Rethinking Indentured Servitude in America

Rethinking Indentured Servitude in America

Happy Black History Month!

Well, it’s actually April now, though. I planned on writing this weeks ago but for whatever reason, I’d been under the weather.

This website is all about sharing my truths, dreams, and visions of the future in an artistic way and otherwise through poetic expressions. As such, I have a yearning to share these ideals even if they are deemed unwise or ‘controversial’. I’ve been struggling back and forth within myself.

“Do I share this story idea?”

“Is it too weird?”

“What if I get a ton of hate from it?”

“What if no one understands what I was going for?”

Then another voice overpowers the doubt (figuratively, not literally of course) and answers these nagging doubts.

“Yes, share it.”

“No, every story is weird at its core once you give it more thought”

“There will always be internet trolls and agendas to control unharmful freedom of speech and its expression”

“Then keep explaining it until its better and more palpable. Refine your writing, hone your skills, and become the best version of yourself you can muster.”

So, here we are.

Today, I will talk about Indentured Servitude in America. It will not be anything like your 6th grade textbooks that show one illustration of the trans-Atlantic slave trade your grandparents never heard of, one (seemingly photoshopped) “negro auction” poster, or the stunning lack of artifacts cementing this time period – salve an ‘enslaved’ person in a white family’s photo album or two.

And no, we are not going the “slavery was a choice” Kanye route in this exploration. Although on some miniscule level I do see where he was getting at. This is not a denial of slavery, generational inequalities, racism that upholds the capitalistic system, the prison to pipeline, wealth gaps and other societal issues that plague a plethora of melanated people around the globe.

I am not minimizing or erasing any one body’s struggle. I simply don’t think it happened the way it did.

It always interests me, how many of our families came from the South. Most even have stories from the older generation about certain tribes they belonged to – which are written off by the younger generation as “self-hating”.

But then it stops there.

There is no research on the other parties’ vocative concerning the “Out of Africa” Theory. Which at its core, argues that since those with melanin oftentimes share the same features (darker skin, darker textured hair, wider noses) that they all came from Africa so they are indeed African. There is no account for cultural differences, aesthetic differences, even jumbled languages between a people – which all falls under the umbrella of Pan-Africanism.

Again, if you are African by no means this is not an offense.

I’m mainly speaking to the Black Americans who call themselves ADOS (A Descendant of Slaves) proudly without even searching their genealogy.

“Well I descend from a slave, there are no records. I don’t want to read about the family that owned me-“

They’d say, to which I’d reply “the information is there”.

Yes, there were a few choice records that were burned which is unfortunate, but there are things that can tell you if your ancestors arrived on a boat, or otherwise. I will go much deeper into this in later posts, as I am also in the process of researching my roots.

My grandparents always proudly claimed they were indigenous, so that is the knowledge I grew up with.

Despite saying this in during grade school ages and getting teased because I (and to quote) didn’t “look like the Indians in the textbooks”.

Which now that I am older, I’ve learned a lot of those on the reservation are of mixed European/white bloodlines that admit tribal citizenship on phenotype, or the color of your skin or the looser texture of your hair. Then again, the five major tribes were deemed ‘civilized’ because they interbred with the invading colonizers.

I then learned that there are still thousands of tribes that remain federally unrecognized, or state recognized only – that we never hear about.

I know this is not related, but it reminds me of the first time I learned that only one or two varieties of fruit are sold in the supermarket. I went my whole life thinking that there was only one type, to realize that I had been mistaken and just because I was constantly shown one singular fruit, it did not mean that it was the only breed left of its kind.

You’d be surprised what is really out there.

Anyway, before I go on to the core of this article, I would also like to caution against those who would seek DNA tests such as Ancestry, 23andMe, and the like. Those are mainly used for “entertainment purposes” and the companies make a fat check selling your DNA to private companies once it’s done.

Also just think about this: as I have just mentioned, the major five civilized tribes are intermixed with Europeans. The companies are not digging up ancient bones from ‘cursed’ burial sites and gathering data. So that ethnic group would be tested against those now claiming that identity. If there is a sizeable amount of European ancestry, it is not surprising that on the commercials there is always an old white lady claiming she is “30% Native American”.

This is not a conspiracy people, its critical thinking. Just think about that for a second.

But on to my original goal.

So by now, I’m sure you’ve heard Governor Ralph Northam’s comments, right?

During an interview with Gayle King (CBS), the Virginia man stated “Well, it has been a difficult week… If you look at Virginia’s history, we’re now at the 400-year anniversary – just 90 miles from here, in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort what we call now Fort Monroe and while—”

Keep in mind, the state of Virginia does not have its original boundaries and names of places have been changed over the years. Did a handful of indentured servants from Africa arrive on the shores of Virginia? Probably.

“But Stories From the New World, you just said that slavery was a choice and there were no Africans. Now there were Africans? This is fake news!”

Slow your roll, it’s not. I never denied that Africans did come to this land under whatever sort of contract, and that some of the Black American population today is descended from these individuals. There is nothing wrong with that. My issue is the propagation of the ADOS term (originally found in the depths of hell, otherwise known as ‘the underground’  forum on Lipstick Alley) without any research into your family’s history. The reliance on textbooks from middle and high school when we know that information is false and Eurocentric.

There are even running jokes about the lie that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. We know that isn’t true, (you can’t discover a continent full of people) yet it is still being taught this very day. Hell, the Columbus statue in Central Park is routinely vandalized with red paint symbolizing blood.

If you know that isn’t true, or that the Mercator projection of the world map is upside-down nonsense, or the basis for 1900s census reports – why do you prescribe to other bold faced lies? Maybe it’s just me, but certain things in this country’s given history have never sat well within me – thus I never internalized them.

I would also like to touch on one other incident similar to Northam’s comments, a ‘Freudian slip’ if you will.

Also keep in mind regarding Indian citizenship, in the 1900s census reports generally the rule was that unless you lived on a reservation you could not be classified as Indian. The taker was also given authority to use their own judgment during classification. So let’s say your family moved off the reservation to settle elsewhere. The census taker could see your darker skin and classify you as ‘Negro’, or Black. Is your wife of lighter skin? Maybe she would be classified Mulatto. But then the one drop rule kicks in, so your children would all most likely be black.

This is called reclassification.

There was a video clip I watched years ago on YouTube that showed government officials in a closed courtroom speaking. One of the men speaking referred to Black Americans as ‘aboriginals’. I could not remember the name of the video so I did a quick google search and stumbled upon this.

PBS screenshot of Rawls article in question

In 2011, Alabama senator Scott Beason came under fire for referring to “African Americans” as “aborigines”.  Of course, when you do a quick google search of the term ‘aborigine’ the native Australians come up as they have heavily been associated with it. But for humor’s sake, the definition is as follows: “a person, animal, or plant that has been in a country or region from earliest times.”

Beason on his comments and recantation

What is interesting, is that I cannot locate the original source article on BusinessWeek or the AP site. The single most interesting thing, is that when you search the ‘Phillip Rawls’ credited with the “Senator in Ala. probe called blacks ‘aborigines’”, the first article you would find is the Alabama political reporters retirement. 

“Senator in Ala. probe called blacks ‘aborigines'”

And that’s it. Of 38 results, only his name is listed once. The rest are others with either the ‘Phillips’ or ‘Phillip’ surname.

This is not what I was originally looking for, but regardless – where is this article other outlets sourced? Why can I not find it indexed on AP’s website when searching the author’s name and the title of the screenshot article as per the PBS video?

I did, however, find an article by Phillip Rawls where he covers the forced recantation of Beason’s statement. Rawls references the transcripts from the incident caught on a wire in question, but does not allude to the supposed groundbreaking article where he broke the story – the one that is continually quoted and referenced despite not being indexed. There is also no internal link to this infamous article.

Rawls’ recantation article on Beason’s Aborigines comment

I would think the journalist would go to his local or state papers, not the San Diego Union Tribune. Maybe I am missing something, but I will examine this further another day. The fact that another website linking to this phantom article returns a dead 404 page in the age of archiving is enough of a mystery unto its own.

BET decides to cover the ‘issue’ of Black American Aborigines

 I don’t put a lot of stock into this organization, but BET also has the same BusinessWeek link in their 2011 article that does not work.

There was a documentary I watched long ago that focused on the “heritage, not hate” argument for confederate flags and a movement lobbying for re-writing the history books in favor of the Confederacy. Along with the closed courtroom video I mentioned, I would like to locate these pieces of media and expand what was written in this article in a new article at a later date.

The last point of interest I would like to bring up.

It concerns an old book by Zora Neale Hurston. The anthropologist and folklorist went around 1930s Florida and Louisiana capturing and transcribing stories in the person’s native dialect. In Mules and Men, there is a story on page 89- 90 titled “Member Youse a Nigger”.

Ole John the ‘slave’ and Ole Massa save an overturned boat of children because Ole Missy (Ole Massa’s wife) expressed it would be sad to lose them because she’s never going to have more children.

John and Massa take the children into the house and Massa tells his ‘slave’ that if he “make a good crop dat year and fill up de barn” and lay the crops for the following year, he would “set him free”.

So the next year John upholds his end of the bargain, and Massa lets him go despite not wanting to “git rid of a good nigger lak you.”

“So he went in de house and give John one of his old suits of clothes to put on. So John put it on and come in to shake hands and tell ‘em goodbye. De children they cry, and Ole Missy she cry…”

They didn’t want to see John leave. John then has his suit on and assembles a bag of provisions. Ole John starts down the road and Massa tells him that the children love him, he loves him and even his wife likes him. But despite all this – remember “youse a nigger”.

The further John got, the shouts from Massa screaming his love never faded, along with the adage of remembering he was still a nigger.

“Ole Massa kept callin’ ‘im and his voice was pitiful. But John kept right on steppin’ to Canada. He answered Ole Massa every time he called ‘im, but he consumed on wid his bag.”

The first time I read this story, my mind was blown. Given all American children are taught about slavery, being born into slavery, etc. – why would the plantation “master” give a negro slave his best suit, free him and send him on his way with supplies?

Which brings us back full circle to another good ole Southern Freudian slip, this time concerning Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his recent comments that suggested slaves were indentured servants. Regaling the same main stream media outrage and cries of apology from…the main stream media.

Maybe in our old age our subconscious begins to slip further and further into telling the truth?

Who knows, but either way this is something of note and I wouldn’t be surprised if they try and get this man to retire. This is the second time he has essentially spilled the proverbial beans. But this is my truth, something I prescribe to. I invite you to do your own research on subjects of interest, and to never blindly accept anything you see or hear without your due diligence.

 I’d just like to put this out there, in the hopes that it sparks a chain reaction of research and morally, factual, and socially constructive dialogue on truths long hidden in this country of America.

Is there a difference between indentured servants and slaves? What do you make of these comments concerning the ancestry of Black Americans? Do you remember the stories your grandparents or the older generation told you as a child?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you! Also, be sure to bookmark this webpage and check back for more content soon! We’ve got some episode reviews coming up in April and the exploration of the Solarpunk theme as well as more Stories From the New World!

⊙ Remember, this world is a shadow of the real one.

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