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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Questions/Comments for Wednesday's class

In preparation for our class on Wednesday, please post here your response to the assigned essay by noon.

13 comments:

  1. There are so many abhorrent things described in this essay, but one that really astonished me was the fact that churches were known to own and hire slaves. It shocks me to think that the Church, which prides itself on being a morally-upright institution, helped perpetuate the morally-corrupt institution of slavery for the sake of generating revenue. That's what offerings are for, not people forced to work for the benefit of white supremacy. Even more shocking is how casually the author states this information, as if it should not surprise people. It goes to show just how normalized slavery was in the antebellum period, though the author indicates that attitudes were changing in the years leading up to the civil war. What kind of harmful attitudes and cultural norms does the church perpetuate and help normalize in today's society?

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  2. White “men in all walks of life met here on terms of amiable equality…every man had his say,” (117). It is interesting that this place where people were being sold as slaves alongside animals and various other items that this is where the classes of poor and rich white men were equal. In the article it says that “During the decade and a half prior to the Civil War, slaves brought better prices in Kentucky than at any time in the history of the “peculiar institution,’” (122). Does this fact have anything to do with the reason Cheapside was such a large slave trading spot?

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  3. The article mentions the large impact that certain auctions of the enslaved, in particular those of mixed-race young women, on Kentuckians' perceptions of the cruel institution of slavery. Despite hundreds of heart-wrenching demonstrations of severed families, sold children, and denial of the most basic human rights, it was instances of the mistreatment of girls who at least partially appeared or "acted" white. What can be assumed or inferred about Antebellum Kentucky society and its participants as a result of this fact? Why were only these displays of malice from auctioneers, sellers, and bidders recognized as such?

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  4. The story about Eliza completely astonished me. The fact that this one auction disrupted all of Kentucky was quiet amusing. But what really struck me was one of the last lines of the essay. The action of owning and buying slaves was demoralized in 1864. Not even after the civil war which ended In 1865. How did they finally realize it was immoral to own other humans and stop the selling of them?

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  5. There are many things in this chapter that are simultaneously peculiar and abhorrent. One of them is the implied bias of the writer, J. Winston Coleman, Jr. Though Colman clearly sympathizes with the black people who were degraded on the auction block and with black families that were separated through the sale of their members, he also clearly believes in a milder, benevolent kind of slavery. Thus, he describes “some unscrupulous masters who cared little for the fate of their slaves or the division of families” (119), as if there is such a thing as a “scrupulous master.” Later in the chapter Coleman applauds the purchasing of a young male slave by two local citizens so that the enslaved man can eventually be purchased by the same person who owns his mother. Writing in 1940—at such a long remove from slavery that one would think Coleman might find the institution itself abhorrent—Coleman doesn’t even bring up the possibility of freeing the enslaved, of granting them the dignity they deserve. Instead, the citizens who purchase a slave only to sell him to someone else are celebrated.

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  6. As a white person it's really easy for the utterly utterly terrible, dehumanizing and disgusting nature of slavery to not be something that I have to think about in reference to how that history affects current life. My question is how can we remind ourselves of the atrocity that is slavery in a way that drives people to acknowledge the history in ways that can have positive effects in our communities? I know we are doing the flowers of remembrance, but I ask this because sometimes I think white people can escape having to acknowledge the history because they don't realize how terrible it really was.

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  7. One of the most shocking things that I found in the article was the check written for a slave in 1860. Looking at the check makes it very clear that people weren't very hard to buy, or that people didn't really have to think about it much. The price of $1,400 was a very specific number. After looking at the inflation online, the price today would have nearly been $40,000. That's enough for a small house today. Why was a person demeaned to this value? How was a person given such a price? Were the prices set higher for specific traits or attributes?

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  8. Coleman, near the conclusion of his essay, states that by 1864, slavery had become "demoralized" in Kentucky and was beginning to dissipate, even though many slaveholders believed that the practice would continue after the Civil War and emancipation. Considering that the political nature of Kentucky at this time was of conservative Unionism, what was the sentiment toward the morality of slavery among the general populace of Kentucky, specifically Lexington? What did people holding these abolitionist or proto-abolitionist views do to act against the currents of the abhorrent trade, if anything?

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  9. I found the portions of this chapter discussing the ways female slaves were handled on the auction block particularly disturbing. It is said that the auctioneer "twisted his victim's profile" to the excited crowd and "lifting her skirts, laid bare her beautiful, symmetrical body from waist to feet". The complacency with which society treated the sexual assault and black women in that era is disgusting. Unfortunately, the oversexualization of black women and other minorities continues today. How might the treatment of female slaves informed today's treatment of black women with regards to interpersonal violence?

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  10. When Coleman discusses Eliza and the two sisters whose sale all sparked outrage, is the implication that the outrage was because they were white passing? Where was this same outrage and disgust with the process for anyone else? Obviously they should have been disgusted and upset, but they should have been a lot sooner, too.

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  11. I was struck by the different jobs and roles that were part of the free labor market during slavery, jobs that were directly connected to slavery and that no longer exist. Coleman mentions “prospective purchasers,” “Negro traders,” “planters,” “spectators,” and “hangers-on” (115). The existence of both “Negro traders” and “spectators” raises an issue that I am not even sure I can fully articulate. I guess I am wondering about ways in which these jobs or, maybe more accurately, “roles” have left a mark on our society. As so many writers and intellectuals who write about race insist, memories become part of our very physical bodies, part of how we function today. What are ways in which “Negro traders” and “spectators” of racial violence are roles that white people continue to take on today?

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  12. It was interesting to see what the range that people enslaved sold for. Also the check is really cool to see how checks looked back then. We learn that people used to sell other people. Yet, we never talked about how they sold them, where, or what it was like.

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  13. I found this reading interesting because it brings a lot of truths to light regarding the lack of compassion many white people held for enslaved people. It's an emotional read, looking at the quotes of people who completely disregarded tearing families apart. I've been told about these things time and time again, and yet am still always shocked to read statements about how enslaved people were treated-- as if they were not even people.

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