January 11, 2021- An African-Canadian, of indeterminate political stance, has posted a statement that “slavery….probably never existed”. His statement seems to be based on a thread on the website Quora, which includes claims, by someone with a Nordic-sounding name, that people working on plantations in the antebellum South were actually treated rather well, were educated by their masters and were more like friends with the plantation owners. He, in turn, bases his claims on old textbooks from Virginia and other Southern states, which paint enslavement in rather benign terms.
In any system, there are relationships which are brutal and others which are mild, by comparison. There were a fair number of educated slave owners who selectively educated male house servants, to read Scripture and to conduct some plantation business, on behalf of their masters. This was especially true during the Civil War, when many White family members and regular paid employees of the plantations were off serving in the Confederate Armed Forces. While it was a breach of the law, in most Confederate states, the fog of war let the practice slide.
On balance, however, enslaved people were treated harshly, were not taught to read and write, and were infantilized; the men being emasculated and the women treated like playthings. The residue of enslavement lingers today, in too many families and in too many communities, large and small-in all parts of this country, in some parts of the above-mentioned commenter’s native Canada, and in both European and Latin American countries.
People will often go to great lengths to legitimize their fanciful beliefs about times past-or even recent events (Accounts of January 6, 2021-and the summer of 2020, for that matter, often depend for their justification on outlandish theories, which demonize those seen as in opposition to those accounts. ) Many of these beliefs are made up of whole cloth, and may be honestly viewed as little more than fever dreams. The Enslavement Deniers take their place among others of their ilk: “There were no Jews killed in Nazi Germany”; “9/11 was an inside job”; “NASA is a hoax”; “School shooting victims are crisis actors”; “FDR staged Pearl Harbor”-and on down the rabbit hole.
It matters little, that the face of enslavement denial is himself of African ancestry. Such people have been rather commonly used by those with more of a stake in revisionist history, to say: “See! That person doesn’t believe the historical narrative and s(he’s) (Black, Jewish, Asian….)!” A lie is still a lie.