Posts Tagged ‘United States history’

Exploring the original American sin: Documents on slavery

June 3, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 4, 2014

The other day, I collected a number of passages from American history rebutting conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s unqualified assertion that the United States was “founded under the premise that we are all created by God and we’re all created equal.” That may have been the spirit that motivated our Founding Fathers, but when it came to wide swathes of American residents — say, the nation’s African-American slaves — the principle was honored more in the breach than in the observance.

I’m not a serious student of history, but it was not at all hard to find numerous resources on American slavery. I ultimately pulled all of the historical texts in last week’s post from this resource page for “Africans in America,” a Public Broadcasting Service project. The page features nearly 250 illustrations and documents about what has euphemistically been labeled the peculiar institution.

Here are some other pages that inquiring minds can visit if they wish to delve deeper into the American experience of slavery:

• “Slavery and the Making of America”: These resources, evidently compiled for a 2004 project created by PBS’s New York City affiliate, Thirteen/WNET, cover a variety of topics. There are links to books for students, the texts of slave narratives, and audio clips of reminiscences of former slaves that were recorded by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.

Primary source collections — slavery and abolition: This page, hosted by Newton Gresham Library at Sam Houston State University, links to about three dozen different archives. Some collections document slavery in a particular place, such as Delaware or Texas; others feature images related to slavery. One link leads to a map that uses Census data to show the spread of slavery in the United States from 1790 through 1860. An Emory University initiative linked to here contains information on more than 35,000 slave voyages between the 16th and 19th centuries, including the names, points of origin, and places of disembarkation for more than 91,000 captured Africans.

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On equality and America: Rush Limbaugh vs. the historical record

May 30, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 30, 2014

I have no sermonizing for you today; simply snippets of transcripts and documents.

I ask, dear reader, that you do one thing: Contrast the way in which conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh describes the founding principles of the United States (particularly the passage that I’ve highlighted below) with actual historical evidence about how America’s founders and esteemed citizens viewed and treated the African-Americans who labored for them.


“The story of humanity on Planet Earth since the beginning of time has been tyranny and bondage. Most people who have lived did not have very much freedom or liberty.

“They did not have the right to own property, and they certainly didn’t have a whole lot of economic opportunity. The vast majority of people who have lived on this planet have had really hard lives. They lived under tyranny, authoritarianism, dictatorship, you name it. There never was a nation before the United States, which founded itself and organized itself on the belief that the citizen was the center of the universe.

“The free, liberated citizen was the engine. Every other nation on earth that had been formed or every other population — even if it was not a nation with borders, just any population group — was always dominated by brutal, tyrannical, dictatorial leaders who led by intimidation, punishment, brutality. The United States came along and was the exception to all of that.

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