An African-American columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently opined that it is time to unlearn the “fake history” of slavery and “The Lost Cause” that ostensibly has been taught in schools in Virginia and the South. The truth might be more than he wants. Much of today’s “fake history” comes from calculated omissions in order to confirm one’s credentials as a victim in today’s progressive identity politics. Therefore, while we are “unlearning the fake history of slavery” it may be of interest to unlearn some of the “fake history” of the victims of slavery.
As by far the majority of our African-American citizens are the descendants of slaves imported into the United States (and would still be in Africa today had it not been for the African slave-trade) we might find of interest the testimony of the last known individual to have been smuggled here in a slave ship just prior to the War Between the States. The noted African-American anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston, recorded this testimony of Cudjo “Kossola” Lewis, near Mobile, Alabama, in her book Dust Tracks on a Road.
Lewis had been a member of the Takkoi nation. One morning they were attacked by the fearsome Amazon warriors of Dahomy, who burst through the gates of the compound while the male warriors waited outside to seize those who fled. The old and infirm were beheaded and their heads carried off as trophies. The rest were marched in a slave coffle to the Kingdom of Dahomey and the barracoons on the beach at Dmydah. On the second day of the march the severed heads began to rot, so the Dahomian slavers halted to smoke them. Lewis reported that they had to watch the drying heads of their friends and relatives turning on the long poles in the smoke.
At Dahomey, they saw the King’s palace surrounded by a wall of skulls before they were put into a barracoon on the beach to await the arrival of a slave ship. There were many captive tribes there, each tribe placed in a separate barracoon to prevent them from warring with each other. When a trader arrived, he would first decide which tribe interested him, and then – with the men lined up on one side and the women on the other – he would go along picking out the slaves he wished to purchase. Lewis was embarked in the Chlotilde, a fast sailing vessel built by the Maher brothers of Maine, who had moved to Alabama. They were chased by a British man-o’-war on slave patrol, but she outran it. Arriving at Mobile, the vessel and cargo were smuggled into the river, the hundred-odd slaves unloaded, and the vessel scuttled. The Africans then began their brief careers as slaves.
The implications of “fake history” today are that the South has a monopoly on sin, but one might note that the slave smugglers who brought Lewis and his people here were from Maine, one of the New England centers of the African slave-trade. The noted African-American historian and Harvard professor, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, in his work The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States, quotes the January 1862 issue of the New York Journal of Commerce as stating that New York, Boston, and Portland were the largest African Slave-trading ports in the world at the time.
Moreover, in her work quoted above, Zora Neale Hurston said that in spite of the fact that white people had purchased and exploited her people, the “inescapable fact that stuck in my craw, was: my people had sold me and the white people had bought me.” She said it did away with the folklore (fake history?) she had been brought up on, that white people had gone to Africa, waved a red handkerchief at the Africans to lure them onto the beach and aboard of the slave ship out of curiosity, and then sailed away with them. But no, she said, her own people had “butchered and killed, exterminated whole nations and torn families apart, for a profit” before strangers arrived, and all that Lewis had told her was verified from other historical sources, which impressed upon her the “universal nature of greed and glory.”
While Americans (North and South) owned slaves and traded in slaves, they did not enslave anyone. It was Black Africans who did that. How shall we fit that into the “Myth of American History,” our progressive Black Lives Matter identity politics, and our endeavor to “unlearn fake history”?
On January 7, 1861, Virginia’s Governor John Letcher convened the Virginia General Assembly in extra session because of the extraordinary situation of the secession from the Union of the State of South Carolina (followed by six others in the Deep South) at the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency - a lawyer and railroad lobbyist, and the candidate of a strictly sectional Northern political party in vocal and vitriolic enmity against the South. In the evening session of that same date, delegate Wyndham Robertson, who had once served as Governor of Virginia, presented to the House of Delegates what came to be known as the Anti-Coercion Resolution. The following is recorded in the Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia for the Extra Session, 1861 (Richmond: William F. Ritchie, Public Printer, 1861, pgs. 9-10) found in the Special Collection of the Library of Virginia:
When the secession crisis arose, Virginia, “The Mother of States and of Statesmen,” called a Peace Conference of all States to try to resolve the differences between the two sections and to hold the voluntary Union of sovereign States together that she and her statesmen had done so much to create. But Virginia told the Lincoln Administration in no uncertain terms that, while she thought the secession of the seven “Cotton States” was a mistake and unnecessary, they were fully within their rights, and she would not condone any coercion of those States by his administration to force them to return to the Union, warning him that any such attempt would lead to war.
Lincoln did not listen to the counsel of Virginia. He listened instead to his constituents in the industrializing North who had gotten him elected, and whose money interests would suffer or even collapse if the agricultural South – and particularly the “Cotton Kingdom” - were allowed to leave the Union and out from under the control of their “Mercantile Kingdom.” Lincoln therefore rebuffed all Southern overtures of diplomacy, and instead sent a heavily-armed armada to Charleston to provoke the South into firing the first shot and get the war he and his moneyed constituents wanted. After the success of his plan, he wrote to the commander of the expedition, Capt. G. V. Fox:
Lincoln then called for a quota of troops from each of the respective States - without the consent of Congress (which, under Article I, Sect. 8 of the Constitution, has the sole power to declare war) - to drive the “Cotton States” back into the Union at the point of the bayonet. Lincoln, the obfuscating lawyer, got around the Constitution by declaring that he was merely calling for troops to put down a rebellion too large to be contained by U. S. Marshalls – perhaps the understatement of the century. And since Lincoln did not recognize that the seceded States were out of the Union, by this masterful splitting of a hair he also absolved himself of treason (under Article IV, Sect. 4) for invading the Southern States with his armies. But “The Mother of States and of Statesmen” did not absolve him, for she was not taken in by his specious legal obfuscation. She knew what despotism looked like, for she had seen it “four-score and seven years” before.
When Virginia received Lincoln’s demand for troops, Governor Letcher was astonished and he emphatically refused to comply. A copy of his response may be found in the Richmond Enquirer, April 18, 1861:
The next day, April 17, 1861, the Virginia Convention, which had recently voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Union, passed Virginia’s Ordinance of Secession. As Winston Churchill wrote in his History of the English Speaking Peoples (vol. 4, pg. 169):
A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, the author graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1967 with a degree in Civil Engineering and a Regular Commission in the US Army. His service included qualification as an Airborne Ranger, and command of an Engineer company in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star. After his return, he resigned his Commission and ended by making a career as a tugboat captain. During this time he was able to earn a Master of Liberal Arts from the University of Richmond, with an international focus on war and cultural revolution. He is a member of the Jamestowne Society, the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Society of Independent Southern Historians. He currently lives in Richmond, where he writes, studies history, literature and cultural revolution, and occasionally commutes to Norfolk to serve as a tugboat pilot