Modern college students think America invented slavery


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The coming dark age: Modern college students not only think America invented slavery, they know even less about American history.

Before even distributing the syllabus for his courses, Pesta administered his short quizzes with basic questions about American history, economics and Western culture. For instance, the questions asked students to circle which of three historical figures was a president of the United States, or to name three slave-holding countries over the last 2,000 years, or define “capitalism” and “socialism” in one sentence each.

Often, more students connected Thomas Jefferson to slavery then could identify him as president, according to Pesta. On one quiz, 29 out of 32 students responding knew that Jefferson owned slaves, but only three out of the 32 correctly identified him as president. Interestingly, more students— six of 32—actually believed Ben Franklin had been president.

The biggest irony of all is that it was in the United States that the abolition movement was born. Until that happened, the idea of slavery had been considered morally acceptable by all nations in all previous human history.

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18 comments

  • Christopher Landrum

    Confused…there were never slaves on English soil….except for indentured slaves, mostly Irish. The movement to abolish slaves in the empire started in 1772. Brazil is the best example of how to abolish slavery without a war….took until 1882 but was bloodless. Out constitution danced around the issue of slavery….they chose to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the middle of the room. But the US was the leader in the abolitionist movement? We can only hope. !

  • LocalFluff

    At least some parents take responsibility for their their child’s upbringing and education! In the Twitter-link below a Halloween costume of a black hole with and accretion disk, and a relativistic jet:
    https://twitter.com/nwoomer/status/792809182667890690
    (I bet he got some candy!)

  • Tom Billings

    Christopher said:

    “Confused…there were never slaves on English soil….except for indentured slaves, mostly Irish. ”

    Wellll, …not that people wanted it talked about. In fact, slaves on the British Isles were excluded in the latter 18th century, after what the society of the day viewed as some rather scandalous behavior. The West Indies, where the majority of British-owned slaves lived and died, were quite unhealthy places to live. It was not hugely uncommon for a new bride to leave for the West Indies with her planter husband, and return a wealthy widow whose estate in the West Indies was managed by someone else. It seems that some returned with something else as well.

    Some returned with male slaves, just as men had returned with female slave concubines, and for the same reason. Some were not at all discrete about it. This was what caused a “great secret scandal” in Parliament, and got a law passed forbidding slaves inside the British Isles.

  • Andrew_W

    “The biggest irony of all is that it was in the United States that the abolition movement was born.”

    Not so.

    “1834: The British Slavery Abolition Act comes into force, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire. Legally frees 700,000 in West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, and 40,000 in South Africa. The exceptions, territories controlled by the East India Company and Ceylon, were liberated in 1843 when they became part of the British Empire.[61]” Wiki.

  • Kirk

    LocalFluff> In the Twitter-link below …

    “That’s not blackface. That’s black hole-face (and body)!”

    Nice.

  • Andrew_W: The American abolitionist movement began in the 1700s with the Quakers in Pennsylvania. It spread throughout the American north and into the British Empire, which was aggressively anti-slave in the first half of the 1800s. In the 1700s however the British king strongly supported the slave trade because the Crown made a lot of money from it.

    As an aside, my masters was on early American colonial history, specifically focusing on the origins of the slave trade in the North American British colonies. As Christopher Landrum correctly noted in another comment, slavery never really existed or was favored in British culture. In fact, it took almost a hundred years for it to finally take hold in Virginia. My research attempted to figure out how that happened, and required a 300 page thesis to detail.

  • Edward

    For those who forgot or never knew:
    Abolitionism was in existence in the American colonies well before the Declaration of Independence. Abolition was so important to the Northern states, at that time, that it was the very first grievance against the British King in the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence.

    The Northern colonists had been unable to get their anti-slavery laws approved by the King, therefore it continued to be difficult or impossible to free their slaves. This is why the abolitionists, such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, were unable to free their slaves — the King would not allow it. Being forced to be slave owners was offensive to them.

    The US Constitution was full of references about the abolition of slavery. Liberty, freedom, and similar concepts advocated by the Constitution were heartfelt by the abolitionists. Even the preamble, which promises that the new nation “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” insists that liberty is one of the main purposes for our great nation.

    The Constitution has at least two references to weaken, reduce, and eventually allow for the abolition of slavery. One part forbade the importation of slaves after 20 years (the South would not sign if it were any sooner, and if they were not part of the US, would they still have slavery to this day?), and the North made sure that the South did not gain enough power to prevent the eventual abolition of slavery by counting slaves as only 3/5ths for determining the number of a state’s Congressmen. If they were counted as a whole person for representation, then their Congressmen would have overwhelmed the North’s representation, and — ironically — those representing the slaves would have insisted that they remain in slavery. That is how deeply ingrained the institution was in the South’s economy.

    This economic dependence on slavery was entirely the King’s fault, not just for allowing for slavery but for insisting upon it.

    I learned this in grade school. Your grade school teachers taught you all this, too. Right?

    Here is some additional reading on the topic of freedom, the US Constitution, and how slaves were carefully treated by the abolitionists among the Founding Fathers as people, not property:
    http://ashbrook.org/publications/respub-v6n1-boyd/
    “Since slavery was part of the Union, it had to be dealt with tactfully, and the Framers chose to do this by not explicitly using the words ‘slave’ or ‘slavery,’ but by creating several compromises. The Union was young and frail and needed agreement and acceptance by all the states. This, of course, meant that because each state had different interests, compromises needed to be made in order to create a document that best represented the Union as a whole.

    In a way, the Framers acknowledged slavery while also limiting it. Even though many of the Framers were opposed to slavery, they knew it was necessary to tolerate it for the perpetuation of the Union. They treated it as a necessary evil and believed that it would eventually die out.

    They were almost right. Slavery was dying out, because despite the “free” labor, it was very expensive. Slaves behaved in a passive aggressive manner in order to make it as expensive as possible, and this strategy worked. Right up until one abolitionist invented the cotton gin. The cotton gin was intended to make slavery obsolete, but it worked out the opposite way, making it so inexpensive to separate the seeds from cotton — the most labor intensive part of the cotton industry — that American cotton became very inexpensive and in so much demand that even more slaves were needed in the fields. Eli Whitney’s invention backfired, right in his abolitionism.

    Even the Declaration of Independence was careful not to turn slaves into property. The phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was crafted to make sure that slaves were not considered property, thus they were entitled to liberty.

    A similar phrase was in vogue at the time: “life, liberty, and property.” However, the Northern abolitionists, such as Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, were concerned that if such an important defining document specified that property were an inalienable right, the South would be able to use that to forever secure their right to own and keep slaves. Thus, a different phrase to specify inalienable rights was needed in order to ensure that slavery could be ended at some future time, a time when the politics were in the abolitionist’s favor, not the slaveholder’s favor.

    Abolitionists took great pains to do as much as possible to defeat slavery in the colonies and in the young United States. Sometimes they had to make terrible compromises in order to ensure that slave states stayed in the Union long enough for slavery to become outlawed. It took a century and a terrible war to eventually root out slavery, because the British King had sewn this weed deep into his American Southern colonies and grew it into a giant, unassailable institution.

    Yet instead of being thanked for the blood and treasure spent to free these slaves, around the world and within our own schools we are demonized for the practice imposed upon us by a greedy, tyrannical king.

  • m d mill

    In the U.S. civil war more than 140 thousand men (mostly voluntarily) risked ,then lost their lives to limit and ultimately abolish slavery.
    The only non-negotiable issue between the North and South was slavery.
    Isn’t it fair to say that in human history there has never been a greater sacrifice by of one race of people to guarantee the human rights of another race?
    But this will never be taught or considered within leftist dogma.

  • Keith

    The more proper understanding is that our Big Government Bureaucrats are trying to re-invent Slavery for the 21st Century with their taxation and regulatory schemes.

  • pzatchok

    Remember this.

    Nothing happened in any of the British colonies without the Kings grant and approval.

    Now who started slavery in the British colonies?
    The King with the full backing of ALL the aristocracy. Which also owned major interests in ALL the largest British industries. Including those that profited from slave labor.

    The American colonies had to have a revolution and gain independence before the British aristocracy would insist on outlawing slavery in the hopes of keeping other colonies from revolting also.
    It only put off the inevitable. WWII finished off the British ’empire’.

  • ken anthony

    Knowing that Jefferson owned slaves but not that he was a president fits entirely in the agenda to remove loyalty to the nation so it can be replaced with loyalty to a world govt. Obama’s 1st term apology tour fits right in. I’ve personally seen examples of this for about 40 years. At first I was confused by this but seeing it orchestrated for decades I’m simply amazed at the tenacity.

    We have allowed it and will reap its fruits in the future.

  • LocalFluff

    @Kirk, The topic of “race” never even entered my mind when I saw it or linked to it above. It’s a scary Halloween feeding black hole costume, probably insisted on by the kid more than by the parents. But they took the time to culture his interest, which is great. I forgot to mention the relativistic jet emerging from his head. But I suppose most who see it think there’s something racist about it. People are going NK-PK-paranoid about skin colors and don’t even know where space is, if one asks them to point at it.

    Maybe black holes (and white and yellow and red and brown dwarfs) will be politically banned from even being mentioned at any marxist feminist university? Then the official universe will only consist of blue giants. (Although in my native language blue is actually an ancient word for black, confusingly enough, so there’s no way out).

  • I am about to head out on our day hike in the Grand Canyon, so it is difficult to add my two cents to this discussion of the origins of slavery in the U.S. While both Edward and pztchok are mostly right in saying that the king and the aristorcracy were in favor of slavery, they do not explain how it was that slavery grew in the southern colonies and not in the northern colonies. My thesis dug into this mystery, and pinned it down to a number of factors, all relating to the very cultural fundamentals that eventually led to the Civil War and also later allowed the northern culture to dominate. These factors relate to family, religion, education, and top-down versus bottom-up rule.

    When I return home on Wednesday I will be able to better outline these factors.

  • Cotour

    And what of the new slavery to debt that is being fashioned in our modern world?

    Whether it is slavery by default or design, it is slavery none the less.

  • wodun

    The phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was crafted to make sure that slaves were not considered property, thus they were entitled to liberty.

    A similar phrase was in vogue at the time: “life, liberty, and property.”

    This is interesting. Would we have property taxes today if the phrase was different?

  • Steve Earle

    LocalFluff said:
    “….Maybe black holes (and white and yellow and red and brown dwarfs) will be politically banned from even being mentioned at any marxist feminist university? Then the official universe will only consist of blue giants. (Although in my native language blue is actually an ancient word for black, confusingly enough, so there’s no way out)….”

    There was a video making the rounds a couple of years ago of IIRC a City Council meeting somewhere in the USA in which a white male council member made a comment about money “disappearing into a black hole” and immediately being told it was a racist comment by the other board members…..

  • Edward

    Robert, “When I return home on Wednesday I will be able to better outline these factors.

    I eagerly await your explanation.

    I hope you are having/had a good time at the Grand Canyon. It is quite a place, and pictures have a hard time conveying the grandeur.

    wodun asked: “Would we have property taxes today if the phrase was different?

    Probably.

    Property taxes were even then a common form of governmental income, and government would likely have found an excuse to tax inalienable rights. They probably already have an excuse, such as whenever you pay a tax on any good or service that makes you happy. Tickets to Disney World — the happiest place on Earth — are taxed, so it seems that the pursuit of happiness is taxable, at least on a local level.

  • wayne & lindsey

    Have some excellent links on slavery & economics in Colonial America, but I’m on an Amtrak train [Empire Builder route! YEAH!] somewhere in Montana, so I shall wait for Mr. Z to weigh in on this topic and check back later.

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