By Kevin Palmer
On Friday, July 21, 2017, Augusta, Georgia radio personality Austin Rhodes challenged his listening audience by asking the question, what if slavery never happened? Rhodes suggested America’s current achievements and prosperity would have occurred without the institution of slavery. Like the typical white privileged American, Mr. Rhodes is a student of distorted history and thereby misinformed about the importance of slavery to the foundation and success of America.
In the book, A People’s History of the United States, author and historian Howard Zinn wrote, “The historian’s distortion is more than technical; it is ideological.” Zinn went on to suggest distorted history “conceals fierce conflicts of interests between conquerors and the conquered, masters and slaves, capitalist and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex.
And, in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as suggested by Albert Camus, to not be on the side of the executioners.” In other words, thinking people should not be fooled by racist historians and understand European colonists could not have survived, and America could not have come into existence, without enslaved African labor.
Moreover, Zinn wrote, “Everything in the experience of the first white settlers acted as a pressure for the enslavement of Blacks. The Virginians of 1619 were desperate for labor, to grow enough food to stay alive.” The settlers even resorted to cannibalism. In a 1619 House of Burgesses document it stated, “Driven through insufferable hunger to eat those things which nature most abhorred, the flesh and excrements of man, one among them slew his wife as she slept in his bosom, cut her in pieces, salted her and fed upon her till he had devoured all parts saving her head.” Therefore, Mr. Rhodes, the historical facts suggest there would be no America without African slaves since European settlers were reduced to eating each other.
Furthermore, Zinn added, “The Virginians needed labor, to grow corn for subsistence, to grow tobacco for export. For this reason, African slaves were the answer because colonists could not force the Indians to work for them. They could not capture them and keep them enslaved; the Indians were tough, resourceful, defiant, and at home in those woods, as the transplanted Englishmen were not.” Unlike the European colonists, the Indians were not sociopaths and psychopaths who enslaved, raped, and murdered foreigners for their own pleasure.
Indeed, were it not for the free labor provided by millions of enslaved Africans for over 250 years, there would be no United States of America and, perhaps, no Austin Rhodes.