". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Is The Slave Trade?

This is farking amazing, though it follows through with what I see over and over again in scholarly and primary documents in the history of MD: the trade in slave is just plain ignored.

I just received an historical statistical economic study -- purely academic -- of the mercantile opportunity in colonial and early America Annapolis, 1763 - 1805, and the mercantile hegemony that controlled it. The words 'slave' and 'slave trade' do not appear in the index, nor, it seems anywhere in the text. Nowhere. Not at all. According to the author of the study, the foundation of Annapolis's prosperity, the most wealthy by far of all of England's North American settlements, was due to tobacco and tobacco alone. Even if this is true, how can you speak of the wealth generation of the tobacco trade, the agricultural labor, the ships, the insurance companies, all the rest, without mentioning the slave trade? How can you?

Also, there's this: many other studies speak matter-of-factly that what made Annapolis so stinking rich was its many merchants engaged in the African slave trade and the domestic trade as well (which, for much of that time was almost entirely local).

When it comes to Maryland, at least -- slavery and the slave trade were and remain deep dark secrets, a subject not fit for respectable discourse, much less history. Yet, as mentioned previously, the front pages of every issue of the Maryland Gazette have advertisements for the buying and selling of slaves and rewards for slaves that have runaway. Moreover, the author of this book (1975, Johns Hopkins Press), footnotes citations constantly from the Maryland Gazette.

This is evidence of the psychology of refusing to acknowledge what is all around you, of what you yourself do, that was essential for how and why slavery endured so long in this nation of constitutional guarantee of liberty and democracy.  Evidently that psychology endured well into the 1970's.  As with the determination to celebrate secession with balls and other gaities this very winter, that psychology is still operative in too many psyches.  Perhaps it is more proof that the national psyche, then, is also pathological.

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