This discussion topic focuses on the origins of slavery in North America.
Part of the magic and interest in President Obama’s rise to the presidency is due precisely to the fact that he is perceived as “black” in a country that enslaved blacks for hundreds of years and where racism has a long and bloody history.
Without knowing this history, Obama’s achievement is impossible to appreciate — nor is the history of the U.S. As W.E.B. Du Bois once wrote, “The History of the U.S. is the history of the color bar.” Yes? No? Or is the truth somewhere in between?
PBS’s Africans in America website, a goldmine of information, examines the sources of American slavery. It can be reached by clicking HERE (Links to an external site.).
Before you leave, however, go with a critical mind and clear goals. Our goal as students is to understand slavery first. An understanding is important. All judgments about slavery should start with this foundation of understanding or one’s judgments are baseless. Arm yourself with knowledge.
The website is divided into four parts: the part we’ll be examining here is the first, called “The Terrible Transformation.” On that page is a Narrative link. Please click on it and follow the short but informative narrative or story that describes the rise of slavery in America. Take notes as needed.
When you are done with the narrative and have browsed the site’s photos and roll-over maps, return here to answer the following questions for this discussion topic:
- Eric Foner writes, “prejudice by itself did not create North American slavery.” Discuss what DID create slavery and the role racial prejudice played according to the makers of this website.
- Compare the two accounts of slavery’s rise in North America — Foner’s and that of PBS. How are their versions similar? How are they different? And why? (Do we know who the historians were who put together the PBS site? Also, who funds PBS?)
- List three facts or insights gleaned from the website that you find interesting, provocative, shocking, horrible. Then discuss each separately and link them to the chapter for this week.
- Finally, search the web for an instructive site on slavery in the U.S. (other than the PBS site) that you feel discusses an aspect or aspects on slavery that is not covered in Foner — or covered superficially.
Present your website to the course by providing a weblink in your answer, the name of the site, and a three-sentence summary of why you think it deserves to be visited by your fellow students. Be convincing, detailed, and provide that link so that others can visit your site. Good luck.