Monday, October 26, 2015

"Dred Scott" Today?

Recently in class, we discussed Dred Scott and his pursuit of freedom. Most people know the narrative...

Dred Scott was born into slavery in Virginia ca. 1799 and later his owner moved from Virginia, to Missouri, a slave state. He was then sold to Dr. John Emerson (who interestingly spent several years stationed at Ft. Snelling with Dred and Harriet Scott), a surgeon in the U.S. Army. Scott sued for his freedom based on the fact that he had been transported to and lived in free states/ territories and therefore should have been freed. 

The case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court...where they ruled that:

  • African Americans (slave or free) could never be U.S. citizens based on the Constitution.
  • White men were entitled to own property...which included chattel slavery.
  • The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional and that states did not have the power to decide slave or free state status.
  • All of the United States was open to the ownership of slaves in "free" or "slave" territories.

How is this any different in 2015? 

Four miles north of where Dred Scott is buried and over a century later Michael Brown was gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri...can you hear the echoes of the Dred Scott Case ringing in your ears?

We must ask...

Why has our society not come to regard or fully recognize African Americans, Native Americans,
other people of color, women, etc. as full citizens?

Why is there an irrational fear of African Americans, etc. in our society?

Why is it dangerous to Black, Brown, etc.?

Why do we need to patrol our streets in full military gear, tanks?

Why racial profiling, police brutality?

Why the school to prison pipeline?

Why the so-called "Drug War" manufactured to incarcerate our youth?


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enslaved Inventors

Recently in class, we have been studying the insidious effects of the Industrial Revolution (new inventions and technology...especially the cotton gin, the idea of interchangeable parts, mass production, etc.) of the early 1800's on the exponential growth of slavery.

"McCormick's" Reaper

In 1858, the U.S. Attorney General (defending the U.S. Patent Act of 1793 and 1836 which barred slaves from obtaining patents because they were not U.S. citizens) - Jeremiah S. Black - said that because slaves were considered property, their ideas and inventions were the property of their masters. In other words, many slaves invented new technologies that are not credited in the so-called history books...

"Famous" Slave Inventors:

Sam- Sam and his father invented a comb that removed cotton seeds from cotton fiber.  Eli Whitney took this invention and developed a mechanized cotton gin.

Jo Anderson- Jo helped his master Cyrus McCormick create and build the famous reaper...Jo has been acknowledged by the McCormick family for his many contributions to the reaper.

Ned- Ned invented the cotton "plow and scraper" which led to his master to argue (in favor of slavery), "the master is the owner of the fruits of labor of the slave, both manual and intellectual...when did a free Negro ever invent anything?"

Benjamin Montgomery- Benjamin (belonging to the Jefferson Davis family) invented a ship propeller (that cut into the water at different angles) that would help river boats to navigate quicker in order to deliver products more quickly from his master's store.  Sadly, this propeller helped the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Benjamin Bradley- Benjamin worked in a printing office and at the age of 16 began collecting junk scrap metal, modeling it into a small ship. Eventually, he built/ tinkered with a working steam engine for his "ship"...and so the steam engine was born. Bradley eventually worked at the Annapolis Naval Academy, where he became a classroom assistant in the science department. At the Naval Academy, he developed a steam engine large enough to drive the first steam-powered warships in the 1840's.

Our next invention?!?