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THE BLACK JACOBINS:

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 5 months ago

The reading was really easy to get through. I also like the fact we are talking about a different section of the world other than England. It is interesting to read about the French side, Haiti etc. Before we have read about ways the slaves were taken across the ocean and the treatment during their enslavement, but I felt James wrote about the horrific details in a way it put you in your place a little more. I would like to read more about Las Casas, the Dominican priest who pleaded for the abolition of native slavery. For my Span 131 class I read his persuasive arguments at court contributed to Pope Paul's III bull declaring the slaves souls should not be deprived of their liberty and property. It's interesting/crazy that slaves are apart of Latin America, and sometimes I feel are overlooked. I know the heritage of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Brazil and many other Latin American countries have started with slavery.

 

-Elizabeth

 

 

I think it is interesting how history is always judged based on the perception of those looking at it. In the book, there are two different instances that elaborate this idea. First, there are the decendents of the Europeans whose families were prime shareholders in the slave trade, who, when looking back upon the pain, suffering, mutilation, terror that was inflicted upon other humans beings choose not to recognize that these things happen. They choose to look away and forget the horrors that were used to control others. It is the idea that, "if I can't remember it, it never happened". So is the way that we are usually taught about slavery. But there is also another side, a side that can bring hope to those who have been brutalized and oppressed. As the French Revolution was pushing on, slaves heard of the battles being faught. They looked at the uprising of the French as a version of their own struggles. The French slaves were fighting back, taking back their freedom from their masters. It didn't matter that this was wrong or incorrect because it gave slaves hope that they could do the same. It was motivation that they too could be free if they faught against their oppressors. Guadeloupe and Martinique soon after saw the first stages of the uprising. Perception has the power to hide the wrongs of the past, to cover over a guilty conscious, but it also has the power to strike new ways of thinking. Misinterpretations can be positive, they can sometimes spark revolutionary thought.

 

Evan Gallagher

 

 

One of the most devastating and pervasive attitudes throughout the period we're looking at is examined in this book: the idea that blacks were somehow less human than whites. The mindset of the 1789 memoir in the book's first chapter highlights the problem in glowing, technicolor detail, describing "the Negroes" as unintellectual and barbaric, as well as assigning various social ills to blacks as though such behavioral patterns were inherent and homogeneous throughout the entire race. It might seem a bit odd that anyone could ever have adopted such a vitriolic and misunderstood thought pattern toward a particular group of people, but I think that it still happens today, albeit covertly, whether "in jest" or under a breath. It's far easier for one to deny a basic freedom to another (human or not) when one is convinced that the two parties aren't equals. Fortunately, the rest of James' book paints a far different picture. The organization of the slaves especially struck me, and it was kind of refreshing to see "early slave leaders ... showing a sense of order, discipline and capacity to govern." (Does that sound like a group of half-human cowards to you? Didn't think so!) However, the narrative became a bit frustrating when it seemed like every step forward for the slaves represented another step back, in a manner of speaking: For example, it was absolutely incendiary that the ruling class tried to cultivate the notion that other white groups were responsible for inciting revolt. At the very least, we can recognize through our genealogical lenses that this particular revolution, for all intents and purposes, belonged to its revolters.

 

Bryan D. Peach

 

 

One bit of information that really caused me to think was that after the uprising in Le Cap, the newly freed slaves were much more humane to their former masters than the whites were to them. There are a few gruesome stories, but they were relatively generous. This suprised me based on the horror done to them as recorded in Chapter 1. After living in suffering for that long, revenge would be instinctive. Also, the mob mentality would have played into their actions. Although they were organized, you would think the mindset would set in and cause more destruction. I think it says a lot for the people that, in that instant, they were better than those who were in charge before them.

 

Erica Osterloo

 

"The rich are only defeated when running for their lives." --Page 78

Finally, we get to the creation of the Black Romantics, a period somewhat related to the French revolution that--according to all the history texts I've read--bred the Romantic Period. But it's an astonishingly different type of "romantic period" than we're used to. While the parallels between Marxism (the rise of the proletariat) and the uprisings of the slaves are striking, I think that Edumund Burke's 2nd Treatise does a lot to explain the conditions of the book "The Black Jacobins." Freedom, Equality, Fraternity: the rally cry of the French Revolution was echoed by the slaves across the Atlantic, but they were not the sons and heirs of any of the three. Although they were, according to James, "closer to a modern proletariat than any group of workers in existence at the time," the revolutions in Europe were not theirs to claim. Burke explains the rights of any group of individuals who "have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property." However, when displaced from your homeland, what right do you have to an "estate" of any kind? And if you have no estate to own, no property or agency to use that property, how valuable is the right to liberty? Or to life? This rhetorical move would allow for the circulation of the prevailing view of blacks as "not actual people;" perhaps three-fifths, perhaps less. (With no collective identity, much less a personal, private one, who are you really?) The problem with the displacement of the blacks is that, removed from any semblance of a home, the creation of a "civil society" in order to protect one's property is entirely unnecessary. It leaves only the option of revolt, and the option of revolt is the only decision to be made with moral clarity.

 

Brandon W. Peach

 

I found this reading not only interesting but also sufficiently horrific at times when explaining life on the slave ship, for example. I was almost cringing when trying to imagine the small space they forced to stay in during the journey across the Atlantic. The shock level of this book I think helped the situation to become more real as he explained the terror invoked by both the white and the rebellious slaves. This is one of the first accounts we have seen where a text will offer detailed descriptions of slave retaliation and celebrate it at that. I found it interesting too to see the different hierarchies form within the slave community. For example, there were the slaves on the bottom who were beat to the extreme no matter what, there were “upper servants” whose masters took a more gentle hand on them and treated them more humanely, there were slaves whose owners allowed them an education or encouraged them to sell their own produce at the market to buy their freedom, and there were even slaves who were allowed to marry their owners, thus granting them and their children freedom. I guess what is most interesting about this model is that even though hierarchies were formed; they are all still somehow related to the white man. It is the white slave owner who decides if his slave can receive an education, or to free his own kids, or whether or not he will torture a slave. Yet, overall it was refreshing to hear about slaves revolting against the cruel hands that imprisoned them. All of the accounts were fascinating, but in particular I think what summed up the amount of torture and absolute suffering that they must have been feeling was when on the slave ship when slaves would jump overboard just in spite of the captain and the crew. I tried to imagine being in a situation that was so horrific that to take my own life just to prove a point could be so relevant. I could not come up with any one solution, and perhaps that was what was most disturbing…that I will never be able to fully understand what all those innocent and tortured slaves were forced to endure.

 

Jillian Winn

 

 

 

 

While Black Jacobins impacted me in a variety of ways, I was especially caught off guard when reading about the Mulattoes of San Domingo. First of all, I find it interesting that the black slaves who were so despised and looked down upon were still considered suitable mistresses for the white colonist males. I’m wondering if this was consensual or if sex was simply used as another means of exerting domination over the slaves by the white colonists?

 

What struck me even more was the degree of freedom that Mulatto people were initially granted. The text states that The Negro Code of 1685 gave free Mulattoes equal rights with whites, and even authorized marriage between a white man and the slave he impregnated. When the Mulattoes were considered powerless they were allowed many legal rights. However as they soon amassed more property and prestige than many white colonists the rights of the Mulattoes were taken away, and they were “harassed with malicious legislation”. To the colonists, property = power, a dangerous equation we see again and again.

 

 

Samantha Luceri

 

As we discussed in class, we are often encouraged to see enslaved blacks as beaten down and submissive. They were considered less than human and as far as most textbooks are concerned, these oppressed people simply accepted their condition. I enjoyed this reading so much because it once again negates that idea and proves in clear, specific detail that these people were fighters. The degradation of the San Domingo society is so appalling; it’s embarrassing that humans can be so easily corrupted by their surrounding. The details the author gives about the treatment of slaves was very hard to read and difficult to fathom. I find it also disturbing that the very thing the French were fighting for in France, they were at the same time imposing in their colonies.

Alyssa Dytko

 

This reading, probably the easiest so far, was very informative to what was actually happening during the slave trade. The brutality that the slaves endured just so the whites could have “things” was ridiculous. “Filling them with gun powder and setting them off with a match,” forcing them to eat other slaves to survive on the ships and other horrors too terrible for me to remember. What really caught hold of me was the hybrid culture that grew from the owners and slaves. White culture influenced those slaves who gained wealth, and then took it all away by making up laws, and then doing the same to the half breeds who gained the wealth of their white fathers, the whites again made up laws to keep the half breeds down, lowering them to slave level. The hierarchy of race that formed from this era, it’s no wonder there was a revolution. When a system tries to share its “wealth” or better yet power with the world, the system tends to want to stay the same. Keep things as easy as possible for the high class and make the low class and even lower, slaves and half breeds, working and, ha-ha, “slaving” away. Of course then people want change, normally those who are suffering by the hands of the wealthy, and even none wealthy, and this causes resistance and war. Matt

 

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