Links for June 28, 2010: Some Thoughts on Slavery and Reparations

  1. Walter Block | On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery

    The issue of reparations for slavery came up in conversation with a friend of mine last week. I’m not particularly well read on the issue, but here is something from Walter Block’s libertarian perspective. See also: Block’s Reparations, Once Again.

  2. A page from the 1850 Congressional Globe.

    The Library of Congress | A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875: Consideration of the Seventh Census

    Mr. BUTLER. The census heretofore taken has only required the number of slaves, and I see no useful information the obtaining of the names of the slaves can afford. On a plantation where there are one, two, three hundred slaves, there are perhaps several of the same name, and who are known by some familiar designation on the plantation. It can afford no useful information, and will make a great deal of labor. I made the same objection in the committee, and I move to amend in accordance with that objection now.
    Mr. DAVIS. If we are only to get the aggregate number of slaves, how are we to ascertain the owners?
    Mr. BUTLER. By providing that the number of slaves owned by him shall be put opposite to the name of each owner.
    Mr. DAVIS. Then we shall lose the benefit of the classification of ages.
    Mr. BUTLER. Not at all. The age and sex will remain—everything but the name.
    Mr. UNDERWOOD. If you leave the age and sex of each slave, it will be perceived at once that the master and the census-taker must have his attention directed to each individual slave. Then, as each individual slave on the plantation must constitute the subject of a particular reference at the time, in order to ascertain the age and sex, and the other inquiries the census table proposes to enumerate, it does seem to me that he must necessarily get the name.
    Mr. BADGER. What do you want of such names as Big Cuff and Little Cuff?
    Mr. BUTLER. Or of Big Jonah and Little Jonah? [Laughter]*
    Mr. UNDERWOOD. I have no particular anxiety to see these classical names that have been suggested, and whether it be Cicero or Cuff, it makes no difference to me. As it is necessary that attention must be directed to each individual, it occurred to me that the census taker could certainly make more progress by putting down the name, instead of being obliged to make a series of calculations. …

    Walter Block has written that where one can demonstrate that he or she is a descendant of a slave of some particular slave master, then they can arguably state a valid claim against the heirs of that slave master. Here we see a difficulty with this reparation model: Tracing slave ancestry can be exceedingly difficult, as it was rare for the pedigrees of slaves to have been preserved. Here, Congress debates whether to include the names of slaves on the slave schedule of the 1850 census. It was decided that the schedule should not include the names, thereby causing great difficulty for modern researchers of slave ancestry.

  3. NBC | Who Do You Think You Are?: Spike LeeVodpod videos no longer available.Film director Spike Lee learns about his slave ancestors, and experiences difficulty finding them on the 1850 census.
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