Bob Dylan has given an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he is widely quoted saying that the “stigma of slavery ruined America” because America was “founded on the backs of slaves.”
He also added that “people (are) at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color” and added that “it will hold any nation back.” He also says blacks know that some whites “didn’t want to give up slavery.”
In his view, “if slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.”
Where to start?
(1) First, the Northern colonies (and later the Northern states) were the first colonies in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery. In 1777, Vermont adopted a constitution that abolished slavery. Connecticut finally abolished slavery in 1848.
(2) Second, African slavery had been legal for centuries. By the time Europeans started importing slaves en masse into the Western hemisphere, millions of African slaves had already been sold to Muslims in the Islamic world.
These blacks were sold into slavery almost exclusively by other blacks in exchange for guns, liquor, clothing, sea shells, and other European manufactured goods. Unlike Europeans, the Africans themselves saw nothing wrong with slavery, which was customary in Africa. In fact, West African states protested the abolition of the slave trade and continued to bring slaves to their coast (where they were illegally sold and smuggled to Brazil and Cuba) long after the slave trade was abolished.
It was Europeans who came up with the idea that African slavery was immoral. It was also Europeans who used military force to abolish the slave trade and who later abolished slavery in their African colonies. Were it not for European imperialism, slavery would be widespread in Africa today, and it still exists in some places like South Sudan and Mauritania.
(3) Third, few Americans realize how widespread slavery was until the nineteenth century. The Greeks and Romans had practiced slavery. The Vikings had practiced slavery. The Turks, Chinese, Aztecs, Inca and most other civilizations practiced slavery. Slavery wasn’t abolished in Western Europe until well into the Middle Ages. It continued to exist in Russia and Eastern Europe for long thereafter. The word “slave” originally meant “slav.”
Over a million Europeans were enslaved by the Barbary corsairs in North Africa. There is nothing unique about African slavery. The Bible is full of stories about slavery. The Greeks and Romans had practiced slavery. St. Paul, St. Augustine, and the Catholic Church sanctioned and justified slavery. The Justinian Code sanctioned slavery.
The idea that slavery is immoral was a radical idea until the early nineteenth century when Europeans began to stigmatize and abolish slavery in their colonies. Now, of course, Europeans are arraigned and condemned by non-Whites on the basis of their own “human rights” ideology, an ideology which wasn’t shared by the Africans at the time who were profiting from the transatlantic slave trade.
If the “stigma of slavery” ruined America, it also ruined … well, pretty much the entire world, which practiced slavery at some point or another.
(4) Racial conflict exists independently of slavery. In the United States, blacks and Hispanics are at each others throats in cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago, even though Hispanics had nothing to do with African slavery.
In places like Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, where enormous numbers of Asian indentured workers were imported to work on sugar plantations after the British abolition of slavery, the American black vs. White dynamic is replaced by black vs. Asian racial division.
(5) The first state in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery was Saint-Domingue in 1794 and later Haiti in 1804 – which is now by far the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, unlike Guadeloupe, where slavery was restored in 1803 and wasn’t abolished until 1848, or Martinique, where slavery was never abolished in 1794, but continued until 1848.
The United States was one of the last countries in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery. It was abolished in Haiti in 1804, Mexico in 1820, Chile in 1823, Central America in 1824, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados in 1838, the Danish Virgin Islands in 1848, and Guadeloupe, French Guiana, and Martinique in 1848.
In most cases (Haiti and the U.S. are the major exceptions), slavery was peacefully abolished, but it hardly follows that Mexico or Jamaica is better off than the United States as a consequence. In the 21st century, black people in the United States live better than black people do anywhere in Africa, or most of the rest of the world for that matter.*
They owe it to slavery. They should be thankful for slavery … which brought them to religion and civilization.
* The only real exceptions are black people who are fortunate enough to live in other European countries like the U.K., France, or Canada or in former slave colonies like Bermuda, Guadeloupe, or Aruba which are still tied to their metropoles. Literally everywhere else in the world free black people have demonstrated that they lack the capacity to a maintain a European level of civilization.