No compassionate, ethical person can be unmindful nor unmoved by tragic injustices of past slavery and oppressive acts of present racial and ethnic prejudice against people that are condemned in all civilized societies.
Having stated what should be taken as obvious, there are some cloaked in robes of moral superiority who now assert not only that America's "true founding" began with slavery, but also that our "national DNA" inexorably carries that evil gene which forever disfigures our national character.
A "1619 Project" that I wrote about in my July 15 column is introducing this misguided and destructive doctrine into the curricula of K-12 school programs throughout our nation.
I have asked my colleague Dr. Tom Lindsay, a distinguished senior fellow of higher education and constitutional studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation to more fully discuss some true facts about slavery that both children and adults should be made aware of.
Tom, many appropriately disturbed young people today apparently believe that slavery actually originated in colonial America. What can you tell them about this? Was slavery "invented" here?
No Larry, although sadly, while studies show that even a majority of college-level students imagine this to be true, world history tells a very different story — one that traces back nearly 9,000 years ago in Mesopotamia (6800 B.C.) when enemies captured in war were commonly kept by the conquering country as slaves.
Later, in the 1700s B.C., Egyptian pharaohs enslaved the Israelites, as is discussed in Exodus, Chapter 21. And after that, pagan Greeks participated in slavery; both ancient Sparta and Athens relied heavily upon slave labor of captives.
But Greek slavery paled in comparison to that in ancient Rome where they made up as many as one in three of Italy's population — or one in five across the empire. The entire edifice of the Roman state and society was built on the foundation of forced labor.
By the 8th century A.D., African slaves were being sold to Arab households in the Muslim world that spanned from Spain to Persia.
Slavery had become common in England's rural agricultural economy by 1000 A.D. as a poor class yoked themselves to landowners through a form of debt bondage. And at about the same time, slaves captured in Germany grew so numerous that their nationality became the generic term for "slaves" — Slavs.
Atlantic slave trade began in 1444 A.D., when Portuguese brought in large numbers from Africa to Europe. Eighty-two years later (1526), Spanish explorers brought the first African slaves to settlements in what later became the United States. The New York Times 1619 Project got that date wrong. The Times likewise fails to mention that the Native American Cherokee Nation also held African slaves, and even sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Tom, if America didn't begin global slavery, what ended it here after our Congress passed the 13th Amendment in 1865? And also, since Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and the 1619 Project even claims that Lincoln supported slavery, is that really still part of America's DNA?
Larry, history is neither culturally simple nor linear. Many Americans had come to reject slavery by 1775 when Pennsylvania Quakers established an abolitionist society. Betsy Ross, whose American flag was recently deemed politically incorrect by Nike, was herself both a Quaker and an abolitionist.
Massachusetts became the first state to abolish slavery in its constitution five years later. Seven years after that, in 1787, the U.S. Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, outlawing slavery throughout the Northwest Territories.
In 1803, Denmark-Norway became the first European country to ban African slave trade. Three weeks before Britain abolished Atlantic slave trade, Thomas Jefferson signed a law prohibiting "the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States." Jefferson's actions followed Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation a half century later which freed all U.S. slaves in all states that had seceded from the Union with the exception of those in Confederate areas already controlled by the Union army. This was followed in 1865 by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which outlawed American slavery altogether.
When the Civil War came, some viewed it as God's punishment for slavery. Thomas Jefferson himself, commenting on slavery, wrote, "Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever."
Tom, finally, what would you wish to have Americans of all ages know about the tragic history of slavery, both here and abroad, that generally isn't being taught today?
Larry, the first priority is to get the history right without making it any less disturbing.
Let's begin by recognizing that The New York Times 1619 Project doesn't accomplish this objectivity, because no, slavery was not primarily an American phenomenon that is forever part of our nation's DNA.
The 1619 Project along with too many teachers and professors fail to emphasize that our great nation has led much of the world as a social model dedicated to the proposition that all human beings are created equal. Attainment of that transforming aspiration for human equality required a Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in America's history to end a great injustice.
Far from ignoring or minimizing that tragic history, let's also recognize the importance of learning from and practicing those lessons to eradicate slavery that continues to exist in a variety of forms worldwide oppression under socialist regimes and other tyrants.
No, slavery is not in our DNA. Rather, it was shed in blood that ended it. This is the story of America that we all need to realize.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. Larry has written more than 600 articles for Newsmax and Forbes and is the author of several books. Included are: "How Everything Happened, Including Us" (2020), "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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