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S.E. Anderson, a veteran actiovist/educator, has been in the Black Liberation Movement on many levels. He is not only a mathematics professor, a Senior Editor (NOBO: Journal of African Dialogue), a founding member of the Network of Black Organizers and of The African Heritage Studies Association but also an essayist on a variety of topics related to black culture and liberation as well as science and technology. His political and cultural activism in his native New York City ranges from helping to fund the New York City Algebra Project to being a founding member of the New York City Coalition For Excellence In Black Education.
As a young activist, Anderson was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and helped found the Black Panther Party in Harlem in 1966. He has been active in the African Liberation Support Movement since 1964 and participated in the historic Black student/community struggle against Columbia University’s encroachment into Harlem in 1968. Ironically, almost twenty years later, he became a Columbia University Revson Fellow (1986-7). In addition, he has taught mathematics, science, and Black Studies at Queens College.
Anderson became one of the first Black Studies Chairs, when in 1969 he accepted the challenge at Sarah Lawrence College to create a department that included mathematics and the natural sciences as part of a Black Studies Curriculum.
PART 1 THE REAL HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS OF AFRICAN CIVILIZATION & SLAVERY
LET US BEGIN WITH A FEW REAL ANSWERS TO OLD QUESTIONS
* The Slave trade was not a statistic, however astronomical. The slave trade was people living, lying, stealing, murdering, dying. The slave trade was a black man who stepped out of his house for a breath of fresh air and ended up, ten months later, in Georgia with bruises on his back and a brand on his chest.
* The slave trade was a black mother suffocating her newborn baby because she didn't want him to grow up to be a slave.
* The slave trade was a "kind" captain forcing his suicide-minded passengers to eat by breaking their teeth, though, as he said, he was "naturally compassionate."
* The slave trade was a bishop sitting on an ivory chair on a wharf in the Congo and extending his fat hand in wholesale baptism of slaves who were rowed beneath him, going in chains to the slave ships.
* The slave trade was a greedy [African] king raiding his own villages to get slaves to buy brandy.
* The slave trade was a pious captain holding prayer services twice a day on his slave ship and writing later the famous hymn: "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds."
* The slave trade was deserted villages, bleached bones on slave trails and people with no last names. It was Caesar negro, Anglo negro and Negro Mary....
–Lerone Bennett:Before the Mayflower
When did The Black Holocaust Begin?
It began with the Arab slave trade of around 700 AD, with Europeans (Portuguese) entering the picture around 1442.
"THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE: 1995"
African Americans ... are comforted only by the assurance that the buying and selling of Black Africans ended in the distant past. But such a belief is myth.
It has become clear that the enslavement of Black Africans did not stop with the demise of the Atlantic Slave Trade. That on this very day and hour, as you read this, there are Black people being bought and sold in two North African countries [Mauritania & Sudan].
"Routine punishments for the slightest fault Include beatings, denial of food and prolonged exposure to the sun, with hands and feet tied together. Serious infringement of the master's rule can mean prolonged tortures, as documented in a report by Africa Watch.
The 'camel treatment,' where a human being is wrapped around the belly of a dehydrated camel and tied there. The camel in then given water to drink until its belly expands enough to tear the slave apart.
The 'insect treatment,' where insects are put into a person's ears. The ears are waxed shut. The arms and legs are bound. The person goes insane from the bugs running around in his head.
The 'burning coals,' where the victim is sealed flat, with his legs spread out. He is then buried in sand up to his waist until he cannot move. Coals are placed between his legs and are burnt slowly. After a while, the legs, thighs, and sex of the victim are burnt. There are other gruesome tortures– none of which is fit to describe in a family newspaper "states Africa Watch." –Samuel Cotton, The City SUN [Feb.7,1995]
Were Africans always enslaved by whites and Arabs?
Were and are people of African descent less intelligent than white folks?
Of course not!
Did white Europeans "discover" Africans swinging from trees in the "jungles" of Africa and bring them "civilization?"
Of course not! (Unless virtual genocide is your idea of "civilization.")
Were Africans steeped in superstition and ignorant of Science & Technology?
Of course not!
Humanity had its beginnings in Africa more than 3 million years ago with the first beings to walk upright and have opposable thumbs to grab and control sticks and stones as extensions of the hand. In other words, Africans invented tools and weapons to help themselves not only survive but thrive as well. To this date, the earliest bones of human beings were and are still being found in the Olduvai Gorge in east Africa, a region covering an area almost as big as the United States.
Over a million years ago, humans began migrating out of the Olduvai Gorge region in search of food and shelter. Others stayed in the rich, fertile regions around the Nile Valley, which runs through Africa for thousands of miles (longer than the distance between New York and Los Angeles!). About 250,000 years ago, early Africans began a major diet shift that helped increase brain size. They began to live longer (to about 40 years), walk more upright, create larger and more complex social relations which, in turn, helped them have more babies that survived to adulthood.
Around 50,000 years ago, some of these extended families and clans began to settle around the southern region of the Olduvai Gorge and began to establish control over their food–farming! They discovered the relationships between soil, rain, rivers, sun and phases of the moon and living things. This settling down gave them more time to think about their world and the universe around them. Men and women were engaged in this effort to understand everything. Eventually, men became the dominant figures within their societies (although there were exceptions found in Africa and elsewhere where women were the dominant political force). Social relations become even more complex, and a hierarchy developed, i.e., priests and priestesses who possessed knowledge of Nature and divine rulers; "average" men and women who had to work long, hard hours to compensate for those who did not work.
We have evidence of one of these early, highly developed societies in a region we call Zimbabwe today. It is a FACT that Africans were smelting iron some 40,000 years ago! (That is not a misprint! Smelting was done in the area now called Tanzania, not far south of the Olduvai Gorge, the location of L.S.B. Leakey's findings of the earliest humanoid skulls.) Smelting iron requires a serious division of labor (miners, farmers, metalworkers, hunters ...), an apprenticeship educational system, excellent hunting techniques and weaponry, and knowledge of how and where to trade.
This knowledge and culture spread north along the rivers and valleys that flowed into the Nile River. After about 20,000 more years of learning through trial and error and observation, the Africans of the Nubian/Kush region (today we call it the Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia) developed a very sophisticated civilization. This is not to say that there were no other equally sophisticated civilizations. Rather, to date, we have more archaeological evidence of the Kush people than, say, the Ishongo people of the Congo region or the people of Zimbabwe. What we do know about this region of Africa is that for thousands of years the people developed their intellect and knowledge of Nature to such a high degree that by 5000B.C., the Nubians, Kushites, and Egyptians knew of the Earth's spherical shape, its approximate size, along with basic knowledge of gravity and the existence of north/south magnetic poles.
At the same time, other African civilizations were struggling, growing, and fighting for land and labor during the time of the Pharaohs.
They traded and fought with Egypt and peoples of Asia, from Bagdad to Bombay to Beijing. Africans–particularly from the region we now call Kenya and Tanzania–even traded with the "Aborigines" of Australia and the peoples of the South Pacific, beginning in the 1100s (A.D.) and continuing for thousands of years.
East Africans of the "Swahili" culture (a blend of the Arab and indigenous African cultures that emerged around 900A.D.), during the late 1300s and 1400s, traded extensively with the Chinese–particularly with Emperor Zhu Di, who had created a great fleet, with ships four and five times the size of European ships of the same period! It would take the West another six hundred years to develop the technological know-how to build ships with watertight bulkhead compartments!
"... AT THE PORT OF QUANZHOU ON THE FUJIAN COAST, [ITALIAN ADVENTURER/MERCHANT] MARCO POLO, WHO STAYED AT THE KHAN'S COURT FROM 1275 TO 1292, SAW FOUR-MASTED OCEANGOING JUNKS WITH NO FEWER THAN 60 INDIVIDUAL CABINS FOR MERCHANTS.... THE SHIPS CARRIED 150 TO 300 CREWMEN, AND THEY HAD WATERTIGHT BULKHEAD COMPARTMENTS...."
–LOUISE LEVATHES: When China Ruled the Seas -1994
By the 1400s the Chinese had developed their shipbuilding technology to such an extent that many of their oceangoing vessels were more than 400 feet long and 200 feet wide! Moreover, the oceangoing trading fleet to East Africa (commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He) in 1418, for example, was made up of a huge entourage of ...
"... LARGE JUNKS [AND] NEARLY A HUNDRED SUPPLY SHIPS, (FRESH) WATER TANKERS, TRANSPORTS FOR CALVARY HORSES, WARSHIPS AND MULTIOARED BOATS NUMBERING UP TO 28,000 SAILORS AND SOLDIERS. IT WAS A UNIQUE ARMADA IN THE HISTORY OF CHINA—AND THE WORLD—NOT TO BE SURPASSED UNTIL THE INVASION FLEETS OF WORLD WAR I SAILED THE SEAS. IN 1498, WHEN VASCO DA GAMA AND HIS FLEET OF THREE BATTERED CARAVELS ROUNDED THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE AND LANDED IN EAST AFRICA.... THE AFRICANS SCOFFED AT THE TRINKETS THE PORTUGUESE OFFERED ... AND SEEMED UNIMPRESSED WITH THEIR SMALL SHIPS."
—LEVATHES:When China Ruled the Seas
By July 15, 1419 Admiral Zheng He returned to China with numerous African Ambassadors who began to negotiate trade relations with China and their respective kingdoms. But it was also known by these African ambassadors that the Chinese Emperors not only kept Chinese slaves, but also thousands of African slaves.
"The Tang emperors [618A.D. to 960A.D.] were ... great admirers of Korean women ... for imperial harems. Dwarfs and pygmies ... were prized human cargo, as were black slaves from ... the east coast of Africa....
THE EXTENT OF THE CHINA SLAVE TRADE IS DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE.... AFRICAN SLAVES WERE TREATED LITTLE BETTER THAN BEASTS OF BURDEN. THEY WERE MADE TO LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS AND, BECAUSE THE CHINESE BELIEVED THEY SWAM 'WITHOUT BLINKING THEIR EYES,' WERE EMPLOYED AS DIVERS TO REPAIR LEAKING BOATS. MANY MUST HAVE ... DIED SOON AFTER ARRIVAL IN CHINA.... BUT, 'IF THEY DO NOT DIE, ONE CAN KEEP THEM, AND AFTER HAVING BEEN KEPT A LONG TIME THEY BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE OF HUMAN BEINGS, THOUGH THEMSELVES CANNOT SPEAK IT.'"
—LEVATHES: When China Ruled the Seas
For centuries the Chinese ruling classes had racist and chauvinistic views toward all non-Chinese people. Unlike European capitalists, they did not systematically and consciously seek out a people to label subhuman for the purpose of increasing their profits.
In addition to the Chinese connection, there is evidence that the people of Africa even traded with the indigenous folk of the Americas, hundreds of years before the Europeans invaded them.
Africa TRADED with the Americas— It didn't INVADE Them!
When the newly formed European nations finally began to get their political and economic act together in the 1400s, they set out on a world mission of invasions for plundering. The evolution of their economic system into capitalism impelled these newly formed merchants, pirates, and political thugs to scheme against the Church, the feudal lords, and each other in search of cheap labor, land, and natural resources. The whole point of this new system was to consolidate capital ... so you could get more and more capital.
"THE AFRICAN [SLAVE] TRADE WAS A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THE GROWTH OF THE CAPITALIST ECONOMY IN ENGLAND.... WITHOUT THE NEGRO SLAVE ... IT IS UNLIKELY THAT ... ENGLISH CAPITALISM COULD HAVE SHOWN THE PHENOMENAL GROWTH IT DID."
–W.E. WILLIAMS: Africa & the Rise of Capitalism
"THE [EUROPEAN] MEN OF THOSE DAYS WERE ACUTELY AWARE ... THAT IT WAS AN AFRICAN PARTNERSHIP IN TRADE ... THAT OPENED THE GATE TO NEW FORMS OF [EUROPEAN] ECONOMIC EXPANSION."
–BASIL DAVIDSON: The Search for Africa–1994
... AND HOW DOES IT ALL RELATE TO THE SLAVE TRADE?
Capitalism is an economic, political, and cultural system in which wealth–and the means of producing wealth–are owned and controlled by a small group of (very rich) people, whose ultimate aim is to get more wealth by any means at their disposal, even if it means stealing the fruit of another man's labor.
Capital is money used to generate more money. It has two forms: Variable–to buy labor power; and Constant–to buy the means of producing. The early European capitalists used African human beings as capital.
Enslaved Africans were not paid for their labor–they were labor. And they were a form of capital investment to generate more money (wealth).
WHAT DOES CAPITALISM HAVE TO DO WITH THE SLAVE TRADE?
There wouldn't have been any Slave Trade if it weren't for capitalism. The European slave trade became very profitable by the late 1600s. So much so, that in 1713 the Roman Catholic Church became a commercial go-between to stop European nations from fighting each other for access to the African coasts ... and to boost the Vatican's wealth to obscene levels ... including lots of prime the Americas. For a very generous fee, the Vatican created a contract (the Asiento) that resolved territorial and/or business disputes between two nations and thereby became
"THE PROFITS OBTAINED [FROM THE SLAVE TRADE] PROVIDED ONE OF THE MAIN STREAMS OF THAT ACCUMULATION OF CAPITAL IN ENGLAND WHICH FINANCED THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION."
–C. ERIC WILLIAMS: Capitalism and Slavery
"MOREOVER, SLAVE-PRODUCED COTTON PLAYED A PIVOTAL ROLE IN THE EXPANSION OF ... TRADE. THIS DIVISION ... LAID THE BASIS FOR A NATIONAL [CAPITALIST] ECONOMY THAT EMERGED [IN THE U.S.] BETWEEN 1815 AND 1865."
The slave trade was the driving force in the development of capitalism throughout Europe and the colonized Americas. For example:
* Between 1500 and 1750 the Slave Trade was the largest employer in Holland and Portugal.
* Barclay's Bank has its financial foundation set deep in the heart of the slave trade: its founders– David and Alexander Barclay established the bank in 1756 with the profits made in their slaving business.
* Lloyds of London, originally a coffee house, could not have become one of the biggest finance capital forces in the world without its legacy of dabbling in and insuring British slaveships and their cargoes.
"THE AFRICAN TRADE IS THE FIRST PRINCIPLE AND FOUNDATION OF ALL THE REST, THE MAINSPRING OF THE MACHINE WHICH SET EVERY WHEEL IN MOTION ... THE AFRICAN TRADE IS SO VERY BENEFICIAL TO GREAT BRITAIN, SO ESSENTIALLY NECESSARY TO THE VERY BEING OF HER COLONIES, THAT WITHOUT IT NEITHER COULD WE FLOURISH NOR THEY LONG SUBSIST....
–MALACHI POSTLETHWAY, 18TH CENTURY CAPITALIST AND MERCANTILIST THEORETICIAN
* The Watt's steam engine, the key technology of the Industrial Revolution, got its main financial backing from Caribbean slave owners funding inventor James Watt (whom he personally and publically thanked). One of the things that the Watt's Steam Engine did was to destroy the Indian and African weaving industries that had been producing high quality cloth for thousands of years ... thus paving the way for cheap British and Dutch cloth to be traded for Captive Africans, land, gold, spices, lumber, cheap Indian labor....
* The demand for faster, bigger Slaveships was central to the European development of hydrodynamics [17th & 18th centuries]: the science (and engineering) of moving objects through water with a minimum of energy.
* The 18th century founders (Nicholas and Joseph Brown of Newport, Rhode Island) of Brown University got their wealth by manufacturing and selling slaveships as well as investing in the Slave Trade.
"THE FAMILY PATRIARCH, CAPTAIN JAMES BROWN [NO RELATION TO OUR "GODFATHER OF SOUL"), WAS THE FIRST PROVIDENCE MERCHANT TO ENTER 'THIS HAZARDOUS TRAFFIC' IN 1736. UPON HIS DEATH, HIS BROTHER OBADIAH AND FOUR SONS– JOHN, JOSEY, NICKEY AND MOSEY– WERE LEFT TO CARRY ON THE FAMILY SLAVE TRAFFIC ... THE SHIP SALLY OWNED BY THE BROWNS AND CAPTAINED BY ESEK HOPKINS, SAILED TO THE COAST OF AFRICA IN 1764-65, AND AFTER NINE DIFFICULT MONTHS, SECURED 196 SLAVES. THE [AFRICAN CAPTIVES] REVOLTED AND A TOTAL OF 109 WERE KILLED, OR DIED FROM SUICIDES OR ILLNESS."
–RONALD BAILEY: Agricultural History
The Browns also received support from another merchant prince profiting heavily from the slave trade, Aaron Lopez– a Jew of Portuguese descent–who, like the Brown family, owned Slaveships and had other businesses directly related to the maintenance and development of the Slavery business. He was not the only formerly persecuted Jewish man deeply involved in the "Business." English-born Isaac DaCosta settled in Charleston. South Carolina. and by 1736 became not only the Lopez family hazzan (minister) but also their commission-merchant in the "Business." The 18th & 19 century New England Jewish petit bourgeoisie played a key role in the rum distillation industry, particularly in Rhode Island. There were many Jewish businesses involved directly or indirectly with the Slave Trade– far more than were involved in the anti-slavery movement of the 18th and 19th century.
BY THE MID-17TH CENTURY, "JEWISH MERCHANTS BOUGHT A LARGE SHARE OF THE SLAVES TRANSPORTED BY THE DUTCH WEST INDIA COMPANY AND THEN RETAILED THEM TO THE PORTUGUESE PLANTERS ON CREDIT, AROUSING COMPLAINTS OF HIGH INTEREST RATES."
DAVID BRION DAVIS: "THE SLAVE TRADE AND THE JEWS" in New York Review of Books, DEC. 22, 1994
Excerpted from THE BLACK HOLOCAUST FOR BEGINNERS by S.E. Anderson, Vanessa Holley. Copyright © 1995 S.E. Anderson. Excerpted by permission of For Beginners LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 23, 2001
THE BLACK HOLOCAUST FOR BEGINNERS GIVES A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF THE AFRICAN STRUGGLE DURING THE SLAVE TRADE.THE BOOK GIVES VIVID PICTURES AND EYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THIS HORRIBLE GENOCIDE.THIS BOOK WAS TRULY WRITTEN TO MAKE YOU THINK AND IMAGINE THE HORRORS OF THE SLAVE TRADE.THIS BOOK SHOULD BE READ BY EVERYONE.
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