The phrase “never again” is almost always associated with the Jewish Holocaust in which over six million ethnic Jews were killed by the Nazi regime. Some Jewish scholars say the phrase originated in a poem by Isaac Lambdan called “Masada,” in which the poet says, “Never shall Masada fall again!” Masada was a fort built by Herod The Great in current day Israel during the Roman occupation in 37 BC/BCE. About 100 years later in 74 AD/CE the Romans set siege at Masada and rather than give up and surrender, some say the 900 plus defenders committed suicide. The suicides are only supported by a single source, a historian named Flavius Josephus. He was captured during the siege and the Romans tasked him with the scribing of Jewish history. Some of you may have notice I used both BCE and BC as well as AD and CE. Although I am Christian, I have used both so that my non Christian readers are accommodated. It’s a long story… When I first started writing this article I started to entitle it “Never Forget,” thinking that was the mantle the Jewish people hung their solemn vow on. It’s similar but not the same. So what does their vow have to do with us? Well, I write articles month after month and now year after year about the black experience. I try to instill humor in my pieces because without it a lot of our history is just one bleak story after another. I know you get tired of reading about it.. so do I. But we can never forget…because one day we might wake up and someone will say it never happened…
Porkchop: Now der dat nigga goes being pillowsopagal again.. you gonna tell it or not??
Okay Porkchop. Slavery as an institution began in 1619 in Virginia. The main reasons for slave labor in the beginning was to fulfill the demand for tobacco, rice and indigo to be sold mainly in Europe. Indigo was a plant from which blue dyes were made. As more money was being made off these commodities, the colonist began to make laws so that they would have a secure labor force. In 1622 Virginia enacted the law of hereditary slavery, meaning that the child born to an enslaved mother inherited her slave status. Also in 1622 all black men are prohibited from owning firearms. In 1663 Maryland legalized slavery, followed the next year by New York and New Jersey. Now 1664 was a banner year for the racist because it was in this year that Maryland, New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Virginia said that if you are black then your period of servitude is for the rest of your life. If you came over from Europe as an indentured servant and you were black, you were now a slave for the rest of your life. Indentured servants would have to pay back the person who paid for their passage on the ships over to the colonies. After it was paid back you were free. Not any longer if you were black.
Porkchop: “If dat been me, I hadda bust my cap on a moe…” Me: No Porkchop, remember they had already taken the guns from black men.” Porkchop: Man I’d pull dat thing outtttt… and get to rocking em.. pow..pow pow.. Me: and then they wooda hung you like mama’s drawers in the bathroom…
Before 1667 if you were slave, got baptised and accepted Christianity then it was a good chance you would be freed. It was in 1667 that this changed. Being a Christian and being baptised no longer altered your status as a slave. By the end of the next decade all the colonies would adopt this measure. Now, not all blacks at this time who were in the colonies were slaves. Some had become free before they passed these laws. Some even had white indentured servants who they had paid passage for. In 1670 Virginia prohibited free blacks and Indians from keeping Christians as indentured servants. in other words, the law freed all the white people whose passaged to the colonies had been paid for by any non-whites. In 1676 black slaves and white indentured servants joined forces in what would be called Bacon’s Rebellion. The rebellion was the result of a dispute between Nathaniel Bacon and William Berkeley, who was the colonial governor of Virginia. As more and more settlers arrived in Virginia, friction over resources and land between the colonist and indigenous Indians became more frequent. On many occasions outright hostility occurred resulting in fatalities. As the frequency of violent encounters escalated, it was Governor Berkeley’s policy not to retaliate against the Indians. Historians are not quite sure why Berkeley chose this policy. Some say it was a beef he had with Bacon and others say he and Bacon were in a power struggle over who would rule over the colony. My money is on population control and greed. Anywho, the policy did not sit well with the colonist who not only wanted to retaliate, but also wanted to settle the land the Indians were occupying. It hit the fan when a skirmish between the Indians and a well known and liked colonist named Thomas Mathews, cost Matthew’s son and two servant their lives. Bacon and and armed group of followers immediately retaliated killing fifty Indians, including women and children. Public support fell on Bacons side and Berkeley was forced to flee Jamestown, which was subsequently torched. It took several years for the Crown to regain control of Virginia. So what this got to do with black history? The English were alarmed that indentured servants and black slaves had united to oppose the government and ruling class. They enacted stricter laws governing the interaction between blacks and whites, with the purpose of further defining, separating, and sowing divisions between lower class whites and slaves. Laws such as prohibiting blacks from congregating, mandating harsh punishment for slaves who assault Christians, (so know you know why some racist even up to this day, use the term “god fearing white man“)… and prohibiting any white person married to a non white from living in Virginia, were the early vestiges of what would eventually become Jim Crow. These laws and more were enacted in Virginia and other colonies as a result of the Bacon Rebellion.
Porkchop: So Nat and Bill were beefing over some bacon the Indians stole… I guess da servants and da blacks folks was hidin the grits and da eggs or dey probably been beefing over dat too!! Me: What???
By 1691 slavery had become as much a part of the future United States as shaved heads at a Trump rally in Razor Blade, Alabama. In 1695 South Carolina enacted the Slave Codes and by 1712 every ashy toe in the Americas knew who made the chicken sandwiches. The American codes were based on slave codes enacted in Barbados in 1661. Yes, there were ashy toes in Barbados, Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. Remember that Christopher “Small Pox And Other Plague’s” Columbus, landed in the West Indies in 1492 thinking he was in Asia. Shortly afterwards Spain and the other European powers brought slavery to the area to supply labor for their sugarcane, tea, coffee and cocoa plantations. Although sugar was an important ingredient in the making of sweets, the real dough came from its use in the making of rum and other liquors. Anywho, here are some highlights from the 1691 slave codes:
- Slaves were forbidden to leave the owner’s property unless they were accompanied by a white person or had permission. If a slave leaves the owner’s property without permission, “every white person” is required to chastise such slaves.
- Any slave attempting to run away and leave the colony (later the state) receives the death penalty.
- Any slave who evades capture for 20 days or more is to be publicly whipped for the first offense, branded with the letter R on the right cheek for the second offense, and lose one ear if absent for 30 days for the third offense, and castrated for the fourth offense.
- Owners refusing to abide by the slave code are fined and forfeit ownership of their slaves.
- Slave homes are to be searched every two weeks for weapons or stolen goods. Punishment for violations escalates to include loss of ear, branding, and nose-slitting, and, for the fourth offense, death.
- No slave is allowed to work for pay; plant corn, peas or rice; keep hogs, cattle, or horses; own or operate a boat; buy or sell; or to wear clothes finer than ‘Negro cloth.’
The South Carolina slave code was revised in 1739 with the following amendments:
- No slave is to be taught to write, to work on Sunday, or to work more than 15 hours per day in summer, and 14 hours in winter.
- Willful killing of a slave exacts a fine of £700, “passion”-killing £350.
- The fine for concealing runaway slaves is $1,000 and a prison sentence of up to one year.
- A fine of $100 and six months in prison are imposed for employing any black or slave as a clerk.
- A fine of $100 and six months in prison are imposed on anyone selling or giving alcoholic beverages to slaves.
- A fine of $100 and six months in prison are imposed for teaching a slave to read and write, and death is the penalty for circulating incendiary literature.
- Freeing a slave is forbidden, except by deed, and after 1820, permission of the legislature (Georgia required legislative approval after 1801).
Porkchop: Passion killing… shid!! So you saying back in the day if I take my Land Rover out and go above and beyond… then… Me: Yep.. the massa gonna cut yo engine off and remove your cylinders.
In 1703 Rhode Island makes it illegal for slaves or Indians to walk at night without passes and a few years later requires any slave going to the home of a free man to be accompanied by his master. In 1708 Black and Indian slaves outnumber the colonist in South Carolina and around 1710 or so, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania began to prohibit new slaves from entering their colonies. In 1712 New York prohibited Black and Indian slaves from murdering one another. It is also the year of the New York Slave Revolt. So although the slaves in New York did not outnumber the colonist as in South Carolina, they were a significant part of the population in New York. Slavery up North differed from slavery down South in that they didn’t have plantations. Most of the slaves up North were domestics or skilled laborers. Originally New York was a Dutch colony and as such slaves had certain rights.. like they could own land and marry. When the English took over in 1664 if you was black, you had to get back. They severely curtail the slaves rights and built a slave market where the present day Wall Street is. So you went from wearing Dutch linens to Negro cloth… working as a slave on the land you once owned… and being threatened with somebody breaking your dipstick if you checked the oil without permission. That’s where the song “Don’t Push Me Cause I’m Close To The Edge” came from. The New York Slave Revolt occurred on April 6, 1712. A group of black slaves got fed up and said they wasn’t taking this sh!$ no more!! About twenty of them marched down Broadway and cut over to Maiden Lane. On Maiden Lane somebody said burn it down and the next thing you know, a building was on fire. Now.. you know how some of us can get when we had enough. We can get real funky widit.. and they did… As soon as the whites saw the building on fire, they rushed over to put it out… and guess who was waiting for them… yep, those twenty slaves who came strapped down and fully loaded.. they had beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lambs, hams, hogs, dogs… You Name It!! Okay, I’m getting carried away.. Anywho, the slaves killed nine whites and injured another six before they were stopped. Over seventy slaves were rounded up by the colonial militia. Twenty one were sentenced to death, including a pregnant women. After the rebellion, New York joined the southern colonies in implementing their version of the slave codes.
Porkchop: Dayum!! It’s like a jungle sometimes.. huh… Me: Yessiree… them colonist didn’t take kindly to that stuff… they had ropes, trees, fires, pyres, guns, swords, knives and more… you name it…
So around 1730 there is a small break in the storm of human bondage in the colonies. Florida which was a colony of Spain, declared that slaves escaping from the Carolina’s will not be sold or returned. The Carolinas split into North and South in 1712. To make a long story short about the Carolinas, some rich men were appointed by King Charles IX of France protegees to oversee the territory. Although they constantly fought over how the area would be governed, they did manage to come to an agreement finally and appoint a Governor over the northern half of the Carolinas as a crown colony. In 1776 South Carolina ratified the Article of Confederation and twelve years later in 1788 it would be admitted into the union as the eight state. The following year, North Carolina was admitted as the twelfth state in the Union. In 1732 a slave ship bound for the Americas from Guinea and captained by John Major is seized. The slaves kill everyone aboard. According to historians; “A person known only as Carroll, told of the successful slave insurrection aboard a New Hampshire vessel commanded by Captain John Majors, who he said “was treacherously Murdered, and his Vessel and Cargo seized upon by the Negroes. The Africans stripped the vessel of its rigging and sails, freed the other Africans in the hold, seized both the schooner and its cargo and then abandoned the ship.” “Was treacherously murdered,”.. reminds me of that scene in 12 Years A Slave when Epps quotes the bible scripture Luke 12:47, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” What come around goes around.. In 1735 King Louis XV decrees that when an enslaved woman gives birth to the child of a free man, neither mother nor child can be sold. Further, after a certain time, mother and child will be freed. This was obviously meant for the slaves in France because they had cotton picking slaves picking cotton here.. men women and children and ain’t now a one of them would be freed until 1865 at the end of the Traitors War.
Porkchop: Man… you keep sayun dem people traitors and calling em outta dey name… Me: The Grand Bizarre or whatever the beep ….they call him can… beep.. beep.. sun… beep… beep… shine… beep..beep… mother…beep beep.. kiss… beep, beep… that’s right… beep… beep… all them!!
On September 9, 1739 one of the largest slave uprisings occurred in South Carolina. It was called the Stono Rebellion. Now before we go on, I’m going to get out my lane for a sec. It has something to do with the words uprising and rebellion which I thought basically meant the same thing. They do not. As a noun a rebellion is an undetermined amount of people trying to establish a government or ruler, while an uprising is a popular revolt to overthrow a government or its laws. So the Stono Rebellion wasn’t a rebellion or uprising, but was actually an insurrection! An insurrection is a violent action against government or authority. Makes you wonder why most historical reports about people of color who seek their freedom from oppression are called rebellions or uprisings instead of insurrections. Words matter.. Insurrection means that people were willing to fight and die for what they believed… god forbid they let that idea get into anyone’s head… Okayyyy…. that’s one minute of your life you won’t get back… anywho.. The Stono “Insurrection” was led by a literate slave named Cato. Cato is believed to be the surname of his slave owners which had land near the Stono River. Cato was a first generation slave, which means he was not born here. Historians believe he came from the Central African Kingdom of Congo because he spoke Portuguese. He along with twenty other slaves from the Congo, who were thought to be warriors led an armed marched from the Stono River. They were heading to Florida where once they got there, they could not be returned or resold into slavery. Along the way they recruited around sixty other slaves. They killed some colonist before being defeated by the South Carolina militia. Most of the captured slaves were executed… no surprise there… while the surviving few were sold to markets in the West Indies. As a result of the Stono Insurrection, South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740. Among other things, the act forbid the education of slaves, and enacted a ten year moratorium on the importation of African slaves because they were viewed as being more aggressive and rebellious. In addition it also permitted owners to kill rebellious slaves if necessary.
Porkchop: So in 1740 they passed the Negro Acted Up Act… den dey sent dat nigga to India.. Me: Man… go sit yo ass down!!
Also in 1740 Georgia and Carolina attempted to invade Florida because of their stance on slavery. The whole thing started around 1693 when the Spanish issued an edict granting freedom to any slave able to reach Florida from the English settlements. So the Spaniards were interested in maintaining control in Florida and along the southeastern region. They began to actively encourage runaways to flee. In 1738 they built Fort Mose, which is in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States. St. Augustine is not only the oldest city, but it is also recognized as the oldest sanctioned free black community in the United States. Now, besides the other reasons we have discussed for allowing runaway slaves to come to Florida, blacks also agreed to defend the fort. So Fort Mose wasn’t the only community blacks settled in Florida at and it wasn’t the only community they defended. As resistance for freedom from the English Crown escalated, so too did resistance to slavery by the blacks from the colonies escalate. The British trained thousands of black men during the Revolutionary War and these same men continued to fight for freedom after the war. They also established communities in the swamps of Georgia and South Carolina. The escaped slaves were known as maroons. The word maroon comes from the Spanish word cimarrones, which meant ‘mountaineers. One such community was led by a black leader called Captain Cudjoe. Now Captain Cudjoe was to the British as Donald Trump is to Mitt Romney. They both wanted them alone in a room with a bullwhip and a shelter in place order. Cudjoe along with another black leader named Captain Lewis led dozens of attacks Georgia plantations. They led a group of 100 men called the “King of England’s Soldiers.” By 1787, this band of guerrilla fighters posed a serious enough threat that the Georgia legislature sent a force of state troopers to find and destroy the maroon village. Although six maroons were killed and others wounded, most of the people fled into the South Carolina swamps. Heeding the advice of James Jackson, commander of the Georgia militia, the governors of South Carolina and Georgia launched a joint mission against the maroons. Lewis was captured, tried, and hanged. Afterwards, his head was severed and placed on a pole as a warning to any other insurgents.” Even so, the attacks continued until the end of slavery.
Porkchop: So you trying to tell me Gilligan and dem folks was black? Me: What are you talking about Porkchop? Porkchop: Well dey say dey was maroon on Gilligan’s Island!! Me: Okay Porkchop… that’s one…
Silver Bluff Baptist Church is founded in 1750 at Beech Island, South Carolina. It is thought to be the first separate black congregation in the nation. In 1758 Pennsylvania Quakers prohibit their members from owning or selling slaves and in 1768, Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina boycott the British slave trade to protest the Townshend Act which placed taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. An escaped slave by the name of Crispus Attucks is killed by the British in the defense of Boston, Massachusetts in 1770. He is often recognized as the first colonists to die in the war for Independence. In July of 1775, George Washington forbids the enlistment of slaves or free blacks in the Continental Army, although they did fight at Lexington a few month earlier. By the end of the year when Washington could smell the Yorkshire pudding the enemy was cooking at his neighbor’s house, he changed his mind and allowed slaves and blacks to fight. The same year… the British announced anyone enlisting in their army would be free at the conclusion of the war. Remember this was not only for the slaves, but for white indentured servants also. So about nine thousand blacks fought on the side of George Washington and twenty thousand blacks fought with the British, no surprise there. I wonder would we have endured such a brutal history if those twenty thousand blacks would have fought with Washington? Probably… A while back there was a movie called the “Book Of Negro’s,” written by Lawrence Hill ( no relationship) and starring “Aunjanue L. Ellis, which describe how the British recorded details of the their enslavement, escape, and service to the British Crown. After the British loss, many of the former slaves who fought with them, along with their families were relocated. Some to Britain, some to Canada and some to Africa, most noticeably Freetown in Sierra Leone. Four thousand were resettled there by the Sierra Leone Company in 1787 and five years later another twelve hundred settle there from Nova Scotia in Canada. Interesting story about Nova Scotia is that a lot of the white Loyalist who fought with Britain during the Revolutionary War took their slaves with them to Nova Scotia. It made for bad blood between the black Loyalist and the white Loyalist. Anywho, a lot of them also immigrated to Sierra Leone. The descendants of those settlers would go on to become the founders of the nation of Sierra Leone. So a while back I opined whether we would have suffered such a great hardship had those blacks fought on the side of the colonist? Thomas Jefferson referred to the settlers as “fugitives from the states.” Well, a lot of the black loyalist did escape, but those who didn’t were recaptured and sold. They were viewed as traitors and treated very harshly. I mean the kind of they was being put to death for breathing harshly…
Porkchop: Did you know George Washington wore wooden teeth? Me: Yep… Porkchop: Did you know he replaced dem teeth with teeth from da slaves? Me: Yep… Porkchop: Heh.. heh.. Did you know I drunk all the beer while you was writing in yo computer.. heh… heh..? Me: Yep… did you know that wasn’t beer? Come here Fido… gooood boy…
Now a while back I said that 1664 was a banner year for the racist. Well 1787 was a banner year for black people. The Northwest Ordinance is approved by Congress. Actually it was called the Congress of the Confederation. The first Congress of the United States did not convene until 1789. They just restated the law after the federal government was established. A few years earlier in 1783 at the signing of the Treaty Of Paris which formally ended the war between Britain and America, Britain gave America sovereignty over the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains, north to the Great Lakes and south to the Ohio River. Today that area would encompass Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. So the ordinance is interesting in that one… instead of letting the established states expand, it allowed for new states to come into the union.. and the second thing it did was to prohibited slavery in the new territory. The boundary would set the tone for the political battles between free and slave states all the way up to the mid 19th century… ie the Civil War. In 1787 Richard Allen founds the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the oldest AME church in the nation and is the oldest church property in the United States to be continuously owned by African Americans. Now we can’t go pass 1787 without mentioning brother Prince Hall. Prince Hall founds the first African Mason Lodge, in Boston, Massachusetts and become the first black Grand master. Rhode Island and South Carolina ends domestic and international slave trade. Now I’m like many of you.. I mean we fought a war over slavery. How is it that many of the colonies prohibited their citizens from engaging in the slave trade? Well I found out that the phrase “slave trade” is “literal.” You see I always assumed the selling of slaves was what they called the slave trade. It was not. The slave trades were when slaves were exchanged for trade goods such as brandy or guns. Slaves were being kidnapped from Africa and taken to the West Indies or North America to be traded for a cargo of rum or sugar, which was then taken back to Europe to be sold. It was still legal for whites to go to Africa, kidnap people and bring them back for sale… you just couldn’t trade them for goods. This action by many of the states was kinda mute since most of them had banned the importation of slaves from Africa anyway.
Me: My lord Porkchop.. what the hell happened to you!! Porkchop: Well you know how dey got dat Crawdad-12 and every thang going around.. peoples getting sick and all… Me: Yep.. Porkchop: Wells, I wanted to get me some mo beer at Black Jacks Liquor store.. but I ain’t want to catch the Crawdad… Me: Ok… Porkchop: So I got me a white pillowcase and cut two eye holes out… Me: Sit down Porkchop… I’ll call the doctor…
In 1788 the United States constitution is ratified and adapts a clause wherein slaves are designated as three fifth a person and includes provisions for the recapture of fugitive slave. New York passes a new comprehensive slave law, confirming that all current slaves are slaves for life. A life changing invention called the cotton gin will change the south and precipitate the selling of human beings on a scale unknown since the founding of the our country. There were almost 700,000 thousand slaves in the country before the invention of the cotton gin, just twenty years later there would be 1.2 million slaves working on the plantations of the south, an increase of seventy percent. Between 1795 and 1820 there was what historians call the “Second Great Awakening.” It was a period in which slaves would convert to Christianity by the hundreds of thousands for the first time. So in 1800 a lesser known insurgency took place in Richmond, Virginia. It was called “Gabriels Rebellion.” Remember what I told you about rebellions? The just won’t give it up. Anywho, the action was led by an literate slave named Gabriel Prosser. He had two brothers, Solomon and Martin. They were owned by Thomas Prosser of the Brookfield Plantation. Brookfield was over 2000 acres!! Now according to history Gabriel stood 6’3 and had a slender frame. His two front teeth were missing and he had a number of scars on his head. Even so he was well regarded by the local whites, who thought he was “a fellow of great courage and intellect above his rank in life”. Gabriel had planned the attack for August 30, 1800, but had to postpone it because of rain. Little did Gabriel know that Mosby Sheppard another slave owner, had been told of the plan by two of his slaves. Mosby warned the governor James Monroe, who would later become the fifth president of the United States, of the planned attack. Monroe sent out the militia, who caught Gabriel near Norfolk. He was spotted there by another slave who betrayed him for the reward for his capture. Of course the slave who betrayed Gabriel did not receive the whole reward. Anywho, Gabriel was brought back to Richmond and questioned. It was all a formality though, because he along with his two brother and twenty three other were hanged. In 1801 Virginia and Maryland slavery law is extended to Washington DC which then establishes a federally authorized slave code. In 1804 New Jersey moves to end slavery and the following year Virginia allows slaves to accompany white masters to religious services presided over by white preachers. Makes you want to shout.. ” Oh Massa!!” What’s that?. Can you hold on for a minute.. there’s somebody at the door.
Sapphire Daonlytruf Lyon: Where is that polecat Porkhop!!! Me: He is on the couch Daonlytruf, he got hurt at Jacks. Daonlytruf: He’s a lying buzzard!! Me: Whatcha mean? Daonlytruf: That little johnson broke into my house and my stole beer!!! I caught him and grab him by the cylinder, and was getting ready to turn his engine off.. when he stepped on the gas and got away.. I traced his oil leak to you!! Me: Porkchop your sister wants to speak with you.. Porkchop: Tell her I’m in the shop.. Daonlytruf: Nigga you gonna need a new ignition cause Ima yank that one out!! Me: Well I’ll leave you to it.. I just need to get my laptop…( I close the door… I hear Porkchop saying something about.. ” no, no please.. please… look..you done broke my gasket…) I sit on the porch and open my laptop… I think to myself.. Porkchop lives across the street.. I can use the wheelbarrow to get him home after Daonlytruf finishes with him.. I might as well drink the beer he bought…
Reprint: Hill1News © April 2020