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Children of Slavery

When reading about Olmsted’s experiences and Empire for Slavery I really saw slavery from a completely new angle. I’d spent time thinking about the wrongs done to African-Americans through slavery but I had never considered the idea that slavery hurt everyone, even the slaveholders and whites of the Texan wild west. Although I think the main focus here is obviously on the wrongs done to Black Americans, as it should be, it’s really startling to see how slavery poisoned the entire nation, victims and perpetrators alike.The negative effects of slavery on the actual slaveholders surprised me because it’s an aspect of slavery that we rarely see. In thinking about this issue, I began seeing connections between the negative impact of slavery on whites and the racism and prejudiced attitudes that have continued over a century later. Though slavery as an institution ended, the racism left behind was nearly as punishing as the enslavement itself. This racism has sustained for decades and is unfortunately still very present in America. Olmstead and Campbell both discuss the children of slaveholders; children who were not destined to be slaveholders themselves but were nonetheless affected by the racism of their forefathers. These children were corrupted early by the evil in their households. Olmstead remarks on the child of a violent slaveholder, noting that the young boy chewed tobacco and cursed like his father. Worse yet, he beat his dog in an attempt to emulate his father’s behavior with slaves. The seeds of hatred and corruption were planted so early that it’s likely this child ever had a chance to be anything but a racist. It is children like this who carried on the legacy of slavery.

It is not shocking then that such children carried that racism with them, almost unable to believe anything different, and that these children likely passed on their prejudices. This brings up a problematic question; if the end of slavery did not truly end the oppression of African- Americans and it persists still a century later, how is it that we can really put an end to it?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. meganvestal
    February 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I think the question you ask is really interesting. Especially as you bring up points about this trickle down effect of how slavery poisoned everyone. I don’t think I realized how ugly this part of history really was until reading this text. I don’t know if we can put an end to it, or if it is something that will have to be cleansed out of us gradually. Perhaps if we work in the opposite direction, teaching our children the other ways and so forth it will get knocked out of the generations so that we can really feel the shame as a nation, and then begin healing. I feel like slavery murdered a part of America, and after the country gets out of denial about it we can grieve and work to better things.

  2. krcoleman
    February 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I also think you posit an interesting question. I think, especially considering that the abolitionists were will quite racist, that it’s more than a bit naive to have expected all traces of slavery and the subsequent racism to have disappeared in such a short amount of time. Personally, I wonder if maybe the fact that slavery is such a taboo topic and still kept so hush-hush that our uncomfortable silence surrounding it is only perpetuating the problem. It’s kind of like our in-class discussion about how the cruelty of slaveholders was only made worse in their future generations, I feel like our silence and discomfort surrounding the subject of slavery and racism run the risk of only increasing with generations as opposed to disappearing.

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