Life Upon These Shores: Gates on African Americans in the Colonies

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Henry Louis Gates Jr., professor at Harvard University, as well as director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, kicks off this month's series on African American history with chapters from his new book, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History 1513-2008. This week: the colonies and the history of the slave trade. 


Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Comments [37]

Paul I. Adujie from Elmont, NY

Henry Gates has managed to shift the focus and responsibility from the culprits and actors

Henry Gates is digging in search not for aggressors and invaders, but those who he suspects of complicity or connivance.

Angola is not a neighbor to South Carolina or Jamaica... I suppose the Africans sent emails and tweets across the Atlantic Ocean to invite slave raiders-traders to a rendezvous two miles away?

Ending The Slavery Blame-Game By Henry Louis Gates, A Rejoinder

Dec. 07 2011 09:01 PM
Paul I. Adujie from Elmont, NY

I find Henry Louis Gates work suspect.

Why is he so intent on absolving, exculpating and extricating those who committed the ultimate evil against humanity?

Why is Mr. Gates so intent on pretending that lynching in America was justified?

Why is he so fixated on insisting that slavery in America was nonviolent, he apparently never heard that the good Christian-Confederate-Bible-Belt folks branded Gates' ancestors and treated them worse than farm animals?

Ending The Slavery Blame-Game By Henry Louis Gates, A Rejoinder

Dec. 07 2011 08:45 PM
Pasha from New York

The link plays the HIV segment. Please correct the link.

Dec. 02 2011 09:55 AM
Robin from Rockaway Beach

I wonder why the questions of the culpability of Africans int the slave trade is always so important to hear. It seems of little interest to talk about the Russian or Indean surf and cast systems or the reservation system in the US today. Why is it so difficult to say that the millions of whites killed during the two World Wars were done by their own people
But I do wonder about the less than 400,000 slaves Prof. gates says arrived in this country. If I am not mistaken, cencus data estimates more than 3,000,000 slaves at the outbreak of the Civil War. I am confused by the math.

Dec. 01 2011 02:11 PM

Your interview with Dr. Gates is not playing. The clip about AIDS keeps coming up.

Dec. 01 2011 01:59 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

I'm sorry but, jgarbuz from Queens...
Black people in slavery "were not being killed"? How ignorant you are. Not to mention the horrors that, for many, made physical death preferable...How cavalier you are about the terrorizing and torturing of others. For a "few more decades", no less...
Evidence for why black history really needs to be clarified and socialized amongst Americans, and way more prominent in the curriculum.

Dec. 01 2011 12:15 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

And right on, Suzette.

Dec. 01 2011 11:52 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Nick, I hear you. Gates seems ot be part of a growing population of black bourgeoisie who, in enabling their own fragile self-esteem, have distanced themselves from the ongoing struggles of the black masses, shamefully living life cracked out in some halcyonic, alternate unreality.
Still, his point about the complicity of "Africans" in the trade of enslaved black people (mind you, not THEIR people) is an important one and, it seems, historically correct. It has absolutely no bearing on the ongoing necessity to acknowledge and address the ongoing effects of 350+ years of terror against black people in America.

Dec. 01 2011 11:40 AM
Suzette from Westchester County, NY

Congratulations to Dr. Gates for @completing

Dr. Gates mentioned that African Americans flinch when they hear about the culpability of African elites in the slave trade. Well, that may be true among some of us but there are many of us who have accepted that fact but flinch only when scholars like Gates fail to mention that African elites who participated in the slave trade could not have known the horrific kind of slavery that Europeans would inflict on a people that did not look like them.

Slavery was common among many cultures of the time but European slavery of Africans in the New World was heinous; it erased language, history, and it destroyed families. Children of slaves were born into the institution and many slaves that were shipped over were children. The deaths during the middle passage was unprecedented.

I have tremendous respect for Dr. Gates and will purchase his book for myself and as gifts for family and friends. My only hope is that Dr. Gates in interviews discusses the above corollary.

Dec. 01 2011 11:39 AM
The Truth from Becly

Ahhhh step forward oh enlightened ones!! Spot on Dark Symbolist, Fuva and Nick from NJ!!

Can't wait for part 2 of this discussion when Gates returns next week!

Dec. 01 2011 11:31 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

TO Becky,

So having a half million die in a civil war over something that would have come to an end anyway, had they known, of course, was preferable? Yes, some black people would have remained enslaved a few more decades, but they were not being killed. Of course, it was not know that slavery would end anyway, but had it been understood, I don't think it was worth the price of a half million young people dying in retrospect. It would be different if they were being murdered en masse or being thrown into gas chambers. But that was not the case. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. But in retrospect, I don't think it was worth the sacrifice of so many.

Dec. 01 2011 11:28 AM
Nick Lento from NJ

I am disgusted and dismayed by the casual jocular manner in which Gates discussed and, to a degree, dismissed the ugly reality of slavery.

His factually correct assertion that African power possessors were complicit in "selling" off members of other tribes in to slavery to Europeans somehow lets Europeans/Western "Civilization"/ he hook to ANY degree is sheer bovine feces at best and a form of racism at worst.

His crack that some people wanted him to sweep these facts under the rug as they might weaken the case for "reparations" is more BS at best and it certainly fuels the flames of racial prejudice at worst.

The TRUTH is that it has been known for many decades that Africans were also complicit in selling off other Africans (which of course they did not OWN) into slavery...that is not news.

The reality is that the consequences of slavery are STILL with us BIG TIME....and that the practice is far from eradicated in the world or even in America!

People who are stone cold racists would take great pleasure in the manner in which Gates talks about the enslavement of millions of sure looks and sounds like he is maing light of the practice and he is minimizing the moral, ethical and legal culpability of Europeans and Americans....which still exists even to this day!

Let's face it, white skin priviledge STILL exists!!! Let's face it, people of color are STILL suffering repercussions from slavery and colonialism!!!

Again, the jocular lighthearted casual way in which Gates gabs about these topics minimalizez the sheer HORROR and significance of these events which have ongoing and present reverberations in all of our lives.

I tried to call in and get on to say this live on the air......but was left on hold by the screener as he segment ended.

Brian, I hope you have someone on to rebut the trivialization of this subject and who will make the case that slavery was EVIL and that ALL of the people, who engaged and perpetrated it were 100% wrong and that the wounds and damage caused by slavery are here now and ongoing.....still bleeding!

Dec. 01 2011 11:23 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

"Africans" are romanticized in the slave trade because "Africans" are regarded monolithically or in the context of false nation states, due to the widespread ignorance of "African" history. Tragically, this ignorance is prevalent amongst black people.

Dec. 01 2011 11:16 AM
john from office

DarkSymbolist from NYC!
I mean that he is a one trick pony.

Race and Israel always get the most comments, people have thin skins

Dec. 01 2011 11:15 AM

Dec. 01 2011 11:09 AM

i don't know what u heard but i had nothing to do with those missing girls and no one can prove any thing different

Dec. 01 2011 11:07 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

@ john from the Klan meeting

Your stupid comment doesn't even make any sense except to say "I'm a stupid, ignorant racist who never has anything intelligent to say!".

But maybe that was your point.

Dec. 01 2011 11:04 AM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

Gates went to africa and unabashedly -in a documentary shown on pbs-expressed his bigotry for arabs when he threw up his hands after listening to east africans claiming arab ancestry -and said " arabs, arabs they all love arabs-soon they'll be saying the sun comes up because of arabs". That his world view was challenged by east africans who were not indoctrinated with anti arab bigotry but on the contray took pride in claiming arab ancestry-blew his bigotted mind. Instead of recognizing the bias that he was coming from and his ignorance -he turned it around and expressed contempt for africans who did not share his bigotry.For all his world travels he is an ignorant bigot-a willful one at that.

Dec. 01 2011 11:04 AM
The Truth from Becky

Why don't we talk about white slavery instead huh HJS? Lot's of white girls going missing these days!

Dec. 01 2011 11:04 AM
The Truth from Becky

...and JG from glad you have 20 years to offer of other peoples lives...what should have been happening to the enslaved during that time do you propose? It was already 400 years too long.

Dec. 01 2011 11:02 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

@ hjs

It is actually possible to discuss and care about African American history at other times of year *gasp* shocking, I know...but yes it is actually humanly possible.

Great segment by the way, Brian.

Dec. 01 2011 11:01 AM

Slavery (in other forms) actually continued in the south until the 1940s

Dec. 01 2011 11:00 AM
The Truth from Becky

...and in that attitude HJS lives the problem! No one has that to say when the jews mention the holocaust a gabillion times!..Not cool, not funny.

Dec. 01 2011 11:00 AM
The Truth from Becky

Same song, second verse. Not anything I have not researched or read is being said here today.

Dec. 01 2011 10:58 AM
Nathaniel from New York

Ask Prof. Gates, if there was ever a supply driven slave trade. In his comments he does not recognize that with out there demand for enslaved labor, there would be no massive trans-continental slave trade. Prof Skip Gates is at it again!

Dec. 01 2011 10:58 AM
stefano from Brooklyn Ny "During the 8th and 9th centuries of the Islamic Caliphate, most of the slaves were Slavic Eastern Europeans (called Saqaliba). However, slaves were drawn from a wide variety of regions and included Mediterranean peoples, Persians, Turkic peoples, peoples from the Caucasus mountain regions (such as Georgia, Armenia and Circassia) and parts of Central Asia and Scandinavia, English, Dutch and Irish, Berbers from North Africa, and various other peoples of varied origins as well as those of African origins."

Dec. 01 2011 10:57 AM

Is it February already??

Dec. 01 2011 10:56 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The role of Africans in the slave trade has always been purposely under-reported - cudos to Mr. Gates for putting a light on it.

Dec. 01 2011 10:56 AM
stefano from Brooklyn NY

What about the Arab slave trade? It predated the European slave trade. A lot of Europeans ( I believe in the 100 of 1000s if not more) got abducted as slaves as well along with sub saharian East Africans.

Dec. 01 2011 10:55 AM
Jenny from LES

Does he see any similarities with today's slave trade?

Dec. 01 2011 10:55 AM
john from office

Mr. Gates truely has hit "Black Gold" with African American history. Keep mining that vein!

Dec. 01 2011 10:55 AM
Benna from LES

Your guests mentions Africans enslaving Africans. He needs to mention these groups all have different skin tones as well. Not just cultures.

Dec. 01 2011 10:54 AM
Heidi Yanulis from Port Washington

I read about this amazing African history in a book called The River Congo, which I picked up in a used bookstore in Somerville, MA in the 1990s. It was incredible to read that the African kings of Congo sent their sons to learn in the courts of Europe. I think the book is out of print, but it taught me an alternative history of Africa, which has been totally lost.

Dec. 01 2011 10:53 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The truth is, slavery was "abolished" by the industrial revolution, that substituted cheap human labor with cheap coal energy to drive machinery. Slavery in the US would have have to come to an end without a Civil War probably within 20 years after Lincoln, as the industrial revolution continued to penetrate the South.

Technology is what really abolished slavery.

Dec. 01 2011 10:52 AM
MIchael Stanley from Brooklyn

Please ask Mr. Gates what he think about the ideas that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus, particularly with the olmecs. Many say the ball player statues found in Mexico were modeled on African.

Dec. 01 2011 10:51 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Mr. Gates,

I loved your recent series on PBS, Black in Latin America. It was very interesting.

Dec. 01 2011 10:47 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Really, the term should be "enslaved" instead of "slave", to keep the humanity of the bondsperson in perspective.

Dec. 01 2011 10:47 AM

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