Joseph Sobran's syndicated columns appear in
newspapers across the country and are published on his website, Sobran's.
The column below is currently at this
URL. Please read this column but don't stop there. If you want a
true understanding of slavery and specifically, African slavery, you must
dig deeper. Try Hugh Thomas' THE SLAVE TRADE which is listed on the
described in more detail below.
The central point
is: We Americans exaggerate our role in fostering slavery just as we
exaggerate our role in destroying it. America was a relatively minor
player in the worldwide tragedy of slavery; only five percent (5%) of the
African slaves transported from Africa were brought to North
More about Joseph Sobran.
Slavery In Perspective [May 31,
The recurrent fuss
about Confederate flags has always struck me as silly, and never more so
than now. I’ve been reading Hugh Thomas’s impressive history, The
Slave Trade (published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster). It’s
one of those books that shift your whole perspective on the past.
Thomas covers the Atlantic
slave trade from 1440 to 1870. It was a literally filthy business from
first to last. More than 11,000,000 Africans were brought to the New
World, while countless others — probably about 2,000,000 — died of
miserable conditions in the overcrowded ships en route.
What I didn’t know is that fewer than 5 per
cent — about 500,000 — of these Africans were brought to this country.
Some 4,000,000 were carried to Brazil by the Portuguese, 2,500,000 to
Spanish possessions, 2,000,000 to the British West Indies, and 1,600,000
to the French West Indies.
All this puts something of a damper on the assumption
that slavery was a sin specific or “peculiar” to the American South. The
slaves had been Africans who were sold to European merchants by other
Africans who had enslaved them in the first place. Several of Africa’s
proudest empires were built on the sale of slaves. For centuries Africa’s
chief export was human beings. When Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks of
“my African ancestors’ struggle for freedom,” she doesn’t know what she’s
talking about. Slavery was an African institution long
before it spread to the South
, and there
was no abolition movement to trouble it. When Europe banned the slave
trade, African economies reeled.
it’s rather comical for American blacks to sentimentalize Africa and
stress that they are “African Americans” while cursing the Confederate
flag as a symbol of slavery
. Africa has a much better claim to
be such a symbol. Slavery still exists there, in Sudan and Mauritania and
Christians, white Europeans always had a bad conscience about slavery.
They wrestled with the question of whether Africans had immortal souls and
natural rights. Even Southerners who justified slavery as a positive good
felt that it needed justification.
Pagans had no such qualms. They no more felt they needed to
justify owning slaves than owning cattle. Slavery was a fact of life, and
slaves could be killed, mutilated, and even eaten without compunction.
In the Arab world African
slaves were highly prized as eunuchs. They were used as guardians of
harems and as civil servants, some of whom amassed considerable power. But
many young African men died in the process because of inept or infected
castration. The prevalence of eunuchs probably explains why African
slavery didn’t leave the Arab world with a race problem. Given this
history, it’s ironic that so many American blacks adopt Arab names to
spite the white man and to achieve a supposedly independent “identity.”
Thomas indirectly punctures
another cherished American notion: that Abraham Lincoln “ended slavery.”
Lincoln is mentioned only three times, very briefly, in the entire book.
Against the huge backdrop of the slave trade, he was only a local,
marginal, and rather tardy figure. By 1850 it was clear that slavery was
doomed throughout the Christian world. But just as we exaggerate our role
in fostering slavery, we exaggerate our role in destroying it. We
Americans tend to be self-important even in our self- flagellations.
The slave trade was so vast
that a European might speculate in it, and profit by it, without ever
seeing a single slave. Such distinguished authors as John Locke, Edward
Gibbon, and Voltaire drew income from it. Voltaire was especially
hypocritical. He took the self-serving view that it was less immoral for a
European to buy Africans than it was for other Africans to sell them; and
after denouncing the slave trade for years, he “accepted delightedly” when
a merchant offered to name a slave ship after him.
Thomas tells the whole story without much
moralizing. He knows the facts speak for themselves, in all their horror
and pathos: people stolen from their homes, robbed of their freedom and
even their identities, often dying namelessly amid unspeakable squalor,
with no families or friends to mourn or memorialize their passing. The
ones who survived to be slaves in the New World, though unenviable, were
But in the
end, the Christian conscience prevailed. Thank God.
End Sobran Column-----
The links below will lead the reader to a reasonably
comprehensive understanding of the Confederate
What does the
Confederate flag represent?