In the USA, February is Black History Month. Then, white shame rises like cream and people ask, “What can I do to assuage the mountain ranges of guilt that sprout from immoral acts like slavery?”
Commodity trading in non-white human beings was introduced to Manhattan in 1626. In 1711, the city made the Wall and Pearl Street intersection its official market site for their sale and rental.
A law for gradual abolition happened in 1799; after that date, children born to slave mothers were free but required to work as indentured servants for their mother’s owner. Existing slaves kept their status. Remaining slaves were freed on July 4, 1827.
There is more to learn at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
Trading in humans as a commodity was the economic engine that propelled the United States to economic (and at that time, agricultural) dominance — the state of ‘King Cotton’ — and the globalization of that industry.
Some companies that benefited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade include Lehman Brothers (bankrupted 2008), JPMorgan Chase, Wachovia Bank of North Carolina, Aetna Insurance and the Bank of America. Banks made loans to slave owners, accepting slaves as “collateral”. When slave owners defaulted on their loans, banks became slave owners.
A cynic might say that, in a way, nothing has changed. Kenneth T. Jackson, a Columbia University professor of New York City history says “There is no future in denying the past.”
June 19 — Juneteenth — is the day commemorating the day slaves in the South were emancipated.