or descendants of the actual perpetrators) would want to round down for their own political benefit.

We're currently living through the same idiocy in SA, where everything is blamed on "The Legacy of Apartheid". It reaches ridiculous levels. Sure, there are some legitimate issues that can be laid squarely at the old Apartheid government, but you get instances such as a black mayor of a small town being caught with his hands in the cookie jar, and when he gets to court, his very first defense is to blame it on Apartheid. And the moment the "A"-word is used, he's automatically right. But nobody asks how he links an old form of government with the fact that he stole millions from the town council.

It's the same with any discussion having anything to do with Jews, for instance. You can say "Jews in general have black hair", and the next guy will say "Yeah, that's how Hitler started", thereby invalidating everything you have to say on the matter - regardless of whether the majority of Jews do or don't have black hair. If you want to round the slavery years down, you'll be labelled immediately as a pro-slavery racist, and nobody will question the merit of the slander aimed at you. Judges over here are too scared to be labelled racists by questioning the "Blame-it-on-Apartheid" defense, so nobody thinks to ask the mayor what the hell his hand was doing in the cookie jar in the first place.

Politics suck. That's why we leave it to the politicians. They seem to like it.

#9 Qfwfq

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 08:08 AM

O. J. Simpson


#10 TheBigDog

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 08:08 AM

400 years of African American slavery - or - nearly 400 years of slavery of Black Africans in North and South America. Which statement is more correct?

I don't think that Jamaican's call themselves "African Americans". I don't think that Brazilian's call themselves "African Americans". It is still up in the air if Puerto Rican's call themselves "African Americans".

American as a nation had a 76 year history of slavery that ended in the most brutal war in our history. The sacrifice of those who died in ending slavery in America should not be diminished by political rhetoric of the descendants of those who were freed, or those who sympathize with their ancestor's plight.

That there is a nearly 400 year history of western slavery is one thing to state, to state that African American's suffered 400 years of slavery is false.

Bill

#11 CraigD

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 10:11 AM

What an interesting thread!

400 years of African American slavery - or - nearly 400 years of slavery of Black Africans in North and South America.

Like most people born in the US ca. 1960, my education on the subject of slavery was a combination of vague high-level historic details, strongly emotional personal stories about individuals (eg: John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe), and conflicting accounts on the causes of the American Civil War. I was taught almost nothing of slavery in the Caribbean and South America.

I have no recollection of hearing before yesterday the phrase/claim “400 years of African American slavery”. Like TBD (and wikipedia), I define “African American” as people of sub-Saharan ancestry living now of recently in the United States (note that the term was first widely popularized in the 1960s). By my arithmetic, true slavery in the US and the formerly British colonies that preceded it lasted about 211 years, beginning with the 1645 court case in which Anthony Johnson was determined to be entitled to the “lifetime service” of “negro servant” John Casor.

Although Africans were known to have been brought to the American colonies by at latest 1619, prior to this time they were legally considered indentured servants, who’s services could only be legally commanded by a master for a period defined in a legal contract (usually less than 10 years), at the end of which their masters were required to pay them a predetermined compensation in money, goods, or land. The majority of indentured servants in the colonies were white Englishmen. Like the white majority, black indentured servants became free men after fulfilling their contracts.

Ironically, Anthony Johnson, considered to be the first person in the colonies to legally own a slave (John Casor) was himself a former “negro indentured servant”. Had he been brought to Virginia 40 years later than he was, his contract could have been legally voided by the colonial courts, making him a slave for life.

So my question is, where does the "400 years of slavery" come from? What is the purpose of exaggerating historical facts such as this one?

I think Freddy, Turtle, Beorseun and others are correct in their analysis that the “400 years” figure was used for rhetorical effect, then repeated, for purposes of emphasizing the injustice of slavery.

Doesn't it serve to build distrust of the historical institutions that perpetuate that information, opening the door for legitimizing arguments like holocaust denial?

I don’t believe so.

No representative of any credible historical institution or advocacy group is really arguing that the “400 years of African American slavery” claim is historically accurate (unless the term “African American” is twisted to mean a person of African ancestry living in South America”), or attempting to present false data showing that this slavery existed much before or after the commonly accepted dates. No reasonable person, I think, believes that the slavery described in most American History texts is inaccurately depicted in terms of dates. Although many histories disagree about the actual number of slaves, the conditions under which they lived and worked, the existence and effectiveness of laws protecting them, and the relationships between slaves and slave owners, nearly all agree on the essential fact that slaves had no legal ability to gain their freedom, or the freedom of their children, and that this was a grave social evil.

People who deny well-researched historic data and analysis for social, religious, or political ends don’t require inaccuracies and slip-ups from legitimate historians and advocates to pursue their disinformational agendas – they need only lie boldly and inflame the passions of people who want to believe the attractive parts of their messages. Arguments that slavery is less a thing to be condemned in the present because it existed for only 200, not 400 years, or that it existed in the Bible, or that the genocide is less a thing to be condemned because only 4 million, not 11 million died in Nazi concentration camps in the 1930s and 40s, or that a greater of lesser fraction of those who dies were Jewish, (which I don’t believe any of the contributors to this thread are making) are, IMHO, trickery that should be exposed for what it is at every available opportunity.

#12 Buffy

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 10:23 AM

The issue I think is that it has been discovered by many that "slight exaggeration" is useful in debate. *Everyone* claims to be a victim these days, with even rich white males claiming to be "victims" of the "liberal media elite"!

Victimization sucks. The only way to get out of it is for the objects of the victimization to realize that rolling in it does no good. In the African-American community there has been an increasing recognition that "blaming the police" does not improve the security of their neighborhoods, and that they have to work together to make things better. Ultra-liberal San Francisco has even gotten the community to back legal action to ban gang members from their own turf.

Unfortunately, everyone is doing it, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Speaking out against victimization does seem to fail when one is calling *another* group on their victimization, because its easily turned on as an *example* of the victimization.

Thus, as far as I'm concerned, the only way to battle it is to use your *own* groups victimization as the example.

Be the first to propose that people "just get along." Stop your own group, and you'll embarrass others into doing the right thing.

Lead, follow or get out of the way, :doh:
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#13 jackson33

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 12:04 PM

the US, or its government is liable for no more than 80-85 years of legalized slavery, which was a bitterly fought issue from the days the Nation was formed. prior to 1776 under English control, active in slave trade, any blame if required should go there.

the holocaust, not being taught in British schools today, is for pure political correctness. the thought being offensive to its Muslim students. its not taught in any Muslim society, other than being a western society hoax. numbers of Jewish victims are of little value, the acts committed or the idea of ethnic cleansing the only FACT.

history is a simple portrayal of what is thought by most to have happened in the past. i personally am satisfied most of any free society accepts as history is generally correct. exaggeration, may be the exact reverse, in that as time rolls on, offensive or contrary versions are left out.

history and pre-historic versions indicate slavery has existed at least back to 3000 BC, is quite clear all races have been slaves to others and there are some that think Africans were offered better lives elsewhere. this however not my opinion...

#14 Freddy

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 03:33 PM

I promise in order to be accurate to say that, "African slavery in the Americas lasted 385 years, from 1503 thru 1888." See I actually learned something by researching the correct dates.

#15 Qfwfq

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 05:38 AM

Like TBD (and wikipedia), I define “African American” as people of sub-Saharan ancestry living now of recently in the United States

And yet it seems Vespucci mostly visited the coasts of central and south America (only touching Florida in NA) as well as many of he islands.

I'd say it's reasonable to say that African slavery in America spanned four centuries (which implies at the very least 200 and less than 400 years).

#16 CraigD

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 07:12 AM

I'd say it's reasonable to say that African slavery in America spanned four centuries (which implies at the very least 200 and less than 400 years).

I think this is a matter of word usage.

In the common usage of the majority of English-speaking people, “America” is, I think, synonymous with the 48 contiguous states of the United States, “The Americas” with the whole of North, Central, and South America. So Freddy’s statement,

"African slavery in the Americas lasted 385 years, from 1503 thru 1888."

appears to me better and less ambiguous than “African slavery in America spanned four centuries”, which is likely to misinterpreted as meaning that African slaves were present in the colonies including present day Virginia prior to 1600, a serious historical inaccuracy.

In speaking and writing about history, a degree of precision appears important, with which rounding durations to years is compatible, but rounding them down and up to the century is not. Consider the following whimsical example: “200 years of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’” (1992, 1997-2003).

#17 Qfwfq

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 07:27 AM

In the common usage of the majority of English-speaking people, “America” is, I think, synonymous with the 48 contiguous states of the United States, “The Americas” with the whole of North, Central, and South America.

Only 48 of them and not the whole 50? :xx: :ohdear: That's worse than I thought!!!

Now I was aware of the widespread toponomastic misappropriation (on which Bill's complaint of exaggeration is essentially based!), which is just part of a trend which I don't exactly agree with. Although it is handy to abbreviate compared to the whole long denomination, I find it wrong to reach the point of America being synonymous with USA and I personally avoid the tendency. I don't think it should be confirmed academically; it would be better to spread an expression such as "US-American" which isn't significantly less colloquial.

Obviously Freddy’s statement is more exact, but that doesn't mean that “African slavery in America spanned four centuries” should be considered misleading.

Consider the following whimsical example: “200 years of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’” (1992, 1997-2003).

Certainly, but that's only because you say "200 years" instead of "2 centuries". ;) :hihi:

Alright, alright, alright :winknudge: but, still... 200 - 6 = 194, while 400 - 385 is only a measley 15. When I wrote "at the very least 200 and less than 400" I was deliberately showing that one could be formally correct even in some cases where the duration in years was hardly more than half of 400 although that would clearly be hype, whereas in the case of 385 years even saying "400 years" wouldn't be much of an exaggeration.