A tad off-topic for the blog but a fascinating read nonetheless.
Today, it seems obvious that, as President Lincoln wrote, “if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Yet through the vast majority of recorded history, in the New World and the Old and in each major religious tradition, slavery was normal, a regular part of the social fabric. Slavery’s abolition is recent and aberrant, perhaps the finest achievement of the West.
American abolition came in 1865 when on June 19, soon dubbed Juneteenth, Union General Gordon Granger freed the last enslaved Africans in Texas.
America’s Juneteenth hardly ended slavery, however. China, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, Morocco, all 26 nation-states governing most of humanity, abolished slavery after – in many cases long after – over 300,000 Union soldiers died in large part to end U.S. slavery.
A nation with substantial economic ties with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, only got around to ending slavery in 1962. Yet I would never define Saudi Arabia by its history of slavery, and I bristle when people define America that way. Virtually all peoples have histories of enslaving and brutalizing others, so obsessing over America’s sins while ignoring everyone else’s is anti-American in the purest sense.
Alas, such views proliferate in the media, academia, and politics.
For that reason, I commemorate Juneteenth by re-reading Thomas Sowell’s classic essay, “The Real History of Slavery,” written in part to debunk popular misconceptions spread by the likes of Alex Haley’s Roots. A part of his collection of mainly original essays in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Sowell’s essay teaches politically incorrect lessons no longer taught in higher education or pop culture.
OK, not off topic entirely because I get questions about the Bible and slavery quite a bit. I don’t want to make this post longer that it already is so, here are some thoughts on slavery and the Bible from a while back.