". . . 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

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Travel Is Educational

The things we saw and learned in the Gullah Country, which we did not previously know, but now we do, and much more:

... the sea island lineage has contributed to the development of the modern extra-long staple cottons, via the Egyptian cottons developed in Africa. The Egyptian cottons presumably are based on a cross between a wild Peruvian G. barbadense accession (Jumal’s tree cotton) and sea island cotton.  . . . 

Most of all it was interesting to learn that cotton agriculture could not get going until after Independence, due to England's protectionism of its woolens industry.  Then it was slowed significantly due to England's refusal to allow U.S. goods and ships most of the time, until in until sometime after the War of 1812.  I knew about this, but not the protectionism of England's woolens industry.

I have never seen so many huge, multistory and wing mansions concentrated in such a small region anywhere else,  neighborhood after neighborhood of them in Charleston, each massive pile larger than the one next door,  in every small town of the Sea Islands and coastal lands, each town a port town (and sometimes also a resort town, like Beaufort), that not only shipped out cotton and brought in necessary supplies and goods, but brought and shipped out slaves too.  The amount of wealth generated for all those generations is mind-boggling, all out of slavery.

Not all of it was from cotton though -- rice was a huge staple cash crop also.  But rice cultivation mostly disappeared after the Civil War, with the slavery on which it depended.  The rice planters had refused to mechanize, and thus when the war was over, they had nothing with which to get going again.

What I can't figure out is how so many of them kept going bankrupt, when they were generating such huge amounts of wealth for so many decades. Gambling was a big part of it.  But then Thomas Jefferson also was an indebted bankrupt most of his life, and certainly so when he died. Slaves were the collateral.  As long as you had slaves you could credit for everything from gambling debts to land. But the beast bit your family -- and the slaves, most of all -- when everything including the slaves were sold to pay for the patriarch's lifestyle -- even the patriarch's own children were sold. This went on for nearly three centuries.  No wonder everyone in the Gullah Country can say without the least bit of irony, "We are all related."

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