The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

September 11, 2019 11 By Kody Olson


– Good evening and welcome. Here to Georgetown University. Welcome to Copley Formal Lounge. This great ceremonial
space we have on campus. For this continuation of
the work that we’ve been undertaking this year with
the working group on slavery, memory, and reconciliation. Now, my name is Matthew Carnes. I’m a professor of government
here at Georgetown. And I’ve been working in
particular with one segment of our working group. It’s a sub committee focusing
on ethics and reconciliation. We’ve been charged by
the larger working group to especially consider
the ethical ramifications of Georgetown’s connection with the practice of slave holding. Georgetown’s connection
to the sale of 1838. To think through the ethical
ramifications of that. And especially to reflect
on what reconciliation might look like. It’s a challenging topic. It’s a topic that ignites
all sorts of different kinds of conversation, reflection
on the deep meaning. And the deep question of
what does it look like to think about the cost that’s been paid. That cost that’s been borne by so many. And the burden that leaves
then for really making amends. What does that look like? So we’ve been reflecting
on that in a deep way. And in these days we’ve
tried to gather some voices that could speak to this
part of the conversation. And when we first started
dreaming of people we could invite, we especially thought
of professor Ed Baptist. A graduate of Georgetown. Now professor of history
at Cornell University. Who’s looked specifically
at the relationship of slave holding and making
of the brand of capitalism that we have in the United States. His work has been really path breaking. And we knew he was someone
that could help us reflect in a deep way on these questions. So we’re delighted he could make it. He had quite a journey getting here. His train got canceled at Penn station. We were on the phone
throughout the afternoon. He generously made his
way out to Newark Airport. Made the last flight out at Newark. The first taxi over. And he got here about 10 minutes ago. So we are delighted
that he’s made it here. (applause) Now one of the real privileges of working on the working group has
been being part of an interdisciplinary group
of faculty and staff. And especially students. And so to introduce professor Baptist, I’m going to ask one of the
members of our working group to come forward. Conner Maytnier is a junior
here, in the college. He’s majoring government and sociology. He’s originally from the
northwest suburbs of Chicago. He serves as a resident
assistant in the spirit of Georgetown living
and learning community. The community that is in
the old Jeshua residence. One of which is buildings
we’ve renamed this year as part of our reflection. He’s also a senior advisor
in the Georgetown University student association. And he’s our student representative on the board of directors. So he fills many roles here. But most of importantly
on our working group. And so Connor, please come forward to introduce professor Baptist. (applause) – Thank you, father Carnes. Thank you all again for
being with us this evening. It is my honor to introduce
our featured guest tonight, professor Edward Baptist. Professor Baptist is an
associate professor of history at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. A 1992 graduate of our very
own school of foreign service. He went on to earn his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Baptist’s research
focuses on the history of the 19th century United States. Particularly on the
history of the enslavement of African Americans in the south. An accomplished author,
professor Baptist’s book titled the Half Has Never Been Told, Slavery and the Making
of American Capitalism, was published in the fall of 2014. The book explores the expansion of slavery in the United States in the
decades following independence. Told with the aid of slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers
and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs and escaped slaves, the Half has Never Been Told
offers a new understanding of American history as
it probes the evolution and modernization of the United States. Now please join me along
with the entire working group on slavery, memory and reconciliation in welcoming back to the hill
top, professor Edward Baptist. (applause) – Thank you for that
generous introduction. And thanks to the entire working group, especially father Carnes, for helping me to get here. Took some improvisation as he noted. And who knows, there may be
some improvisation in this. But we’ll see. But I am really grateful
to be invited back to speak in my alma mater,
particularly on this topic. Of course on the rare
occasions I’m invited back, well, anywhere, but especially
somewhere where I once studied and lived, I’m reminded of the book of Luke chapter four. Now there’s not much to
compare between Jesus of Nazareth and I, I must admit. iN our wisdom and character and what not. Not even the beard and the hair. The paintings in the white
people’s bibles are wrong. They’re not accurate. But still, I’m in a sense coming
back to my home synagogue. And I hope when you hear my message, you will not to quote Luke
the Gentile physician, you will not do like the people there. You will not be filled with rage. Take me to the brow of the hill and threaten to throw me off. This is pretty steep up here. But I know when I talk about this book, I bring a message that is hard to hear. It’s hard for me to hear. It’s hard for, I think, everybody to hear. And I do wanna bring a message
in its own way councils repentance and insists
that we must continue to seek harder for justice. Far harder than we’ve
done in the United States or throughout Georgetown’s history. That includes reparative justice. But you’re already hearing that message from many who are here, I think. And I come to add my
voice to their much more deeply informed ones. I think we’ve seen some
of that in recent days and we’ve certainly seen Adam Rothman front kind of on point with that. And I know also Angie
Mitchell, Maurice Jackson, Marsha Chatalain, the working group as a whole and president, who from my perspective
has been far more active on this issue than most
university presidents. And above all, the students,
the undergraduate students, who force this into the light. And forced it to the front of
the agenda here in Georgetown. It’s actually, I could joke about people being filled with
rage against me as a speaker. But it’s actually those
who work and study here day in and day out who bear the burden and the threat and the risk. The very real risk of raising
the challenge of truth. And that’s true whether you’re
an undergraduate student, or a university president
or anybody in between in the hierarchy, I know
there are different challenges and different risks. But nonetheless, it is risky
to raise that challenge. Because it’s risky to tell the truth of the story of the United States, of slavery, the story of
slavery in the United States even in 2016. The topic of slavery’s injustices
and what they mean today is the hardest one for the United States and people living in it to handle. Bar none. We repeatedly killed people. Hundreds of thousands at a time. On at least one occasion
over slavery and its legacy. And repeatedly and
continuously white Americans in particular have made
great wealth from slavery and its legacies. Assets stolen are only debts owed. Well I believe that for
us here in this room, faculty, students, staff,
alumni like myself, community members, we can’t
escape history’s judgment. The nature of our Georgetown community and I recognize is a different
community for each of us. The nature of that community,
its health, its successes in academic enterprise and its successes and institution dedicated something more than the growth of its
endowment and the rise in its average SAT, all depends on facing
the facts of the past, acknowledging them and making restitution. And in fact, I’d argue that
even Georgetown’s survival over the long run
depends on how we respond to the judgment of history. Universities, of course,
are under new kinds of pressure today. And if they cannot give
what we might call and alibi for there being a special role that involves not just preparing
people for job markets, but preparing them to be
justice seeking human beings. I think that universities are
not so long for this world. Georgetown is one among many
historically white colleges and universities or HWCUs
as I like to call them, whose histories are
inextricably bound to wealth accumulated out of profit
extracted from its slaved people’s labor, profit
collected from the sale of enslaved people’s bodies. Profit accumulated by
the reproductive labor of enslaved people’s families. And by that, I mean the labor, not just in conceiving, bearing to term, and giving birth, but
the labor done every day by the families of children and just family members in general. To bring them up to raise them to adults. And all of that, all of that grown over time
from initial investments, and the hot house of a national economy powered for its first centuries
by the fuel of slave labor drawing investment from outside. By the collateral of enslaved bodies. Spun up to high industrial
velocity on ghost acres, as we might call them. Stolen from its inhabitants and cultivated by the stolen, by the
twice stolen, in fact. Like the 272. And in fact, I think that
unless American society as a whole faces judgment over this issue, and makes just restitution,
it will not only fail to become what it could be, it will ultimately collapse. For otherwise, all it will ever be is a morally unredeemed empire. And every empire falls far
sooner than its rulers anticipate and unmourned by everyone else. Well, this message is not original to me. I did not discover it on my own. It comes to my mouth from
sources far greater than me. Including the best who
are or who have been here in Georgetown, current
faculty and administrators like those I mentioned, the students. Again, whose courageous
activism is pushing the institution to reexamine its history. What’s good historical work in my book, which you see the cover of here, a lot of that comes from the
faculty that taught me here. Above all, my advisor David
Johnson, who doesn’t teach here anymore, but taught African history here. But also John McNeil, among others who still teach here. And still others who
don’t teach here anymore, like Marcus Rediker,
Allen Karis, Moe Maru, and several others. From Maurice Jackson, who I worked with when he was just a grad student. But he pushed me to do
better and to be better. And for many of my fellow
undergraduate hoyas who did the same. And above all, I try as I think we should, to listen for the voices
of the 272 people who were sold as chattel. Transported from all they loved and resold to be sources of
wealth from still others. The wealth extracted from
that process of stealing made selling, but we
should call it stealing. Because it was a process full of violence. Even though it was 100% legal in 1838. The wealth. So I know you’ve been discussing
as all around us today. It has grown and multiplied
until its present value reaches a dozens or even
hundreds of millions. And every dollar of it
speaks to rebuke us. All right. I wrote a book as I said, and the book was about the big picture. My attempt to give a big
picture of this stealing. For this what happened
at Georgetown was only one piece of a massive puzzle. When my daughter was six months old, I started in the first preliminary ways to work on that book. In the book, which I
researched and then wrote, and rewrote over the many years to come, it wasn’t published until she was 16. It was a long time. I saw to tell this story
of the enormous project and process over which,
272 stolen founders of Georgetown were one small part. 272 is a lot of people. But more than one million
were moved from the old states to the new by force. And they and their children
were part of a process that depended in turn on the exploitation of all the millions of
enslaved people in the U.S. And there are about four
million slaves in the U.S. By 1860. In the book, I try to do many things. But the central thing I tried
to do was to tell the stories of people, stolen people. Not as asterisks of
exceptions in U.S. history, for the sheer numbers alone
meant that they could not be exceptions or footnotes. Not as footnotes at all,
but as central characters. I don’t necessarily mean
getting behind their eyeballs and seeing everything as they saw. Although we historians, we lie about it, but we always try to do that. But I mean, writing a work of U.S. history in which enslaved people
were the central subjects. And in which the connections
between them and political economic, cultural, and
demographic developments were the central story. Not just footnotes. And as I studied that,
my focus began to shift. Or rather, to broaden. And began to shift from social
history and cultural history and micro history, those
things were still part of it. But to look at bigger questions. Bigger questions like the
one implied by this picture. Which is sort of jokingly called, world economic history in one picture. And this is from the
economist Gregory Clark. And it claims it’s the world, but really it’s probably just the west. But it shows something that we
historians all know happened. Which is this take off of western incomes. This rapid transformation of
economy, society, and culture. That was clearly underway
by the late 1700s. And by the middle 1800s,
was completely transforming. One after another of
the western countries. Britain, and then France, the
U.S. et cetera, et cetera. How did this happen? Figuring out how this has happened has been in many ways the story of the study of
modernization and modernity. This is one of the key
questions which history as a scholarly discipline
was invented to answer. How did human societies
at that point in history achieve the miracle of
sustained high growth rates and sustained technological change which substantially
increased productivity. The amount of goods and
services that labor could make in a set amount of time. This had tremendous consequences for those who came out as winners. And one could argue there
were more winners than before. But it also had tremendous
consequences for those who ended up on the short end
of the new power relations that emerged from this. We’ve got various explanations for this. This transformation, this
great transformation. Many had been offered. Maybe western societies
were able to invent some key technologies which then
begat other key technologies, which then begat other key technologies. Maybe private property as
a cultural and legal force was really first invented in Britain. In the early 1700s. And it enabled the right mix of incentives and control and structures and rules to let capitalism take off. Maybe western societies have
a specific cultural capacity for inventiveness. Maybe it was government policy. Now most white historians
have routinely rejected often with what I can only describe as particularly ill grace,
the Eric Williams thesis. Which held that British gains
from the Atlantic slave trade and colonization, sugar colonization, and the Caribbean help to
lead to industrialization. This is ill grace impossible to separate from the racial politics of the academy. But even Williams and
most of the other scholars who even began to breech
or broach the possibility that slavery could have
made some contribution to the growth of this
world transforming system in which we all live, modern capitalism, in most cases, they had
surprisingly little to say about cotton and this is strange. This would be like talking
about 2016 capitalism with no reference to oil. As I said, when I started my project, I expected to find social
history, cultural history, micro history, and I
did find those things. But I didn’t expect to find
information that should’ve been I think found a long time ago. Information that for me, at
least, reshapes the story of how the west rose to dominate the world and how the U.S. became
the world’s most powerful capitalist economy. I found this information first. And stories like that of Charles Thompson. And this is not him on the left. That’s William Colbert. But this is the front page of, or the title page of
Thompson’s 1872 autobiography. He was born in slavery. He escaped, he published a
narrative about his life. This is one of our typical sources. I think that we have to
use, when we study slavery in the 19th century south. There’re about 100 of
these autobiographies. William Colbert represents another source, another kind of source, which
I and many other slavery historians have used. The 1930s WPA interview
has done with surviving formally enslaved people. They’re about 2200, 2300 of them. And none of these are, none of these are easy to read. For a variety of reasons. The more clear they are, the more harrowing the stories they tell. And then in other cases,
they are conceived as a kind of elaborate dance
with a white interviewer. Who cannot handle the truth. And yet, in many cases, pieces of the truth, I think are offered. Well, Charles Thompson
was born in Attala county, Mississippi in the year 1833. And he didn’t know it at the time, but he was born on a frontier. Attala was the edge of cotton country, which in Mississippi
was being marched inland from the river, which is
to the west of Attala. Into the territory, Andrew
Jackson’s administration was extracting from its
Chocktaw and Chickasaw owners. And he was also born on
a chronological frontier. By 1833, the commercial
production of cotton have been driving American expansion into the Mississippi valley for 40 years. And the drive was accelerating. American cotton had come
from nowhere to dominate the world market for cotton. And the commodity, that
commodity market was growing just as fast as the industrial
textile factory sector that cotton fed. And that industrial textile factory sector was what more than any other
sector of the British economy was driving that curve
upward in that graph I just showed you. That sector was the origin point. Most scholars would agree of
the industrial revolution. And cotton, of course came from the fields in which Charles Thompson
was destined to toil. Now as the factory system emerged, raw cotton was becoming the
most in demand commodity on the world markets. Southern enslavers by 1833,
the year of Thompson’s birth, had been able to seize control of its most profitable import markets. But if cotton entrepreneurs
could not continue to supply the ever growing
demand for that commodity in ever growing quantity, it was possible the prices would rise. And the commodity would turn into a cord that would choke off further growth. So Charles Thompson, as
he came into the world, while dynamic systems
were churning around him. These classic shifts we’ve
been trying to explain ever since, were churning all around him. The next few years in
his life were eventful. And not just for him personally, but for the south and the U.S. in general. As the economy, the cotton
economy expanded rapidly, credit was pumped in from
world financial markets. Over 250,000 enslaved people were moved from older states like
Maryland, Virginia, and DC and so on, moved into the deeper south. Put primarily into the cotton fields, a few into the sugar fields. And cotton production actually doubled in the course of that decade. Lots of financial bets
have been made on cotton. Lots of people had incurred debts based on the expectation of high cotton prices. When the market couldn’t
support that supply, when it had out paced supply. Then the result was financial crisis. There were two of ’em,
in fact, 1837 and 1839. And after the second one,
Thompson’s enslaver died. And his family was split up. He was sold to one place. His mother to another. And his father to a third. And so at the age of 10, he found himself in the
early 1840s in a new place in Pontotoc county, Mississippi. At one of the two or three
key crossroads of enslaved person’s life, on the frontier,
where the world’s most widely traded commodity was being made. And that was the first
moment when he went into a cotton field. Young or old, Mississippi born or migrant from the old states, that moment was a moment
when many people remember, they learned some new truths about what it was like to be enslaved. People brought from the old states who had a comparison to make, reported, that the work was more intense. And the new ones, the whip
was bigger and cut more deeply and that enslavers
deployed it more rapidly. Even Thompson, who was born
on the Mississippi frontier, still had to learn new things. And the thing that was always new was that he wouldn’t be
able to stop learning. Or actually reinventing himself. Let me explain what I mean by that. So after the invention of the cotton gin, we all know about the cotton gin. 1791 solves the processing
bottleneck cotton picking becomes the bottleneck in
the process of producing this key industrial commodity. People could plant and
cultivate more cotton than they could pick from the rows. And acres of bushes before
the harvest had to end because the frost had turned
the remaining fibers brown. So enslavers Thompson found
pushed enslaved people to pick as fast as they
could all day long. Here we have one of our earliest photos of people picking cotton. From the 1860s, actually. And here late in the day, we have them bringing their
individual baskets of cotton back to the center of the
slave labor camp to be weighed. It was weighed and then
written down on a slate. Or sometimes immediately onto a ledger, ultimately was transferred onto a ledger that listed everybody’s
individual picking for the day. And the amount that they picked became an individual requirement. It wasn’t the same for everybody. Each picker had a stint
or daily task to perform, Thompson recalled. That is each of them was
required to pick so many pounds of cotton and when in default they were unmercifully whipped. Thompson actually got the job of helping to weigh the cotton, so
he was right in the middle of the entire process. That was good, he wasn’t very good at picking cotton himself. But certainly, the task of
those who had to pick it was much harder. They had their individual tasks. Which were norm to what they were thought to be able to pick. But here, if it was like other places, individuals stints increased over time. Enslaved people like
John Brown found that, as I picked so well at first, when he was given 100 pound stint, more was exacted on me. And if I flagged a minute, the whip was liberally applied
to keep me up to the mark. By being driven in this way,
I at last got to pick 160. If you think about this increase
in the size of the stint, I think you’ll be able to understand if you haven’t already, many
facts of which historians have taken extraordinarily
long time to make full sense. And perhaps we still haven’t. But here is some of those facts. The fact that enslavers
weigh cotton every day. That they recorded how much was picked. That they ledgered it carefully. That they did not let them stop till dark. Rather than setting a production quota as a sort of positive
incentive after which they could, enslaved
pickers could perhaps stop. Or the fact that if you’ve
read 12 Years a Slave, or if you’ve seen the film, which reproduces this story pretty well, Patsy, who’s the fastest
cotton picker, was whipped. And in fact, she was whipped sometimes for not picking enough cotton. Now, various survivors, I went through their narratives
and recorded what they said were quotas or expectations. And that gave me a good view of a system. In which requirements
were raised over time. And then couple of economists,
historical economists got a very nice series of daily weigh ins from those ledgers I talked about before. And they showed analyzing
tens of thousands of daily weigh ins from
thousands of different cotton pickers over 60 years, that with each passing
year from 1800 to 1860, the average enslaved person
picked 2% more cotton per work day which compounds
to a 400% productivity or efficiency increase over six decades. Instead of rising to choke off growth, the world’s most essential
and widely traded commodity plummeted in price even as supply rose. Dropping by 1860 to 25% of
its inflation adjusted price back in 1800. Supply rose faster than demand. And the U.S. made cotton
far more efficiently than other countries, which
with access to the same seeds and the same machinery,
simply couldn’t compete. By the 1830s, U.S. cotton was
about 90% of all the cotton sold in Europe’s industrializing economy. If cotton was oil, U.S.
south was Saudi Arabia plus Kuwait, plus Iraq, plus Iran, plus Libya, plus, the UAE, plus Nigeria, plus Russia, plus
Venezuela, we could go on. Low priced abundant raw materials allowed factory owners in
Britain and Massachusetts, and you can see the
cotton being shipped out from New Orleans here. Allowed these factory owners
to invest the cost savings generated by calibrated torture, because of course, if
you didn’t pick enough, you were whipped. And sometimes it was calibrated
not just by the ledger, but so precisely that if
you were four pounds short, you would get four lashes, and so on. Invested the profits in ever
more efficient machines, and consumers meanwhile, benefited from the ever cheaper cloth
the factories pumped out. Even suspected a good portion
of the system of fashion as we know it today, grew no small part as a solution to the problem of cotton over supply created by the whip driven
efficiency of enslaved African Americans stolen labor
combined with the machine driven efficiency of the factories. Consumers had to be convinced
to buy more clothes, to throw away old
clothes, or put them aside as out of fashion sooner
and sooner and sooner. People had to be convinced
to wear different clothes every single day rather than wearing your
work clothes all week long. Everybody benefited except
those who made the cotton. Now those who made the
cotton were tortured to make it ever more efficiently. And that’s how their
creativity was stolen. Their days and years were stolen. Their survival was stolen
with that hanging over them. The things they did in order to survive only raised the quotas they
would be expected to pick in the future. And they in and all their
children and brothers and sisters and mothers
and fathers and wives and husbands and friends and lovers because of this revenue
producing capacity, they were all accounted
as marketable wealth. And it’s in that vein
that we should discuss the 272 people sold to
Louisiana to the New Orleans slave market in order to
keep Georgetown afloat. They are why we are here. How should we account for them? There’s no price, of
course, that can do so. As Adam Rothman justly said yesterday. But it remains true that
the financial returns from that sale had been very
lucrative over the years. How lucrative? Well, when newspaper
stories tried to interpret their value to Georgetown today, the 272 are often given a monetary value equal to the inflation
adjusted 2016 equivalent of their 1838 sale price. Three million or four
million, for instance. Now in this era, our own era, many of us are finally learning, sometimes with the help of Thomas Piketty, sometimes through harder
kinds of experience, even harder than reading an 800 page book. Many of us are finally learning what the wealth already know about wealth. Which is, wealth is
revenue, profit, income, accumulated over time. And stored in many forms. So that it grows of its own accord. Often faster as Piketty reminds us than the growth of the economy as a whole. University endowments are
vast collections of wealth that represent the
invested savings of donors and others which have,
in turn, grown with, but faster than the economy. Wealth grows over time. Is invested in many ways, it is grown over time here in Georgetown. It may very well be that the
university would not exist at all without the sale of people. But even if Georgetown had been flushed when it made the sale, it
would’ve invested the revenue in some way or other. Even if not in a life preserver. In buildings, faculty salary, financial aids, stocks,
bonds, it doesn’t matter. All are financial choices
that generate returns. And these can be hard or
impossible to price with precision. Especially since this
particular financial choice yielded not just revenue, but survival. But one handy yard stick
would be to simply price the monetary value of the
revenue from the sale of 272 enslaved men and women and children by what that revenue would’ve
earned as a cash investment. We’re told the sale was made
for about 150,000, I believe. Even at a fairly basic
level of 4% average return over time, the growth till today would yield I think 123 million dollars. What if Georgetown had bought
all the rest of the land in the neighborhood of Georgetown? What would that cost today? What would it have cost then, I think they could have
gotten it for 115,000. But what would it cost today? Think about it, and you’ll
see that I am by no means exaggerating the 2016
value of this addition to the endowment. The New York Times just
to give you some context, said on Sunday that this
was no ordinary slave till but actually it was. The sale was possible
because it was ordinary. It was profitable because it was ordinary. Because these things
happened all the time. The slave market in the
U.S. was extensive regular. And among the most reliable
generators of profitable investment in the western world. We historians have documented this and continue to document and debate the implications of this. But the domestic trade encompassed by 1865 as many as two million
people bought or sold across the south was somewhere
between half and one million taking the root from the upper
south to the deeper south. Like the folks sold from
the plantations in Maryland to Louisiana. Prices for slaves in the New
Orleans market were high. Often exceeding $1000 in
1800s money for a young man. And they, and that represents
as much as 100 months of full time labor by a
wage, a free wage labor. Of well over $200,000 in 2016. If you wanna really get a good fix on what a slave price is,
I think that’s the best way to convert it. Prices were high. Because slavery was profitable. But also because slavery
in the slave trade were protected by law. And the U.S. federal, state,
local governments cooperated with a broad consent of virtually
all whites in the country to force enslaved people to stay enslaved. The army, the militia,
the courts punished revolt with mass execution. The same groups of people
rounded up runaways. Courts and Congress and the Constitution guarded the legality of the
inter state slave trade. Abolitionists criticized
it, but to no avail. Trade continued, growing in size and value decade after decade. The same forces reliably
ensured that enslaved people were treated as property. That one could sell them, could hold them and prove title, mortgage them. That investors could collect
slices of the revenue they generated by work or reproduction. That they could be ensured against loss. That the government
would protect the rights of property holders against
theft and false claim. In the law of the U.S., they were property in virtually all the senses necessary for building a vibrant capitalist economy. And in fact they were
better than most property for those purposes. And not just because again,
they produced a tremendous return through their torture
driven labor in the field. They were highly liquid property. They were the most liquid
property in the U.S. In the sense that there was
a massive reliable market for this property. There were few if any years
when one could not obtain a price from the slave market. And by the 1820s, there were
professional slave traders who would make the process easy for people who wanted to buy or
institutions who wanted to sell. All these facts about the wealth and slaves need to be remembered. And no wonder that in
the pre-civil war years, from 1789 to 1861, enslaved human beings typically accounted for 15
to 20% of all the accounting wealth in the country. That’s more than all the stocks,
bonds, cash, and factories. The only thing bigger from
the balance sheet of the U.S. is land. And much of that land was not sellable. Land could not be forced to march to a more profitable market. And more profitable production zones. And consequently, it was easier, far easier to get a loan on a slave than on a acre of land unless of course, it was land to which
slaves could be brought and worked profitably. And the U.S. government is part of this, had this sort of meta level as well working hard to add
value to the investments of all those invested in
slavery by conquering empire of land for slave holders,
entrepreneurial projects. Conquering it from its
previous inhabitants. And there’s much we can say about the ways in which the system of slavery extracts the reproductive labor
I talked about before. But the point here is that
the growth of property value was accomplished by exploiting
and stealing the love of enslaved African
Americans for each other. And for themselves. Cashing that in. Cashing the product of that love in through sale in the slave
market meant destruction of those bonds and the
riveting of new ones on the people who were thus sold. The destruction of
families meant the creation of slave markets and financial markets. The creation of
opportunities for expanding entrepreneurial cotton and sugar products. Opportunities for saving
educational institutions. And it wasn’t just slave sellers, slave buyers, and cotton
planters who benefited. In addition, what consumers got, every person in the west who
benefited from 19th century financial markets benefited. Collateral, enslaved
people in the southern U.S. were among the best collateral
in the western world. It attracted investors, the system attracted investors
from all over the world. In the 1830s, they pumped
tens of millions of dollars into a scheme of bonds which
resembles nothing so much as residential mortgage
bonds here in the U.S. With some similar financial effects. Similarly explosive effects. And then they came back for more. In the 1850s every dollar
of value, book value, of enslaved people in Louisiana was mortgaged at least once. At six to 8% return for many of the loans, this meant that net value was
transported out of the slave south and around the world. That wealth grew and transformed economies that was inherited in the form of estates. That were passed on and grew again. And none of this possible
without the connivance of governments in assuring
that enslaved African Americans would be in the U.S. context, a uniquely exploitable category
of person and property. None of this was possible without
another kind of connivance as well, which I think I implied before. Where I talked about the
system of extracting cotton through measurement and torture. That’s a system which
depends upon the assumption and that’s just the assumption, those who were enacting it. But those who let it persist, i.e. everybody else in the U.S. That efficiency trumps morality. That efficiency trumps morality. Getting more product in
the same amount of time from the same amount of labor
is worth moral compromise. And so white Americans were willing to let Charles Thompson, or Patsy, or anyone endure any kind of management that allowed unprecedented
economic growth to continue. And so the efficiency
of cotton picking grew. By 2% per year for what may
have been the most crucial 60 years of western societies. Transition from subsistence agricultural to high growth modern economies. And we like to think that
this industrialization process was produced by clever
inventors, factory workers and captains of industry, but American cotton made by
slaves was the raw material of that industry. And millions of people were
moved to slavery’s frontiers. They were exploited in multiple
ways by financial markets. And by enslavers and by cotton markets. And again and again, they
were driven to produce that cotton ever more cheaply. The result was not just a
plummeting price of cotton, not just massive human suffering, but investments in new
products that went beyond textiles or financial markets. And the accumulation of massive
concentrations of wealth that are still with us. And refusal to admit the
consequences of those processes is a long standing issue. It’s a long standing issue. And there’re many
arguments that I have heard that claim that this
efficiency which produced a radical break in the way
that products were produced up and down the commodity chain which was the driving one at the center of the industrial revolution. That somehow that system
of labor at the bottom, that’s the bottom gear of that process that somehow it’s not
relevant to the changes that were happening everywhere else. People say yes, but perhaps these economic transformations
could have happened without that kind of slavery
and that kind of expansion and intensification of slavery. Well, there may be an alternate universe in which that did happen. But that’s not the one we live in. That is not the one we live in. Enslaved people were
tortured to make wealth. They were exploited as wealth. And they were exploited
through markets which priced that torture ultimately. And that gets me to the
point where we can come back. I think pretty concretely to 272. And the relationship to four million. All of the slaves sold from 1789 to 1838 and that were anticipated, you
know, to be sold afterwards. They made a price in this ephemeral thing called the market. They made a price against their wills for Georgetown’s human
property and Georgetown profit in 1838. All the enslaved people
who raises enslaved people made it possible to set a price. It made it possible against their wills to set a price for Georgetown’s
exploitation in 1838. All the enslaved people
who labored on those years, who labored in those years, and on whose labor buyers and
investors could reasonably count on exploiting, yes they
art part of this story too. To restrict our thinking
about our university’s responsibility to only
this specific descendants of the 272 specific people is something like suggesting
that Georgetown’s financial aid resources should only be
available to military veterans who are descended from
alums, and not all veterans. There’s a bigger system. There’s a bigger system
that makes the participation of veterans, for instance, possible. And gives them a legitimate claim on financial aid resources. And likewise, there was
a bigger system of which Georgetown took advantage. All enslaved people
the U.S. were exploited by Georgetown’s
participation in the market. And if we consider that
on the particular scale, the particular scale,
Georgetown owes a debt that can in some ways be priced by either its survival, which is
kind of the big price. Or sum of money derived
from the investment that sale has permitted since 1838. I would still argue that
all who are descended from enslaved African
Americans hold a share of the unpaid debt. Not just descendants of the 272. Although they certainly do. Well, we have connived in not repaying in this country for too long. In every sense, there
are all kinds of excuses for not doing so. In fact, to investigate all the excuses would be to tell a whole long story, history of white racism
in the United States. Slavery wasn’t profitable,
slavery wasn’t good for black folks, black
folks who waste the money. Most of the money is gone. No living person benefited from slavery. The last point is nonsense, particularly. As if wealth was not inherited from generation to generation. As if investment shrunk
rather than multiplying many times in value over
the last two centuries since 1838. And if investments grow,
think of what happens to unpaid debts. I guarantee you pay a higher
rate on your mortgage loan than you get on your savings account. Debts only grow faster over time. And in many ways, slavery’s
debt has only grown over time and it is bigger now
than it has ever been. It gets bigger every single day we wait to start redeeming our debts. The debt for the nations seems enormous. Beyond measure. Not even a Vermont
socialist with wild hair can think of discussing
it as a possibility in public policy. It seems beyond measure and
surely, it is beyond measure in the moral and spiritual sense. Perhaps even in the financial sense. But here at Georgetown,
we have an opportunity to do, address a specific
harm that was committed by our institution’s agents. For the benefit of this institution. A benefit whose value over
time has grown exponentially. A harm from which I have benefited. And many other people in this room. Not all aspects of that harm
can be addressed financially. Not even the greater portion. Not all the harm can
be addressed, I’m sure, by human actions. And surely not by the
kinds which I could provide in the accounting. And I even grow skeptical about and not to cast shadow on
the work of the committee, but I even grow skeptical
about reconciliation. As a goal, that seems like
something far down the road. And that has to be achieved
through different processes. But I recognize a will is good. But ultimately the way I see it is that there’s justice
and truth in one hand, and denial and injustice on the other. And even if the justice and the truth is incomplete, it seems that
the choice is pretty plain. Here at Georgetown, we’ve used that money for over 178 years. And at the very least,
we must put it back. Those who deserve it are
those denied their inheritance by slavery and its legacies. Therefore, as one Georgetown alum, no more no less than that,
I call for the establishment of a fund in the university
endowment to the amount of the 1838 value of the
sale of 272 men, women, and children to Louisiana multiplied by a reasonable
annual return on that money to the date of the full
and complete establishment of that fund. So in other words, not
till April 20, or 19 or whatever day this is, 2016. But the day when the fund is fully vested. I suspect that cannot be
less than 100 million. The return from that endowment, I would propose would be used to pay the full cost of
attendance descendant, of attendance for students
descended from Africans enslaved in the United States for the reasons I just explained above. And I would suggest Georgetown allocate those scholarships with both merit and financial need in mind. And I for my own part
is just one alum would, should that become a possibility, I would insist that
this money not be taken from financial aid that’s already in play. That’s already in use. That the 100 students,
if that is the number that can be funded per year, that they be 100 students
who would not otherwise be attending Georgetown. And so the number of students descended from not just the 272 people
who were sold by Georgetown, but all of the people
affected by the market. That that sale helped to
sustain and draw a profit from. That their number be increased. By this process. Their number here at Georgetown. I’m just one alum. One only. But I believe that this
is what that which is best has taught me to say. And the Georgetown that would do this is the best Georgetown. And that’s the Georgetown
that seeks knowledge in order to do justice, thank you. (applause) Thank you. Thanks. – Thank you very much, professor Baptist for that incredible talk. So we’re not going to
transition into a brief moderated discussion. So I’d like to take a moment to introduce our moderator to you all. Maurice Jackson is an
associate professor of history here at Georgetown. A 2009 inductee into the
Washington DC hall of fame. He was appointed by the
mayor in the Washington DC city council to serve as
the first chair of the DC commission on African American affairs. He is also a member of the working group on memory, slavery,
memory, and reconciliation. Please join me in welcoming
professor Maurice Jackson. (applause) – Thank you, Connor. And thank you for coming. It is as they say from where I’m from, you did good. So and I’m sure that the, you’ve made a proposal
that the working group discuss, would discuss. I have two degrees from Georgetown. So I’m, to say I’m with you. But we’ll see. It would cost about what it cost to build a new athletic center. Maybe a little more. So anyway. Well to keep up to say
me and him, me and that, pretty soon you’re
talking about real money. At any rate, many questions come to my mind. And I’ll just ask a few and
then I’ll get out of the way. As a very young man, I was sent down south. And a school burned down where I was. So they gave us all
mimeograph sheets of paper. To read from. And one of ’em had something
and I remembered it and I’ve read it many times. I’ve read the whole book. But it goes like this. And it was from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Capitalism came dripping
from head to foot. From every pore with blood and dirt. I look at this picture and
I look at what you’ve read and I’ve read the book a couple of times. And you’ve given that example. But what stands out to me is that you’ve demystified the myth that somehow northern
capital and southern slavery was so distant that the nation as a whole didn’t benefit from slavery. That only the south did. That it was only an institution that was a part of the south. And that the south had
this separate economy as different as feudalism from capitalism. And go with that a little bit more. How in fact the nation as a whole, especially northern
industrialism has benefited from this tragic institution. – Yeah. Well, specifically, the
connection’s very very tight because perhaps even more than the case of British industrialization, northern industrialization starts with cotton textile factories. That are 100% dependent
not just on raw materials from the south, but on
making it relatively low quality product which
was then sold to the south. Specifically to be used
by enslaved people. So called Negro cloth. Who were too busy working
in the cotton fields, the sugar fields, and other endeavors to spin and weave their own cloth. Which they would wear. So they are a literally captive market. Protected by the tariff policy. Right. Protected by tariff policy. Sustained by the labor. Tariff policy protects the
industry that’s sustained by the labor of enslaved
African Americans. And of course, the first group
of industrial wage workers in the U.S. And as happened in Britain, but again, I think even more concretely in the U.S. other industries spun out
of the textile industry. Machine tool industry is created by people who learn their chops fixing the machines in the cotton mills, right. The machine tool industry then becomes the farm tool industry which
is used to help open up still more land for cotton,
for other endeavors as well. But pretty soon, axes and hoes and so on made in Connecticut replacing
the ones made in Britain. So it’s a very tight connection there. There’s also the connection in that 50% of U.S. exports are
raw cotton year after year from 1820 to 1860. In fact, cotton is still
the number one export even after the civil war. It’s not 50% of all value anymore. But that in an economy
that’s desperate for foreign cash to be imported, right? And foreign credit to be imported. To make its connection as an importing, as a society that has
to import a whole lot and has to export a lot of raw materials to pay for that. To make that connection work, the U.S. economy depends on cotton. And also, on investment from
overseas in slave purchases. And that’s not always,
it’s rarely direct, right? But it’s very clear that
they work through the mediaries of banks and merchants to send credit into the
south which then becomes slave purchases. So all of that helps benefit, grow, and increase the growth rate
of the northern economy. Which specifically to get
back to the point of Marx, the critique, I would make
at least how some have read Marx is that slavery is the pedestal on which capital is erected. But the slavery that takes
place in the 19th century south, I think not just
in 19th century south. I think you see it in 19th
century Cuba and Brazil for sure. Is something that is so
closely tied to the market and takes on as many of
the values of the market as do the factory owners. Different values of the market. The values of the market. They pick a different set. But the values of market all the same. You can’t tell them apart. You can’t tell these entrepreneurs apart from the capitalist that we
understand as capitalist. The industrial capitalist. They are thinking with
the market all the time. They’re acting in concert with the market. They’re converting people into things with great regularity and
the things into money. And so on and so forth. So they’re capitalists. And even the production that takes place on the factory floor on the one hand, and in the cotton field on the other, is not that different. In the 19th century,
there’s constant pressure driven by the close connection
between world markets. And new values with the labor process. Constant process in the
cotton fields to speed up. Was whipped up to pace. And soon I got to pick 170. His efficiency as a
laborer nearly doubled. It took 60 years for American slaves to increase their efficiency
of cotton picking 400%. It took 40 years, these
are 40 years we know ’cause we’ve got them measured in some history of the textile world. Took 40 years for British spinners who take that cotton
and turn it into thread. So they can be then woven
through mechanical looms. They’re using machines. But it takes them 40 years
to increase their efficiency of labor 500, 600%. They’re in the same order of magnitude. – You know, you, thank you. You talk about the
development of the cotton gin. And why it increased. Productive in one hand,
it didn’t pick the cotton. It didn’t take the seeds. But in one section, and there are many beautiful
sections in the book. One section that I particularly like is, well, like, that is bothered, you talk
about the pushing system. This is the drive for more profits. The drive for more, the accumulation of capital. But as you talk about the pushing system, to make a person go beyond
what is reasonable to go, at the other hand, you talk about Patsy. And Patsy is a woman who
has learned to pick cotton so efficiency, and some way
you compare it to a pianist. And I think you play the piano, you play in one hand,
you play in one tune. I don’t know if anybody saw the new, new movie on Nina Simone. And not the new one with so down on, not that one, you stay home. Don’t see that one. – [Edward] The documentary. – Huh? – [Edward] The documentary. – The documentary. – [Edward] What Happened, Miss Simone? – What Happened, Miss Simone? And you see her playing and
you can tell she’s a genius. ‘Cause she’s playing one
tune on one hand singing. And another tune in another hand. As I saw that, I thought of real gun, but I also saw Patsy. Here’s a woman who has, she
had conquered the system. ‘Cause she could. But she has figured out something. She has figured out a way to freedom. And you tell ministers about that. And I would like for
you to just give example of how slaves even with, and you speak of all
type of violent things. Many figured out a way
to try to beat this. Because as you stated in the book, you say that 10% of all slaves on cotton mill slave ships, involved in some type of mutiny. Some type of rebellion. So here you’re talking
about day to day resistance. And I think often we don’t
hear enough about it. So why don’t you tell us a bit about how Patsy and others figured this out. – Yeah. Well, it seems to me
from talking to people who picked cotton in the 40s and 50s and then also reading
what’s in the accounts, that as the demands got higher, it became imperative for
many people if they wanted to meet the demands,
to pick with two hands. And to pick with two hands independently. This is really really had to do. Most people are not really ambidextrous. Most people can’t learn to pay the piano as well as Nina Simone. I don’t believe. I think. – [Maurice] She’s a genius. – Yeah. You know. – [Maurice] Bonafide. – Lots of people could
learn to play the piano. If they put the effort into it. But I think there are levels
that just are not gonna be reached by many people at all. And of course, it’s really complicated. If you got a Patsy out
there in the cotton field, and she’s picking 500 pounds a day and most people are
struggling to pick 200 pounds. Then she’s got a kind of
complicated relationship to other people there. They’ve got their individual, they’ve got their individual quotas. And they’re struggling to meet them. I have no doubt that they
would look at somebody like a Patsy and try to pick
up a couple of her tricks. Of course, that just doesn’t
end the constant demand for higher and higher production. She’s suffering from that as well. But it’s, the cotton picking
in many of the accounts it’s referred to, as
what I would interpret as a dissociative experience, right. And I’ve had to do this
kind of work before. Where your mind just
has to go somewhere else because it’s so incredibly boring and physically kind of hard. But you know, the extent of time for which Patsy had to do it
is quite different, obviously. And to go into that dissociative place but at the same time
know that you’re doing something that’s elegant and amazing and nobody can do it. Nobody but you can do
that, that’s creativity. Right, it’s creativity. But it’s creativity that
is stolen completely. And ultimately held against her. She’s held up against it. And found wanting when she
doesn’t pick that much. So it’s very, in a way, that’s a metaphor
for a whole lot of artists’ creative experience. Again, it’s not necessarily slavery. But the kinds of exploitation we’ve had with of artistic
creativity in this country. Particularly of African Americans. It’s in a sense is a replicated pattern. Cotton picking, playing music. These are different
things, I acknowledge that. But the will to exploit. That is there in the dominant
society in both cases. Day to day resistance like running away, is of course, everywhere. But it’s something that I talk about. But I’m now working on a new project that focuses on runaways. And Adam Rothman’s on
the board of this project that I’m working on with
a couple other scholars to try to collect all
the runaway slave ads in one database. And I know that he got
some of his students to run through our pilot version. But I think it’s a really
powerful experience for students to encounter those at a role of a historian, right? You’re trying to make sure nothing is missed from this document. And you’re trying to read into it and see whether or not
there’s something you think as a resistance going on there. So I think that’s very, it’s a very exciting project
for me to talk about. I won’t go too far off on that. – And lastly before I turn over, you go into great depths about violence. There’s a violence of Parter, who, I think his name is Parter. Who kills his, who castrates his wife’s lovers. There’s a violence of a man
who takes his woman from, takes a young girl who’s 15. There’s a violence of
inventing new type whips. Which I didn’t know. Invent a new whip to whip somebody harder to make them work harder. There’s the violence of
man against their wives. There’s a violence of people against, against, against the
word of God, spiritual. Religious code. And everywhere, it existed a certain point
that how in the world did a people, how in the world were white people able to survive with all this violence and believe that such a system was right? What kept that together? You speak about it. But it’s something there that, it’s something even
more than profits there. – Well, I think that, you know, at least for
some of the white actors in the system, the ones who can’t keep all
these realities at distance. If you’re in Britain and
you wanna buy a bond, it’s gonna let you profit at 6% per year on a slave mortgage. You know. It’s relatively easy. And you know, we’re involved in these kind of relationships ourselves. In our own economic lives. Directly or indirectly. It’s almost impossible to stay out of ’em in the modern economy. But for those who are right
there and right close, as you say, there are attests. And some southern enslaves,
if you will, fail them. Right? And they try to reform the system. They’re not up to being you know, that sort of full on
character of the system. Or in a few, very few cases, they become abolitionists. And I think they are some of the more, you know, radical and
perceptive white abolitionists. There are in some cases, generally the Grimsky
sisters, for instance. But I think we also have to recognize that the violence is not a bug of
the system, it’s a feature. It binds, it binds actors to the system. It commits to doing more violence to prove that the violence is just. Has always been just. And it becomes I think one of
the attractions of the system. Just as rape becomes one of
the attractions of the system. As rape drives, it’s one of the factors
that drives prices. And there are numerous reasons to think that it drives prices from
all sorts of little things that people say, even the
research that’s been done in psychology and behavioral
economics and so on that says when you sexualize a market, heterosexual male investors
are more likely to take risks. When you connect it with sexuality. And there is no way to
escape the connection of the domestic slave
market with sexuality. Because 40 to 50% of
the people who were sold were women of childbearing age. Who were exposed. And were leered at. You know. You know the story. But there was no way to
pretend like that market wasn’t also a market of sexuality. And that again, was not
a bug, but a feature for, I think the majority of the people who participated in it. – Thank you. So let’s open it up. The gentleman here and then we go there. – [Man] Yes, thank you very much. My name is Riley. – And if you could identify yourself and we’ll try not to have
statements, but questions to Dr. Baptist. – [Man] My name is Riley
Temple, class of 74 law. I know, it’s before you were born. – No. Actually not. – [Man] My question is twofold. When you were speaking, you talked about the story and the times mentioning that this was no ordinary sale. You said that it was. Could I hear your view on whether or not the writer could have meant that it was no ordinary
sale because it was a sale of the church? And the role of the church
in this particular sale. And that the church was no haven. Secondly, on the issue of reparations. To what extent do you believe or do you
countenance the notion that reparations should or
could begin and end with money. – Yeah. Those are great questions. So it was kind of easy to take the language
of the New York Times and say ah ha, but let’s
look at it a different way and see the ways in which
it was very commonplace and what that tells us. But I think you’re absolutely right that, and the article I think builds on some really good work that has been done here. To show that actually the
Catholic church hierarchy at certain levels was
not really very happy about this sale, right. It exposed them or it offended them. Depends on what you wanna
think of as the motives in the Vatican. But clearly it caused some consternation. And you wonder what happened as a result of that in addition
to recalling the president. You wonder if that had an
affect some 25 years later. Right, well, and sending a president who had been born in slavery. To become the president of Georgetown. You like to think that that was somewhere a part of the Vatican’s decision. Because my understanding
is that the Vatican wanted him to be president. Yeah. – [Maurice] Yes sir. – Oh yeah, I didn’t. – [Maurice] Oh, I’m sorry. Just a second. – The second half of the question. No, reparations of course can’t, you know, it can’t end with money. But I think there’s a lot
of great social science work that shows that the, although there are certain
aspects of racial stigmatization that affect people’s life prospects in all kinds of ways
that are not wiped out by the stigmatized person
having lots of wealth. There are other things that are lessened where the effect is lessened. And where the the
realities of being able to buy houses and start businesses and pay for education and
create new institutions. Where these open up, in
the context of our society, which is a capitalist society, which is structured in certain ways. Where access to wealth makes
it a huge huge difference in the life course of individuals. And in the life course
of their descendants. So that I think has to
be a key part of it. There are lots of other components, I suspect, to any definition
of reparative justice. And sometimes you know, one of the things that troubles me the most is the idea that doing reparative justice,
doing acts, reparative acts is going to lead to a sort of sea change and how the affected party
sees the party who’s profited from the historical, from
the historical events. That’s not necessarily so. And it’s especially not necessarily so if that scene is one of the conditions. One of the sort of prescribed outcomes. Those, that’s the way
that forgiveness works. You don’t prescribe it to, if you’re the guilty party,
you don’t prescribe it to the forgiver. You know. So, anyway. Yeah. – [Maurice] Yes. – [Man] Yes, hi. My name is Bob Eager. I’m a Georgetown law graduate 1981. And I’m head of the owner
history of project non profit here in town. I wanna focus on the latest aspect again. I have an ancestor who was from Vermont. Educated at what is now Hamilton College. Was a baptist home missionary. Was sent to Mississippi in 1841. By 1845, he was pastor of a church near Natchez, where planters attended. I don’t, there’s no
documentation about how, and his sons fought for the confederacy. To me, that’s a metaphor
for, of that period. I’d be interested in your
thoughts and observations. And I have no documentation
about what went on and what he, how he was able
to make that transition. But it seems to me there’s a lot, it’s a kernel of our history. – Yeah. Well, I think there’s two elements. There’s two ways in which
I think it’s symbolic of some facts of U.S. history that we don’t necessarily like too much. But we haven’t felt, haven’t figured out how to deal with ’em effectively. The first is that there was
lots of northern involvement in the south. Right. Eli Whitney was from the north. And he was one of hundreds
maybe thousands of well educated New England
college grads with little prospects in the pre-industrial
revolution New England. Who, and all the pulpits
are filled by old guys who are never gonna leave. So what do they, what can they do? They can go down to the south and teach. Teach as private tutors. Or maybe set up a small academy. ‘Cause that’s where the money is. That’s where the money
is in the early 1800s. And it went from that
to a generation later northerners moving specifically
to become cotton merchants. Specifically to become
cotton planters or both. Which was pretty common. So the, if you look at the
bench and bar histories of Mississippi or Alabama. They’re full of northerners
who got thoroughly entrenched in the political, legal,
and economic systems. So you know, your ancestor’s history, I think is pretty common. What maybe makes it a
little bit different is that he was a baptist and he
came down relatively late. But assimilated, it sounds like, enough to get a congregation. By that point, by the 1840s, some of the denominations
are starting to split. Across the issue of slavery. There were a few folks in the convention at like the Methods or
something like that, that are driving the split. But more broadly, you know, it points us to the fact
that the south won the war of interpretation after the civil war. The war of interpretation about
what north and south meant. And what slavery meant. And whether it was an
effective economic system. And was able to present to a large extent the plantation system as, it was a sort of social control force. For unruly, unequal perhaps
subhuman folks who needed to be in something as close
to slavery as possible. And to present that not, that social control system, not as designed to extract profit. No, no, no, they were above that. Yeah. And this is a myth which
it presses a lot of northern buttons in certain ways too. And has, and I think
still continues to do so. Luckily, there’s no Calhoun
hall here at Georgetown. – [Maurice] Yes, ma’am. – [Woman] Hi, thank you. I really enjoyed the book. I wanted to ask you, do you
think that we as a society here in the United States
today are also complicit in the slavery and near
slavery that’s happening around the world? In the same way that you
said that many of the whites were complicit in the slavery that was happening then,
that’s my first question. And second, do you think
that this concept of, I think you said
efficiency versus morality, but I’ll just say profits over morality. Is still really governing the day to day, particularly in our
international corporations? – Yes and yes. I agree on both. There, there’s certainly a lot
of organizations out there talking about modern day slavery. I think some of them are
more effective and accurate than others. We do need to be aware of
the distinctions between different kinds of forced labor. They do make a big
difference for the people who are trapped in those systems. They do make a difference
in terms of how you might combat those systems. But nonetheless, those systems exist and they’re significant. Probably because cotton is
pretty fully commoditized and traded around. And you know, by the time it enters a factory to
be turned into thread and then turned into cloth,
it could come from anywhere. Odds are pretty good that somebody in here or maybe all of us are wearing
cotton from Uzbekistan. Which is one of the world’s
largest producers that were, it’s produced with unfree labor. I wouldn’t call it slave labor. But it’s child labor and
it’s sort of corvee labor. The government goes in
and gets all the seventh and eighth graders or
somewhere around that to come out and pick cotton
till the harvest is done. For the nation, right? And then have situations
which without the sort of legal structure that the
massive powerful United States, we’ve always been taught
in the U.S. have the small state apparatus. But when you include the
apparatus for managing slavery, it’s a big big state actually. That massive state doesn’t
exist, for instance, in eastern Congo and wester Rwanda where people are under
conditions of forced labor, conditions of high violence. Conditions they’re only
subject to because they’re from other groups that have been
identified as vulnerable to these kinds of forced labor. They’re producing this stuff
that’s in our cell phones and our jewelry and so on and so forth. And so yeah, we’re complicit. We are. And we need to find
ways to deal with that. We do. – [Maurice] Yes ma’am. – Hi. My name’s Pamela Esconalte. I’m an undergrad at Georgetown. And this is like a follow up to the question previously posed. So throughout all of your presentation, which I look forward to in your book, I kept thinking about an
industry that we’re all complicit in, because we all eat food. And that is the agricultural
industry within the U.S. Where just to set some context,
the average farm worker which is a euphemism for
produce picker in the U.S., earns, who picks around like
in the tomato industry alone, 4000 pounds a day. Makes $40 a day. So around a penny per pound. That he or she picks. Also relating to the sexualization. Eight out of 10 women
who work as farm pickers will experience sexual assault. You had a call to action
here within Georgetown, which I thought was phenomenal. But this exploitation is still
happening in the U.S. today. So what mechanisms, what institutions that go beyond policy, because the policy is already in place. Like paying somebody $40 a day for a full more than 12 hours a day of
labor is already illegal. And it’s not just
embedded into the system. It’s very obvious that this is happening. There’s documentaries around it. What needs to be done to end this? Because it happened in 1860. It’s happening in 2016. And although they’re getting paid, to say that $40 a day for 16 hours of work is far from slavery, doesn’t seem fair. – Yeah. Great, great question. I come from a university which
is a land grant university. Cornell, it’s probably
the third that established with a moral act. It doesn’t mean it’s one big ag school. But even all of it has
the mission of doing, doing what we do for the public good. But that spun out two different ways in terms of the policies that it advocated by different branches of the ag school. You got one side that’s
fighting for the farm workers. And you have one side that
is very much on the side of agri business. And seeks not only to you
know, find the right chemicals. And the right machinery
and so on and so forth. It will produce a perfectly
packable apple, et cetera. Maybe it’ll be square soon. But, I bet that would taste great. But also fights institutionally against the fight for farm workers. So it is a struggle. What I can, and this is a struggle to
get policies implemented that are actual policies. They’re on the books. But the thing we can, the message we can take
from this history is that even the actions of the
powerful have consequences. They have really powerful consequences for those whom they exploit. And those are the folks
who get the greatest, take the greatest impact. Have the greatest losses. But eventually, the system
doesn’t work, right? Judgment does show up. And you can look at that
religiously or spiritually, or you can look at it in
other, in other ways as well. Right. The ways in which having that much power, treating people as resources out of whom more efficiency has to be
extracted all the time, leads you to make mistakes. Sometimes leads you to become the next part of the next layer of people who aren’t being efficient enough. Which I think even in the U.S., even some professionals
today are experiencing that. They’re not experiencing in the same way that Charles Thompson did. But it’s very destructive to their lives. It’s the same machine. The same sort of thought
machine rolling forward, eating every place of work it can. And you know, more broadly, you can see this idea
that everything is okay if it increases efficiency. And the really enthusiastic
application of the principle of comparative advantage that the IMF, the World
Bank, the WPO, et cetera, that they’ve implemented,
pretty much by force on a whole host of
developing countries really stopping development
projects begun in the 50s. And we can argue about
whether they were good or whether they were bad. But they were certainly
better than what followed. Which was forcing
countries to open up their entire economies, shrink
everything down to, virtually all their employment down to low added value labor jobs. And of course, it’s hard to be the country that pays its workers the least. Which means that jobs are
always gonna be moving to somewhere else. So there’s a constant,
there’s a constant struggle to extract more wealth and more efficiency at a cheaper price from
the workers in your country because otherwise these
companies will pick up and move. So it’s a truly horrific idea. And it’s a truly horrific set of processes that we’re enmeshed in. – [Maurice] Yes, sir. – My name is Cory Young. And I’m a PhD student in
the U.S. history department of U.S. history here at Georgetown. And I was just hoping you
could speak more about the demographics of the
domestic slave trade that you describe in your book. And more specifically, the
desirability of transported children on cotton plantations. – Yeah, that’s a really good question. So abolitionists criticized and survivors unsurprisingly criticized
the greater propensity of the domestic slave
trade to break up families. And send pre teens,
teenagers and young people to the really, the other
side of the country. Where they’d never see
their family members again. And slave owners, you know, they tried to justify
themselves in various ways. They denied that this was happening. Although it was obviously happening. They claimed that, they were very reluctant
to separate families that were sort of whiter
than other families. And the field hands, they
didn’t really care so much about family attachments. These are the claims
that slave owners made. And Louisiana even,
fairly early in the game, I think around 1820,
passes a law that says children under 10 can’t be
sold away from their mother. This, I found lots of cases
where that law was violated. And you know, an 11 year old is you know, still pretty young. But again, this is a situation that’s, it’s depicted as a flaw. By critics of the system. And it’s something, that
because they’re living in a primarily Protestant Christian nation that has a certain idea of
what the ideal household is and should be this warm affective place. And children should not be
separated from the mother and so on. Because that idea is there, slave owners get defensive. And that’s true. But in the end, this is
another thing that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Because if you want to take people and remove them from traditional systems of labor, they’re probably learning
how to do from their father. From their uncle or from
their older brother. Not just learning how to do the labor, but how to have some
control over the labor. In the tobacco fields. Or cradle and grain or
working a blacksmith shop. Maybe teaching you things
a slave owner didn’t know. Didn’t know you knew, right? Couldn’t do himself, right? They were teaching you how
to have a little power. Over the system of production. Take you, age of 12 let’s say, ship you to the other side of the country. Put you with a bunch of
people you don’t know after you basically been
chained to a whole bunch of other people, some of them much older and more frightening than you. They drop you there on this new property. And they put you into a new job. In which you’re constantly measured. And you’re constantly tortured if you don’t meet the measurement. This is part of how the huge increases in cotton productivity are extracted. You do not allow enslaved
people to control the labor. To set limits on it. You grab them at a
point in the life course where they’re not capable of that. They’re not able to do that. And over time they build
horizontal relationships. They find fictive kin. You know. Whether it’s a bunch of guys
deciding that they’re brothers. Or somebody who’s older,
and I’ve run across many cases of this, adopting
people who remind them of his or her own children. And they struggle. They struggle back towards
having some control. And you see this constant
struggle, you know, played out. And things like rules that
say you can’t put cotton in someone else’s basket. So if you’ve learned
how to pick fast enough, and you’ve got that person you care about in the row next to you,
maybe they’re not so good. You put some cotton in their basket, save ’em from a whipping. The overseer doesn’t want that to happen. Because he wants to know
exactly how much you can pick. Exactly how much they can pick. They want those
relationships to not exist. So there’s constant pressure
on those relationships. – One last one? Or shall we dance? Shall we wrap it up? – I think actually why
don’t we wrap up now. We continue the conversation afterwards. I very much we can do that. I just wanna thank professor Baptist. You began reminding us
of that scene in Luke. The prophet going back to his home. And I think you have been
a prophetic voice here for us today. Helping us see the extreme moral gravity of the questions we’re dealing with. And they’re ones that we knew, but you shed new light on them. In both in your talk
and in your words today. And in your book. You remind us of the
humanity and the lives of each of the enslaved people. And your language reflects that. You often talk about his
enslaver, her enslaver. And you tell through their stories. And that’s inspired our vision, I think in important way here. But equally importantly,
you came back down to facts and figures and numbers that we need to contend with. There is a real debt here. One that is measurable and some ways immeasurable in another. But we need to confront
the measurability too. And you’ve named those things in ways that move our conversation forward. We could not have asked
for a better contribution at this point. So thank you very much for being with us. (applause) – [Maurice] Thanks for coming out. I appreciate it. Thank you.