THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
The United States
Domestic Slave Trade
Domestic Slave Trade
WEEK II / DAY V
Friday, February 23, 2018
Scripture / Ezekiel 22:23-28
Again a message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, give the people of Israel this message…Your princes plot conspiracies just as lions stalk their prey. They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth. They make many widows in the land. Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for money! And your prophets cover up for them by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them.
History and Legacy
In the early 1800s, cotton or “white gold” began to generate wealth for plantation families of the South. Like tobacco, cotton production required intensive labor. Virginia planters saw an opportunity to circumvent Congress’ ban on the importation of enslaved people through the inhumane act of breeding and selling humans “down river” into the deep south. “In 1857 alone, sales [of the enslaved] at Richmond auctions totaled $3.5 million” (Trustbuilding: An Honest Conversation on Race, Reconciliation and Responsibility by Rob Corcoran, 2010:58). Based on Minneapolis Federal Reserve consumer price indices, that amount translates to $89.9 million in 2016. Speaking of the slave trade originating from Virginia, Professor Dew, later President of the College of William and Mary, said: “It furnishes every inducement to the master to attend to his negroes, to encourage breeding, and to cause the greatest number of slaves to be raised. Virginia is, indeed a negro-raising State for other States…The noblest blood of Virginia runs in the veins of slaves’ (The American Slave Code in Theory and In Practice by Goodall, 1853:84).”
As cotton production expanded west, the promise of more wealth escalated and religious institutions wanted in. “Money for the operation [1836 negro speculation] was in brisk demand….Capitalists demanded high rates of interest….Then it was the Trustees of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, lured by these high rates of interest….withdrew their amount of $94,692.88, from a Northern institution where they were drawing the usual interest, and invested them in the Southwestern banks where they would be loaned to the speculators in the bodies and souls of men, women and children. In the reaction, and general bankruptcy that followed, the Presbyterian Church lost $68,893.88 of their funds” (The American Slave Code in Theory and In Practice by William Goodell, 1853:61).
Today the prison industry helps businesses maximize profits by hiring prisoners to make products or perform services at extremely low wages. Like slavery, governmental policies are enacted that intentionally or unintentionally create a pipeline to prison, primarily filled with boys and men of color.
Reflection and Response
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy! Please join us in this prayer of reflection from The Book of Common Prayer.
Almighty God, who hast created us in thine own image:
Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make
no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use
our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of
justice in our communities and among the nations, to the
glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and forever. Amen.
Written by Demetrius Summerville