Is “Political Correctness” “Wrecking History?”

I came across this article by writer Clint Johnson, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South and Pursuit:  The Chase, Capture, Persecution, & Surprising Release of Jefferson Davis.

One can see what the author thinks is important to know about Pursuit here.

Note this comment:

“Chase was convinced that bringing Davis to trial would prove secession was legal and Davis was innocent of treason.”

Chapter Two of the PIG to the South can be viewed here.

I think that may give us a flavor of Mr. Johnson’s historical acumen.

So what chaps Mr. Johnson’s hide?  “Marines will have trouble recruiting young people who now know that urinating on enemies who try to kill them results in brig time.”  What?  Does Mr. Johnson seriously believe that Marine recruits sign up for the purpose of urinating on enemies?

“The captain of the nuclear aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise who we trained to protect us from the Russians, Iranians and Chinese was fired for making silly videos. His gay crew members loved him, but his PC admirals feared gay civilian outrage.”  So what’s the real story here?  “The videos include scenes of simulated masturbation, simulated eating of feces, a simulated rectal exam, antigay slurs and a pair of men and a pair of women showering together.”  In other words, he showed a gross lack of professionalism and judgment.  Is that the type of person you want to be in charge of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier?  Not me.

Let’s take a look at Mr. Johnson’s historical accuracy:  ” It wasn’t until a former indentured servant named Anthony Johnson won a 1654 court case declaring another man to be his slave that the worldwide evil practice gained a legal foothold in the colonies. Johnson was also from Angola. Yes, slavery was legalized on this continent when one black man declared he owned another black man.”  Not according to real historians, Mr. Johnson.

There was a real man named Anthony Johnson who was brought to Virginia as either an indentured servant or a slave (it’s not completely clear which) in 1621, whereupon he was put to work on a tobacco plantation. In the spring of 1622, Johnson was one of only five survivors on his plantation of an Indian attack. Johnson met and married Mary, a black woman, and they had four sons. They eventually bought their way out of bondage and were able to acquire some and. During the 1640s they raised livestock. By the 1650s they had over 250 acres of land. In many ways, Anthony Johnson is a significant person whose story can be inspiring. Here’s a black man who came to this country as a servant and he carved out a fairly good life for himself by his hard work.

As to the trial in question, here’s an excerpt from the court record:

Northampton County Order
Book, 1655-1668, fol. 10.

The deposition of Captain Samuel Goldsmith taken (in open court) 8thof March Sayth, That beinge at the howse of Anthony Johnson Negro (about the beginninge of November last to receive a hogshead of tobacco) a Negro called John Casar came to this Deponent, and told him that hee came into Virginia for seaven or Eight yeares (per Indenture) And that hee had demanded his freedome of his master Anthony Johnson; And further said that Johnson had kept him his servant seaven yeares longer than hee ought, And desired that this deponent would see that hee might have noe wronge, whereupon your Deponent demanded of Anthony Johnson his Indenture, hee answered, hee never sawe any; The said Negro (John Casor) replyed, hee came for a certayne tyme and had an Indenture Anthony Johnson said hee never did see any But that hee had him for his life, Further this deponent saith That mr. Robert Parker and George Parker they knew that the said Negro had an Indenture ( anon Mr. Carye hundred on the other side of the Baye ) And the said Anthony Johnson did not tell the negro goe free The said John Casor would recover most of his Cowes of him; Then Anthony Johnson ( as this deponent did suppose) was in a feare. Upon this his Sonne in lawe, his wife and his 2 sonnes perswaded the said Anthony Johnson to sett the said John Casor free. more saith not Samuel Goldsmith This daye Anthony Johnson Negro made his complaint to the Court against mr. Robert Parker and declared that hee deteyneth his servant John Casor negro ( under pretence that the said Negro is a free man. )The Court seriously consideringe and maturely weighinge the premisses,doe fynde that the said Mr. Robert Parker most unjustly keepeth the said Negro from Anthony Johnson his master as appeareth by the deposition of Captain Samuel Goldsmith and many probable circumstances. It is therefore the Judgment of the Court and ordered That the said John Casor Negro forthwith returne unto the service of his said master Anthony Johnson, And that mr. Robert Parker make payment of all charge in the suit.

[http://www.wadsworth.com/history_d/special_features/ext/ap/chapter2/2.3.Johnson.html ]

This case in and of itself did not begin slavery in Virginia. It only applied to Anthony Johnson and John Casor and had no application to any other individuals.

Winthrop D. Jordan writes in The White Man’s Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States, “In rough outline, slavery’s development in the tobacco colonies seems to have undergone three stages. Africans first arrived in 1619, an event Captain John Smith referred to with the utmost unconcern: ‘ About the last of August came in a dutch man of warre that sold us twenty Negars. ‘ Africans trickled in slowly for the next half-century; one report in 1649 estimated that there were threee hundred among Virginia’s population of fifteen thousand — about 2 per cent.  Long before there were more appreciable numbers, the development of slavery had, so far as we can tell, shifted gears. Prior to about 1640 there is mounting evidence that some Negroes were in fact being treated as slaves. This is to say that the twin essences of slavery — lifetime service and inherited status — first became evident during the twenty years prior to the beginning of legal formulation. After 1660 slavery was written into statute law.” [Jordan, The White Man’s Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States, page 40]

Jordan writes later on, “When the first fragmentary evidence appears about 1640 it becomes clear that some Negroes in both Virginia and Maryland were serving for life and some Negro children inheriting the same obligation. Not all blacks, certainly, for after the mid-1640s the court records show that some Negroes were incontestably free and were accumulating property of their own. At least one black freeman, Anthony Johnson, himself owned a slave. Some blacks served only terms of usual length, but others were held for terms far longer than custom and statute permitted with white servants. The first fairly clear indication that slavery was practiced in the tobacco colonies appears in 1639, when a Maryland statute declared that ‘ all the Inhabitants of this Province being Christians (Slaves excepted) Shall have and enjoy all such rights liberties immunities privileges and free customs within this Province as any natural born subject of England.’ Another Maryland law passed the same year provided that ‘all persons being Christians (Slaves excepted)’ over eighteen who were imported without indentures would serve for four years.” [Jordan, pages 41-42]

As to Casor being the first to be held to service for life, Jordan flatly disputes this:

“The next year, 1640, the first definite indication of outright enslavement appears in Virginia. The General Court pronounced sentence on three servants who had been retaken after absconding to Maryland. Two of them, both white, were ordered to serve their masters for one additional year and then the colony for three more, but ‘ the third being a negro named John Punch shall serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or else where.’ ” [Jordan, page 42]

Jordan provides even more evidence:

“After 1640, when surviving Virginia county court records began to mention Negroes, sales for life, often including any future progeny, were recorded in unmistakable language. In 1646 Francis Pott sold a Negro woman and boy to Stephen Charlton ‘ to the use of him … forever. ‘ Similarly, six years later William Whittington sold to John Pott ‘ one Negroe girle named Jowan; aged about Ten yeares and with her Issue and produce duringe her (or either of them) for their Life tyme. And their Successors forever’ ; and a Maryland man in 1649 deeded two Negro men and a woman ‘ and all their issue both male and Female. ‘ The executors of a York County estate in 1647 disposed of eight Negroes — four men, two women, and two children — to Captain John Chisman ‘ to have hold occupy possesse and injoy and every one of the afforementioned Negroes forever.’ ” [Jordan, page 42]

John Hope Franklin also talks about the development of slavery in Virginia:

“Most of the Negroes brought into Virginia after 1640 had no indentures or contracts and could not look forward to freedom after a specified term of service. Some others that were brought in enjoyed the dubious distinction of having contracts providing that they were ‘ servants for life ‘ or ‘ perpetual servants. ‘ ” [John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, Third Edition, page 72]

Valuations for blacks in sales, auctions, and estate inventories were significantly higher, in the 1640s and 1650s, than for whites, indicating more years of service available to the purchaser. This is further indication that blacks were slaves for life well before Anthony Johnson’s court case.

Finally, if the Johnson case were the first time anyone ever thought of holding someone in service for life, why is it that this is not remarked on in the record? It is reported in the record as if it were a fairly common occurrence, which, in light of Jordan’s work, it apparently was.

The record is pretty clear that slavery existed prior to Anthony Johnson’s lawsuit.

Personally, I think phony history does more to “wreck history” than the phantom “PC police.”

Advertisements

16 comments

  1. “Political correctness” is simply a label that folks throw about in an attempt to deprivilege an argument they cannot meet on its merits.

  2. It is not Political Correctness.
    It is Historical Correctness.

    1. And the “PIG to the Civil War,” which I’ve seen and looked through (not one of Mr. Johnson’s works), can be more properly called “The Factually Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.”

  3. I have to laugh about that. I’ve called it that several times myself. The PIG books are nothing but history remixed to yield a specific ideology that sells to a certain group of people in order to make money. Somebody is laughing all the way to the bank with their royalty checks.
    I will not let them be used in my classes. I use them as an example of what bad history is all about. I also point out The South Was Right! as another example. When you start believing two guys who have no education in historical research, but are health professionals instead you need to consider what the word polemic means. The last time the AHA reviewed one of their works it was the most scathing review I had ever seen. The only people who believe this crap are ones who want to believe and are too lazy to look at a primary document.

    1. I’ve looked through the Kennedy Brothers’ little contribution. It’s definitely an example of propaganda disguised as “history.”

      1. Al, you are being kind—too kind. Anything the Kennedy brothers publish is best compared to the natural product of the south end of a north-bound horse.

        1. Ah, Jim. You know I am nothing but kind. 😉

  4. You’re wrong. Most slaveowners in the south were black and most slaves were white. Every years, on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) the slaves and masters traded places. As this was the day that snowbirds from New England arrived in the sunny South to vacation it created an impression that the blacks were the slaves and the whites were the masters. At least that is what i read in the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Subjugation of White People.

    1. Some folks out there will think you’re serious, Pat. 🙂

  5. Al,

    I’m curious about something regarding the Anthony Johnson issue. I heard it claimed that he was an indentured servant and not a slave which is what allowed him to own any property…but yet after his death the court ruled that he technically didn’t own it. What happened here?

    1. Anthony Johnson was an indentured servant who had completed his indenture and was a free man. He married and acquired property of his own. In 1657, his white neighbor forged a letter in which Johnson purportedly confirmed he had a debt to that neighbor. Showing that the deck was stacked against black men from the beginning, even though Johnson was illiterate and couldn’t possibly have written that letter, the court ruled it was a legitimate debt and 100 acres of Johnson’s land was taken from him and given to the neighbor to satisfy the alleged debt. It was a case of theft abetted by the legal system.

      1. Thanks Al, is that referring to this ruling?

        That same year, a court back in Virginia ruled that, because “he was a Negro and by consequence an alien,” the land owned by Johnson (in Virginia) rightfully belonged to the Crown.

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p265.html

        Ive read a couple sources saying it wasn’t actually confirmed whether he was a slave or indentured servant. Do we know for sure?

        1. It’s a different case. As we can see, racism has a long history. He had been indentured.

          1. Do we know that through deduction, as in, because he owned land/property, or through confirmation of his contract? The court basically said that because he was a negro, he didn’t own property. This is the dilemma I’m trying to figure out.

          2. The court said he was an alien, not a slave.

          3. Even your post says “There was a real man named Anthony Johnson who was brought to Virginia as either an indentured servant or a slave (it’s not completely clear which) in 1621”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: