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Emancipation’s long foreshadowing

March 1, 2021 | xppcyhzz | No Comments

first_imgIra Berlin, a pre-eminent historian of African America who is now in his 70s, visited Harvard this week, both to give (lectures) and to receive (an award).Berlin, who teaches at the University of Maryland, delivered the lectures on “The Long Emancipation” for the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.But the award, the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal for 2014, took him by surprise. On Tuesday, Berlin was poised to deliver the first of three days of lectures in this year’s Nathan I. Huggins series when center director Henry Louis Gates Jr. popped the news in front of a standing-room-only crowd.“His books are required reading,” said Gates, who added that one had “changed my life”: “Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South” (1974). That was Berlin’s first book, and it turned Civil War history on its head. By using census data, he showed that by 1860 more freed blacks lived in the slaveholding South than in the slave-free North. “He did it,” said Gates, “by using numbers in plain sight.”The medal was the first awarded since the center changed its name in October. Given since 2000, the medal is Harvard’s highest honor for those whose work contributes to the African-American experience. As a Du Bois medalist, Berlin is in stellar company. Last fall, the award went to six recipients, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and film director Steven Spielberg. At Tuesday’s lecture, stellar company was also present: celebrated historians Bernard Bailyn, David Brion Davis, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, and Rebecca J. Scott. “If this roof falls in,” said Gates, “the fate of American history would be in serious trouble.”Berlin’s later scholarship traces the black American experience in ever-widening geographic arcs. His book “The Making of African America” (2010) challenges a dominant narrative in black history: the movement from bondage to freedom. He offers a counter-narrative, saying that “four great migrations” illuminate a less linear view of the black experience in America. These transformational dislocations, Berlin wrote, were creative and courageous searches for identity, meaning, and a sense of place.They start with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, continue with the forced migrations of slaves south and inland to work on cotton plantations, include the 20th century migration of blacks northward in search of work, and show new black Americans moving from Africa and elsewhere.The “long emancipation”In his lectures, Berlin laid out an argument for reassessing the trajectory of black liberty. “We tend to think of emancipation as a moment,” he said. “I’d like to think of it as a movement, a near century-long movement.” (Berlin’s last lecture, “Bloody Struggle,” is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday in the Thompson Room.)The series had as its subtitle “Rethinking of the Demise of Slavery in the United States.” Berlin recast the temporal frame back to the 18th century, when he said the principles of the American Revolution helped to start the long unraveling of slavery. In 1776, opponents of slavery and slaves themselves acquired the “great weapon” of the Declaration of Independence, said Berlin. As far back as 1781, Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, foresaw the institution’s demise.By the end of the 18th century, states in the upper South were loosening their bonds to slavery as a way of life. Then came “a counter-revolution,” said Berlin, a 19th century in which abolitionists and slaveholders increasingly squared off in escalating conflicts that culminated in the Civil War.The resonant Declaration of Independence combined with the Bible to create what Berlin called the twin “ur-texts of American nationality.” Meanwhile, state governments, lawyers, and religious abolitionists continued to assault the institution of slavery, battling opponents who, Berlin said, “warred on all fronts.”Slavery was already weakening by the time of the war that banished it. By 1860, chattel bondage in the South was “leaking like a sieve,” Berlin said. Slaves were fleeing in greater numbers, “self-purchasing” their freedom, and winning “freedom suits” in the courts. So the demise of slavery was not a moment or an event (the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment), said Berlin. “Slavery came apart in pieces,” starting nearly a century before the war of 1861-1865.Still, there were more American slaves in 1860 — about 4 million — than at any other time. The institution was coming apart, but it wasn’t happening quickly.Emancipation’s four elementsIn the end, four key elements wove through the 85-year story of the “long emancipation” that started in 1776: the primacy of ex-slaves, a shifting debate over race identity, deliberations about the meaning of equality, and constant violence.Central to the long road to freedom was the core of ex-slaves. They provided opposition that was “direct and personal,” and added fire to the message of white abolitionists. (Berlin acknowledged their efficacy.) These passionate black advocates also helped neutralize widespread apathy to the institution among many slaves, and among blacks already freed.Free and prosperous blacks contributed to inertia by hewing to hierarchical ideas of authority, by fearing the wrath of slave owners, and by limiting social contact with slaves. This added up to a trope of antebellum black newspapers that “freed people of color” were not doing enough to end slavery. (In many cases, Berlin said, they even bought slaves themselves.) Yet by 1860, freed blacks in the South — living representations that freedom could work in a post-slavery world — had become vital to ending slavery. Berlin called them “the yeast that makes the bread rise.”Then came another crosscurrent, a debate over the meaning of race. The Declaration of Independence “had made equality normative,” said Berlin, but in racial terms had it made equality real? People asked: What distinguished whites from blacks? Some even asked, are blacks human? (One unhappy consequence of the race debate was an uptick in physiological studies in pursuit of race differences.)Another element involved a different debate. If the Declaration demands a logic that the American republic be interracial, said Berlin, what does that mean and how far can it go? Thus began a “long chapter on the making and remaking of race.”As for the “final feature of emancipation” — violence — that was ubiquitous and consistent. With slavery’s grip loosening, “the violence begins almost immediately,” said Berlin. In particular, child kidnapping bloomed. Slavery proponents even snatched pregnant free women and moved them across borders so their children would be born in slave states. Berlin used the analog of the Amber Alert. “Think of this happening all the time,” he said.The violence ratcheted higher. By the 1820s and ’30s, there were race riots, race “cleansings,” and “open warfare” among vigilante societies, Berlin said, whose actions by the 1850s — the “years of great violence” in Bloody Kansas and elsewhere — foreshadowed the slaughter of the Civil War. By then, “violence was raised to yet another level,” said Berlin. “But the pattern was already established.”There was social violence too. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence became that “great weapon” of freedom. But in 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision opened the door for slavery to reach into the North. That set the stage for the war, and for an end to slavery, as well as (in theory) an explicit beginning of black American freedom. It was a long time coming, said Berlin. “Emancipation was a gradual struggle.”last_img read more

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 25-year-old New York City police officer from Massapequa died Monday after authorities said he was shot in the head by an alleged gunman while patrolling Queens Village over the weekend.Demetrius Blackwell, 35, was initially charged with first-degree attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Those charges are likely to be upgraded after the officer, Brian Moore, who was admitted in critical condition at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, died, according to the NYPD.“Condolences to the family of PO Brian Moore who lost his life today. RIP to a true hero. We will never forget. #Hero,” tweeted the department’s 104th Precinct Monday afternoon.“The defendant is accused of firing a weapon at two officers without warning, one of whom was struck in the head,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “The defendant faces life in prison for his alleged actions.”Authorities said Officer Moore and his partner, Officer Erik Jansen, were in plain clothes and sitting inside an unmarked patrol car while assigned to the 105th Precinct anti-crime team when they saw Blackwell “adjusting an object in his waistband” at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said.Officer Moore, who was driving, followed the suspect as he walked southbound on 212nd Street, and questioned Blackwell about his actions as he turned eastbound on 104th Road. Then the suspect allegedly fired two shots into the police car, striking Officer Moore in the head, police said.The suspect fled while Officer Jansen called for backup. Moore, who was on the force for five years, underwent emergency surgery and was in a medically-induced coma upon being hospitalized. Blackwell was apprehended 90 minutes later in the South Queens neighborhood about a mile from the Nassau County line. Police said that he had numerous prior convictions for violent felonies.Queens Judge Michael Yavinsky ordered Blackwell held without bail Sunday. Blackwell is due back in Queens court Friday. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.last_img read more

first_img The Canaries were thrashed 3-0 at Tottenham on Boxing Day but remain outside the relegation zone on goal difference. Victory over Villa would move Neil’s team 12 points above their opponents, who are rooted to the bottom of the league after winning just one game all season. “There are games in and about you that you’ve got to win, so I would probably call it a must-win, even though I don’t think anything’s going to be determined by this particular game,” Neil said. “However, three points against them certainly makes things a lot better. “It’s a snowball effect between now and the end of the season. Every game becomes bigger if you don’t win games.” Norwich, like Villa, had just 48 hours between fixtures, but Neil was confident his players would recover in time. “It will be interesting to see how we respond but other teams will have to do it as well, it’s not as if it’s just us,” Neil said. “It’s not as if they’re called upon to do it all the time, it’s a one-off and we need to get ourselves ready because it’s an important game for us.” Midfielders Wes Hoolahan and Gary O’Neil were left out of the side at White Hart Lane but both could return for the clash at Carrow Road. Andre Wisdom and Matt Jarvis, however, are unlikely to be fit. “Wes was one where if I had played him against Tottenham, he wouldn’t have made the next one. The next game suits him,” Neil added. “Gary O’Neil was a different situation, he couldn’t make the (Spurs) game as he wasn’t quite ready. We had to give him an extra day’s rest.” Press Associationcenter_img Norwich boss Alex Neil admits Monday’s crunch basement battle against Aston Villa could set the tone for the second half of the season.last_img read more