Originally published on June 6, 2020. Revised on March 5, 2021
"Not for a moment minimizing the significance of an institution of slavery that has been part of the economic system for thousands of years now all over the planet, one other significant fact overlooked by black ministers, black politicians, and by white politicians fighting racism during the electoral campaign yet never before or after that, not only that free blacks too owned black slaves, white slave owners were actually a minority among the white colonists. According to existing records, a majority among the white population of the pre and the post-Independence War did not owe slaves. An 1860 census shows that the year before the Civil War started even in the states of the Lower South and the Middle South, the first ones to secede from the Union, only 30.5% of the population owned slaves while in the Border States slave-ownership was even lower: 15.9%. This should give those who indiscriminately vilify today the entire white population of the country for what only a few would have been responsible of some two hundred years ago reason to revise their attitude. There is plenty of blame to go around, more so when slavery was and still is condoned in the holy books of our religious institutions, and when, once again, free blacks and Native Americans too were slave owners.
In addition to that historians do not dispute the fact that blacks have joined the anti-abolition Confederate State Army fighting the abolitionist North. The only thing they are debating over is the actual number that have enrolled and if they did that voluntarily or not.
As seen, blacks had already fought in great numbers against the American Patriots during the 1776 Revolutionary War, when the British shrewdly promised them the freedom the colonies were not yet ready to grant, and the same is true of the Native American tribes. In the battle of the Great Bridge near Norfolk, December of 1775, the war would officially start when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 but the revolution was already a fact in Massachusetts and Virginia as early as April of 1775, black slaves volunteered to form what is known as the Ethiopian Regiment. They were fighting against revolutionary Virginians on the side of the former British governor of Virginia, John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, and of the loyalists behind him.
When Thomas Jefferson became the governor of Virginia (1779-1781), he invited free blacks to enlist with the local militias, but it is unclear if any of them responded to that. At the same time, in the north, after slaves were promised freedom if they served in the Continental Army, about one-fifth of the Army was now black.
According to Gordon Wood (Friends Divided), during the Revolutionary War a minimum of twenty thousand black slaves fought on the side of the British, between 100,000 to 150,000 according to Thomas Jefferson, and if you ever visit Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, you will find there a sign reminding everyone that the Native American tribes too took the British side. Blacks would also enroll with the British troops during the 1812 war, when they once again fell for the promise of freedom made by the leaders of the red coats. The war of 1812 lasted three years, and it was during this war that the British destroyed most of the White House by setting it on fire. Its allies, the Native tribes in the north would massacre innocent, unarmed American citizens who had been promised safe passage to the colonies south of the border with Canada.
Black slaves’ fighting on the side of the British against America during the 1812 war is the reason why the third and today no longer used stanza of the American national anthem reads (my emphasis),
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusionA home and a Country should leave us no more?Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.No refuge could save the hireling and slaveFrom the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Same as in the case of the Native Americans many black slaves fought the United States of America on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War and during the 1812 war. However, 250,000 black men would later enroll with the abolitionist Union army that fought the South during the Civil War of 1861-1865. About 200,000 of them served, with some 40,000 black solders being killed in action or dying of battle-related causes. (Black Solders in the U.S. Military During the Civil War, archives.gov) For many years it was estimated that over 360,000 Union soldiers with the North died in the name of, among others, abolishing slavery in the South, with the vast majority of them being white. By 2012, however, historians concluded that the estimate was low and basically inaccurate, and that a lot more many on both sides had died in the battles. (New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll, by Guy Gugliotta, The New York Times, April 2, 2012)
In the trying days when the United States of America was about to be established, an event that would have significant consequences for the entire world, as the progressive leaders of some of the colonies were pushing for independence, they were having a difficult time convincing the other colonies to join the Revolution. To avoid dissent from the cause, as seen, an explicit language about the need to not only curb down but abolish slavery all-together was removed from the original text of the Declaration of Independence. Even so, in its final version the signatories were promising that a comprehensive set of unalienable rights was to be fully enjoyed in the future by all citizens of the Union, and from a legal point of view that promise was kept.
To appease some of the southern colonies that would have not participated in the war effort had he not done that, George Washington issued a proclamation forbidding blacks to join the Continental Army. As seen, colonists in the South were afraid that once they put guns into a black slave’s hands, he would turn against them, and as shown here, their fears were confirmed when black slaves decided against their best interest to join the British forces, and when they once again joined the British during the war of 1812.
It was the white man who in 1787 adopted an American Constitution that guaranteed freedom to all humans, disrespectful of their gender or race. At that moment the founding fathers were establishing the legal foundation the abolitionists were looking for in order to be able to begin the dismantling of the institution of slavery. Because of the economic and social negative effects emancipation was anticipated to have on society, this was not easy to accomplish, and it could not have been done overnight. It only happened when at the end of a Civil War that according to recent estimates had made some 750,000 victims, an all-white Congress at the time would pass the 13th Amendment. It became law on December 18, 1865, and it put an official end to slavery in America.
Hundreds of thousands of white people gave their life during the Civil War for the cause of the Union and abolition, and many white people died during the Civil Rights era fighting for the rights of their fellow black man. Considering that how others want us to perceive reality is not always what reality is, it is time and there is good reason for the people of America and of the world to correct that perception on their own.
The black folk and the white folk have a lot more in common, good and bad than some priests, historians, media organizations, and politicians would have them believe they do. We must learn the true lesson of our common history. In line with that we must honor the memory of all slaves, black and white, yellow or brown, and the best way to do it is by acknowledging the significant contribution they have made to the advancement of civilization Earth. Last but certainly not the least we must address the many problems with an existential system that continues to make billions of people on this planet into slaves without them even realizing it."