The Legacy of Slavery

The Legacy of Slavery

This a touchy subject. One I'm a bit nervous to write about! I'm sure this will cause controversy on both sides..but especially for those who would rather pretend slavery never happened.

If you're of distant [Sub Saharan] African descent and living in Europe or the Americas, it's almost a guarantee you are a descendant of slaves. But with so many White Americans being a heinz 57 of Irish, Italian, Polish, etc descent, many don't know whether or not they are descended from slave owners.

As someone who was once an avid genealogist, I have thoroughly researched my family tree. My mom's side is Italian, so no slave owners there. They were just hardworking immigrants who faced their own discrimination and adversity.

But my White Anglo Saxon Protestant father, who I can thank for my pale skin and light eyes, has deep roots in the deep South. And while his family takes pride in their American gentry heritage, what they choose to ignore is that the wealth and prosperity of their forefathers..and by extension, to at least some degree, their own..was built on the backs of slaves.

It's upsetting to find a slave owner in your family tree. And equally upsetting to find another. But when it beomes another..and another..and another..it becomes a very humbling experience. And raises so many questions.

My 6th great grandfather Thomas owned 30 human beings. Men, women, children. Any children they may have had were his belongings at birth. It was his right to use or dispose of them as he saw fit..and why? Because they were Black. No other cause or justification. As if there could possibly be any.

And someone might say "well Abby, you never owned slaves". But does that mean I don't benefit from his inhumanity? Think of this: I'm named after my great great grandmother, Abigail, who was in turn named after Thomas' daughter, Abigail. It's something called legacy and it pervades generations.

I once visited the home Thomas and his family lived in. It's located in Virginia, the state where I have lived since age 12. It's a beautiful house and though it's been extensively modernized, it still remains very close to what it looked like the day it was built..

..by those 30 slaves.

And amazingly enough, I have cousins living there. A well to do descendant of Thomas and his wife purchased the home for their retirement after discovering the man's family connection to the property. It's sickens me when I think of the fact that my cousins live in the home my grandfather's slaves built.

That's legacy.

To think that I only inherited my lily White skin from my Southern ancestors would be the height of naivete. My complexion comes with privilege. To live in a society that, to this day, over 150 years after the end of slavery, still says I'm superior because of it.

And I'm not ashamed to be White. I think my features are beautiful. However, I don't think they entitle me or anyone else to opportunities others are denied. And this is sadly the case.

And while I refuse to feel guilt for my father's accomplishments or my siblings' or any I may have because I still believe in the American dream, I also refuse to be blind to the fact that in some way, we're still building our lives on the backs of 30 slaves.


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What Guys Said 11

  • I too am the descendant of slaves. First my ancestors were enslaved in Egypt but escaped with Moses or so the religious texts say, I have no way of verifying. Then they became serfs in Ukraine which was a part of the Russian empire at the time.
    My family was liberated once Alexander II also known as Alexander the Liberator freed the serfs in 1861 making it one of the last countries to free its slaves.

    Slavery has existed for along time and affected every race. To this day it continues to exist and is actually much worse than ever before even though it is illegal.

    Holding onto the past and bickering about enslavement only creates a new form of enslavement, one of the mind.
    It creates what Nietzsche described as slave morality or as we know it today playing the victim.

    We must accept and learn from what happened to move forward.

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  • And? Society has been built thanks to slaves. Egyptians used slaves back then. The pyramids weren't built by volunteers.
    It's not right, slavery is very wrong and I'm glad it's eradicated today, but societies were built by slaves from ALL colors.
    Every society had slaves back in the day, but not every society was smart enough to succeed and maintain/gain power.

    Slavery is a touchy subject for African American people because they were the majority of slaves in America (there were many Irish too, but people tend to "forget" about them >.>), and because America is a powerful country. If America would have never risen to power and became just a normal, regular country, people would have gotten over slavery.

    Do you know what the Barbary Slave Trade was? I bet 99% of people who complain about slavery and how black people had it so bad, don't even know what the Barbary Slave Trade is, and you know why? Besides the obvious lack of education, it's because the countries involved in that trade, never became powerful. People hate other people's power and success. It's a fact. The say the US was built by black slaves, but don't mention the African countries built by white slaves.

    The legacy of slavery is the world we live in, not just America, but Canada, France, Italy, China, Iran, Brazil... without slaves most countries/societies would have never reached where they reached.
    Why feel ashamed or sorry for certain people, but not for the rest? Sure, your family owned slaves, but it's very likely that the family of those slaves, were slaves owners few generations back.

    People should stop bringing up slavery and GET OVER IT! Slavery is over, it was abolished long ago, people need to move on, and get over it.

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  • You know indentured servants were treated much worse than slaves right? Only about one percent of people in the south were slave owners, and most subsaharans today came from the Caribbean to escape slavery by Latinos. In fact we only had about 400,000 subsaharan slaves registered. Not saying that's okay by any means. But I mean this country definitely wasn't built on the back of slaves - majority of plantations hired teenagers to work the harvest. Meanwhile, mainly Irish, white indentured servants had the shit beaten out of them while they were under contract to build infrastructure in the north, and if they died, they died. That's never discussed. Why do we need to have white guilt over something our ancestors we never even knew existed, to a few hundred thousand people. I mean it's taught in schools that we should feel guilty about this crap - most of it is a glorified as Thanksgiving, which is also a scam.

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  • It was the white race that abolished slavery and fought wars around the world to end slavery.
    All criticisms and attempts to guilt white people over slavery are invalid.

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  • Pretty straight with it, I like that.

    Now someone write about their past relatives tricking the Chinese into building the railroad. :o

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    • I thought about the Chinese too. They weren't actually slaves cause the got paid and were free to leave, but like you said, they were tricked, and treated very poorly... people tend to "forget" about that -_-

    • @AleDeEurope We're always left in the dark, even on GaG D;

  • Nonsense. My family was dirt poor from Ireland when slaves were had here. My family didn't come to the US until around 1900 on my father's side. Blacks owe more of their problems to the black father that abonded them 20 years ago than the white man 200 years ago. Blacks have special rights now such as having to score a lot less than whites and Asians to get into Ivy League schools (like 450 less points), in Florida schools they are given higher grades simply because of skin color, they are given preferential treatment for jobs and promotions at work. Enough is enough. Of course all of this can't be said but people know.

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    • Abandoned*

    • You clearly didn't read it because I made the point about European immigrants in one of the first paragraphs.

    • You state that you don't think you are entitled to what others are denied... perhaps that was true in the past but today it is the opposite for whites.

  • Are we talking strictly about Black, Southern slavery, or slavery in general?

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  • Very interesting take and I do agree with a lot of the logic - Yes there is wealth that was created by slave ownership but is there enough left to say a group say any white in the south who earns over x amount of money no obviously not because that negates any white who earned it through hard work as you say.
    My view on shall we say the dark periods of history like slavery, the holocaust is that we learn from them not to repeat them but not use them as justification which is why I believe this idea of "x/y/z privilege" or certain countries/races treating other countries/races like crap using because they were treated so horribly by another country/race as justification is wrong.
    Anyone who knows me on this site knows I am a committed egalitarian who believes in the betterment of all people and I find the splintering into different groups each fighting their own corner a bit disconcerting.. We are much stronger together where the total is more than the sum of its parts.
    I just want to finish on your concept of guilt - Yes feel some historical guilt, vow never to let it happen again but don't let it cripple you and on the flip side those who feel aggrieved, be aware and with the same attention vow never to let it happen again but don't let the quest for revenge/retribution for the past sour the present and the future.
    I am sure if any person goes back far enough in their family tree they will find something that doesn't shine a particularly good light on them. The saying goes "Nobody is Perfect" which I am sure is the same for family trees.

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  • Italian and Russian master genes combined crew chekin in, only nuclear warfare here brah. Mirin em guns? Ik u do

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  • cool story, bro!

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    • What do you think myTakes are supposed to be?

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    • @Polocrew lmao stfu xF

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  • Good take. You're right, there is no point being ashamed, but neither should people take it for granted (which a lot do).

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    • Well, I'm ashamed of his actions. I'm ashamed my family member owned human beings. I'm not ashamed of the color of my skin though. But I do recognize it's sort of an EZ pass in our society.

    • Yeah, i meant not being ashamed of your heritage rather than individuals. You recognition of the good hand you were dealt makes you grounded, and that's good.

What Girls Said 4

  • I really appreciate this post because you have illuminated what so many people wish those white descendants of slave owners in America/Europe would understand which is that its utterly ridiculous to blame you for something you did not do or that an ancestor did. We're talking different times and attitudes of that era as compared to today, but also, just because you have ugliness in your past, does not mean you can re-write history or white wash it all to just try and move on as if it didn't exist. To actually acknowledge that this was in your past is just that, to say it happened, and in your case, you don't agree what was done, which is what you hope most would feel like, and then move on to being the person you are with your own life and treating others the way you would hope to be treated. Unfortunately so many white people feel like to speak about this is accepting blame for something no one is actually blaming them for. If we ignore our past, we are doomed to repeat it.

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  • this is something that we should all think about and ponder on I will do some research in to my history but my people are Gypsy and we to have suffered at the hands of others.

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  • Well balanced.

    When I saw the title, I was like "oh no..." and kinda went in expecting the worst, lol. Pleasantly surprised at how you navigated this topic.
    I'm guessing this isn't the first time you've thought about it in these terms?

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    • Well.. I think for things like slavery, it's really difficult to think about in concrete terms because it happened so long ago. So people tend to be dismissive. I think it helps when you can draw that direct line and sort of experience history and see how it could have lasting effects.

      I think it's good to find that middle ground because it seems like a lot of people tend toward one extreme or the other

    • Indeed... indeed they do.

      Or, at least, the people on the extremes are a hell of a lot louder than the (saner) people in the middle, anyway.

  • nice take :D i like how you acknowledge these things but still take pride in yourself rather than drowning in fake guilt like some other people who take it too far :)

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