I cannot think of a better time than during Black History Month to mark the 400-year anniversary of the first 20 black slaves to sit foot on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, naked and in chains in 1619.
Within 10 years after their forced arrival, wealthy slave owners sought to remove all legal and religious impediment to the practice of racial slavery. It was obvious black slaves had one function in the British colonies and that was to provide free labor for their masters.
In 1641, the Catholic Church endorsed the practice of slavery; this apostolic decree provided slave owners with the moral authority to declare that God ordained slavery, and it was the slaves duty to obey their masters.
The church history is replete with making concessions for the immoral destitution of slavery stretching back to Pope Paul V Papal bull in 1454, and the selling of 272 slaves in 1838 to save what is now Georgetown University.
Over the next 250 years, slave traders and greedy African chiefs turned the coast of Africa into a hunting ground for black human cargo rather than a missionary field to imbue the teaching of Jesus Christ’s Golden Rule.
On September 16, 1787, the Founding Fathers had an opportunity to strike a death blow to the inhuman practice of racial slavery. Instead, they turn a blind eye and gave their full support to slavery in three sections of the Constitution.
On April 12th, 1861, Confederate forces fired the first shot at Fort Sumter over the issue of slavery, and a bloody Civil War had begun.
Millions of slaves held in captivity on southern plantations heard the sounds of the cannons and suddenly became advocates for their own freedom. Lacking political power, money, food or access to weapons they went uninvited into the Union lines offering their help as laborers, guides and spies.
“On January 1, 1863, Lincoln came to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, this momentous decree became the (The Day of Jubilee) for millions of black slaves until the celebration of Juneteenth in Galveston.”
After tumult and war, the nation in 1865 took a new stand — freedom for all people. The new order was backed by the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution.
However, in 1896, the African-American community faced a major setback in the Plessy versus Ferguson decision. But they refused to sit back and allow the separate but equal sham deprive them of their constitutional rights to go unabated.
In 1954, the NAACP challenged and overturned the “separate but equal” sham in the landmark case of Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka.
In 1963, Martin L. King Jr. led a march on Washington where he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before the largest crowd in the history of the nation’s Capitol. His actions inspired President Lyndon Baines Johnson to sign into law the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the 1965 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts.
Today, 43 million descendants of 20 black slaves continue to fight for the true meaning of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.
Black history is the black book of capitalism in the richest nation in the world. The fundamental question here is how many generations it will take for African-Americans to reach total equality.
After 400 hundred years, “the ark of liberty is still bending toward justice.”