Friday, June 8, 2007

Getteth whitey!

I have a hypothesis about America’s attachment to guns. Might be bullshit, but here it is:

The U.S. Constitution has a Second Amendment – and Americans developed such a need to “keep and bear arms” – because of black folks. That is, white people’s fear of being slaughtered by black folks.

They had reasons to fear this.

I never knew about South Carolina’s Security Act of 1739. What that did was, it required all white men to be armed on Sundays.

Why that day? Because slave rebellions tended to be planned for Sunday, because on that day Negroes were “best able to get together,” as Benjamin Brawley, an early black intellectual, wrote in 1921.

I tell you, the World Wide Web is a wonderland for autodidacts such as myself. You can stumble over knowledge at every turn.

When it comes to slave rebellions, most Americans probably have heard of Nat Turner. Many black Americans know the name of Denmark Vesey too. And well-educated black Americans are hip to “Cato’s Rebellion,” which took place in South Carolina in 1739.

But as Brawley described in his landmark book, “A Social History of the American Negro,” blacks in America have plotted violent revenge against their oppressors since the 1600s.

The entire text of Benjamin Brawley’s “Social History” is now in the public domain, and can be downloaded here for free, thanks to Project Gutenberg.

Here is Brawley’s overview of “Early Insurrections”:
BENJAMIN BRAWLEY: The Negroes who came to America directly from Africa in the eighteenth century were strikingly different from those whom generations of servitude later made comparatively docile. They were wild and turbulent in disposition and were likely at any moment to take revenge for the great wrong that had been inflicted upon them.

The planters in the South knew this and lived in constant fear of uprisings. When the situation became too threatening, they placed prohibitive duties on importations, and they also sought to keep their slaves in subjection by barbarous and cruel modes of punishment, both crucifixion and burning being legalized in some early codes.

On sea as well as on land Negroes frequently rose upon those who held them in bondage, and sometimes they actually won their freedom. More and more, however, in any study of Negro insurrections it becomes difficult to distinguish between a clearly organized revolt and what might be regarded as simply a personal crime, so that those uprisings considered in the following discussion can only be construed as the more representative of the many attempts for freedom made by Negro slaves in the colonial era.

In 1687 there was in Virginia a conspiracy among the Negroes in the Northern Neck that was detected just in time to prevent slaughter, and in Surry County in 1710 there was a similar plot, betrayed by one of the conspirators.

In 1711, in South Carolina, several Negroes ran away from their masters and “kept out, armed, robbing and plundering houses and plantations, and putting the inhabitants of the province in great fear and terror”; and Governor Gibbes more than once wrote to the legislature about amending the Negro Act, as the one already in force did “not reach up to some of the crimes” that were daily being committed. For one Sebastian, “a Spanish Negro,” alive or dead, a reward of £50 was offered, and he was at length brought in by the Indians and taken in triumph to Charleston.

In 1712 in New York occurred an outbreak that occasioned greater excitement than any uprising that had preceded it in the colonies. Early in the morning of April 7 some slaves of the Carmantee and Pappa tribes who had suffered ill-usage, set on fire the house of Peter van Tilburgh, and, armed with guns and knives, killed and wounded several persons who came to extinguish the flames. They fled, however, when the Governor ordered the cannon to be fired to alarm the town, and they got away to the woods as well as they could, but not before they had killed several more of the citizens.

Some shot themselves in the woods and others were captured. Altogether eight or ten white persons were killed, and, aside from those Negroes who had committed suicide, eighteen or more were executed, several others being transported. Of those executed one was hanged alive in chains, some were burned at the stake, and one was left to die a lingering death before the gaze of the town.

In May, 1720, some Negroes in South Carolina were fairly well organized and killed a man named Benjamin Cattle, one white woman, and a little Negro boy. They were pursued and twenty-three taken and six convicted. Three of the latter were executed, the other three escaping.

In October, 1722, the Negroes near the mouth of the Rappahannock in Virginia undertook to kill the white people while the latter were assembled in church, but were discovered and put to flight. On this occasion, as on most others, Sunday was the day chosen for the outbreak, the Negroes then being best able to get together. In April, 1723, it was thought that some fires in Boston had been started by Negroes, and the selectmen recommended that if more than two Negroes were found “lurking together” on the streets they should be put in the house of correction.

In 1728 there was a well organized attempt in Savannah, then a place of three thousand white people and two thousand seven hundred Negroes. The plan to kill all the white people failed because of disagreement as to the exact method; but the body of Negroes had to be fired on more than once before it dispersed.

In 1730 there was in Williamsburg, Va., an insurrection that grew out of a report that Colonel Spotswood had orders from the king to free all baptized persons on his arrival; men from all the surrounding counties had to be called in before it could be put down.

The first open rebellion in South Carolina in which Negroes were “actually armed and embodied” took place in 1730. The plan was for each Negro to kill his master in the dead of night, then for all to assemble supposedly for a dancing-bout, rush upon the heart of the city, take possession of the arms, and kill any white man they saw. The plot was discovered and the leaders executed.


Thordaddy said...

I wouldn't doubt if some of the Zebra Killers ran across this author's fascinating slave revolt accounts. Wonder why Hollywood has never made any movies about either dramatic historical artifact?

ItAintEazy said...

Hmm, you didn't accidentally happen to watch a Michael Moore documentary, have you?

Thordaddy said...

Mr. Mills,

Actually, I think the Founders made some basic assumptions when they crafted the 2nd Amendment. These assumptions were that some "arms" was preferable to no "arms" given the even more fundamental assumption that those that commit evil will certainly "bear arms." One can assume that they also held self-defense to be a fundamental right. I don't think there is need for a more elaborate explanation for the 2nd Amendment.

It seems that the freedom to speak and the freedom to defend one's life are near univeral rights and therefore make perfect sense as the 1st and 2nd Amendments in our Constitution.

bumpster said...

The movidas needed back up ese. For the o.g.'s that landed here first guns were a fundamental necessity for survival in a land that they took by force from its native inhabitants, where their laborers were imported and forced to serve and where their obligation to pay the vig to the king were forcefully reneged upon.

LeaNder said...

what would I do, without your site, that is without being able to test here if my links work!

Besides, thank you, works wonderful on almost all blogs.

Getteth whitey!- Here I agree a bit with bumpster. It was on my mind immediately too. Although your thesis may well have a supportive value.

Anonymous said...

You should watch Michael Moore's doc on guns. He talked about this exactly.

Very good post...

Thordaddy said...

The problem with Michael Moore documentaries is that they are apparently edited in order to satisfy liberal assumptions and not in order to open a window into unique history.

Roberto Rivera said...

Given the role that the fear of black planet has played in the white imagination, I wouldn't dismiss your hypothesis UBM.

Take the obsession over the black violation of white women: everything from slavery to Jim Crow to racial cleansing was justified by appealing to this fear, even though the evidence clearly indicates that, for the vast majority of American history, the predation overwhelmingly went in the other direction.

So, I have little trouble believing that the "well regulated militia" referred to in the second amendment might have had at least one eye on the potential Nat Turners out there.

Anonymous said...

The American love for SUV's probably has it's genesis in a similiar set of fears. A fortified tank as a personal car.

On the other hand, there was an outrageous PBS documentary the other day on how the Mafia has infected every aspect of Italian life. That could probably never happen in the U.S., thank goodness, because all the mafia enforcers would get shot.

Grumpy WASP said...

Interesting theory.

It would explain the postwar explosion of the Gun Nut theory from the NRA during the 1950s and 1960s that the Second Amendment protects ownership of all guns, anywhere, anytime. Its almost concurrent with the rise of Civil Rights movement. Black vets returning and increased employment of minorities during the war didn’t hurt either. Plus, I bet the NRA membership roles were heavily represented by addresses in the Old South.

I think there may be some Synchronicity between, white paranoia, surplus guns, returning vets, and the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the context of the history you’ve cited.

Here in Texas, at the gun shows there are always a lot of Stars and Bars, but not many brothers.

Undercover Black Man said...

You're right about that synchronicity, Grumpy Wasp. Robert F. Williams, a North Carolina NAACP leader who advocated for black people to arm themselves for self-protection back in the '50s, had served in the military. (Don't know if he was a war veteran.)

There was irony too. According to his Wikipedia entry, Williams "started the Black Armed Guard with the National Rifle Association's blessings, to defend the local black community from Klu Klux Klan activity."

Thordaddy said...

Mr. Mills,

I think it's intuitive to believe that gun restrictions have hurt blacks in a way that is overly disproportionate in relation to the majority culture.

There can't be too many run-of-the-Mill blacks who really believe that gun bans are in their best interestv because the white folk might try to shoot them?

Undercover Black Man said...

You're right, Thordaddy. My late father was a gun-owner, and had a pistol in his bedroom for protection when we lived in the city. (Not that it prevented the occasional break-in.)

But my dad grew up in the country, where kids were taught at a young age to hunt, so guns were always a part of his way of life. He used to load his own ammunition, in fact... which always struck me as a cool hobby. He never passed any of that knowledge down to me.

NDK said...

For your theory to be correct you woul have to take into account the differing levels of slavery across the states prior to the creation of teh amendment. If correct, you would find that support for the amendment was lower in the northwest states where slavery was low or not legal.

NDK said...

I also would point out that the right to bear arms derives from an English right to bear arms which was only stopped in the last century. Prior to the 1950s, there were relatively few blacks (slave or free) in the UK and virtually none outside of the sea ports. It's not inconceivable that the US attitude derives from the English example enhanced by the fight for independence.

Undercover Black Man said...

NDK, thanks for the comments. Now I'm curious: If Britain had a right to bear arms, how come Britain never developed a strong gun culture like the U.S.? Gun-ownership as a way of life? I think that's where the presence of hostile Africans and Amerindians within one's living space may indeed have played a cultural role.