13 thoughts on “The Political Legacy of Slavery and Racism

  1. Chuck September 23, 2013 / 9:12 am

    Old times here are not forgotten. This is a fascinating study. Thanks for posting it.

    • Don September 23, 2013 / 4:21 pm

      Excellent study. Would like to see a before (Civil Rights Act, 1964) and after study of partisanship, which would undoubtedly confirm the reason for the “immaculate conversion” of these same counties from the Democrats to the Republicans after its passage. Racism does not explain everything about Southern politics, but it dwarfs all other factors.

  2. M.D. Blough September 23, 2013 / 11:00 am

    Quite a few years ago, I read a study comparing slavery in Cuba and Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, slavery in Cuba, as in the rest of the Caribbean, was very harsh. In Cuba, the Roman Catholic Church played some role in such areas as resisting the breakup of slave families (the Church was after saving as many souls as possible once the original campaigns against the indigenous peoples were over and (1) they did not encourage living in sin and (2) since marriage was a sacrament, the Church campaigned against breaking up slave families. In Virginia, many planters actually resisted their slaves being exposed to Christianity, recognizing that there were portions of the Bible, such as Exodus, that were distinctly problematical. The racial lines were more blurred in Cuba. White men rarely if ever married black women but they often set their black mistresses up in some comfort and often recognized and freed the offspring of those relationships and even, sometimes, the mothers. One of the reasons that this was true was that under Spanish rule, all relationships were hierarchical regardless of race and there was very little upward mobility from the class in which you were born. Therefore,slavery was just an extreme form of hierarchical relationship.

    However, it was the American Revolution’s roots in the Enlightenment that made the racial divide so bitter. If one truly believed that all men were created equal, at least on the basic inalienable rights/civil liberties of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, how could one justify keeping anyone in bondage, especially one who was innocent of any crime, much less assert total control over their offspring? Even if, as in the case of indentured servitude, a person arguably could surrender their own rights, they could not surrender the rights of future generations. Slavery in the United States began with a monster case of cognitive dissonance. People hate cognitive dissonance so they work frantically to resolve it. In the case of many slave owners, they did so by embracing an ideology that held that blacks were inferior so that they weren’t born with any inalienable rights. Some states and, in the Southern states, some slaveowners, in the early years after the Revolution, went the other direction by freeing their slaves but, in the South, social pressures mounted against that and, eventually, legal barriers. Calhoun and his followers explicitly rejected the Enlightenment and its core idea of inalienable rights.

  3. Mark September 23, 2013 / 3:30 pm

    I think M.D. Blough is essentially correct. I think it is widely believed, and I’ve heard it asserted frequently, that the Greeks believed some were fit to be slaves and they draw evidence in the writings of Aristotle. But in fact, Aristotle said many things about the topic that indicate otherwise, which merely highlights the fact that the Greeks did not think slaves were inferior by nature. They thought slavery was a necessary institution to Greek society, which it was, and they thought slaves just lost a grand lottery of some sort. Someone had to it. It is a mistake to read the attitudes of later slavery advocates back into history. A really good book on that is “Race: The History of an Idea in the West” by Ivan Hannaford.

  4. HankC September 23, 2013 / 3:41 pm

    “1,344 Southern counties in the Cotton Belt” seems like an awful lot of counties for the entire south, much less the cotton-producing ones…

    • Andy Hall September 23, 2013 / 6:20 pm

      I’m sure they’re taking whole states, which for Texas alone means 254 counties, or almost 19% of the total. The analysis seems to have been done on a county-by-county basis, though, so while the pool is large, the dataset (n=39K) is large enough to allow for local variation.

  5. lenastorheim September 23, 2013 / 4:00 pm

    Very informative! Thank you for posting this!

  6. Lyle Smith September 23, 2013 / 6:10 pm

    Now we just need to figure out what present attitudes aren’t explained by historical circumstances. Then we’ll know everything.

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 23, 2013 / 7:17 pm

      Why do I think you’re pulling my leg in the last statement?

      • Lyle Smith September 23, 2013 / 8:34 pm

        I’ll put a smiley face at the end next time.🙂

  7. cc2001 September 24, 2013 / 5:07 am

    As a Republican this study makes me sad. We have so much healing ahead of us from this ugly wound.

    I always smile when the flagger blogs refer to the readership here as liberal whacko types. I am an avid reader, occasional commenter, and quite conservative. I read both Charles Krauthammer and Dr. Simpson every day. Not all of us are racist, revisionist or science denying. For what it’s worth, remember that Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann (shudder) are northerners, while Kay Bailey Hutchison is from Texas.

  8. Sir September 27, 2013 / 9:07 am

    Uh, could be familiarity breeds contempt. The darker areas also largely have much higher black populations. What’s the black poplulation in Arizona, Brooks?

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 28, 2013 / 2:20 pm

      It’s Ed and Bettie … confessing that they hold blacks in contempt. What a surprise.

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