The United States of America has a long history of relegating Black Americans to the realm of property.
Kidnapped and forcibly brought to the so-called New World on slave ships.
Damned and condemned to a lifetime of vicious race-based slavery.
This centuries long debasement of the humanity and right to freedom for Black Americans led to an ingrained belief that the right to autonomy and agency would forever be denied Black Americans; that their right to have their most basic humanity was to forever be stamped from the beginning as less than human, beginning with indentured servitude.
In the early history of the United States, laws concerning indentured servants and slaves did not differentiate between the sexes. Some, however, addressed only women, African women especially.
Black women were the original victims of the infamous black tax.
From 1665 to 1675, during indentured enslavement, Black Americans (Africans) faced a longer term of enslavement than their European counterparts.Maryland Virginia England It was during the mid-seventeenth century, laws changed to create a future society of slaves, with laws differentiating between indentured servant and enslaves, and then eventually between different races. Re Negro John Punch (1640) which was one of the early cases that made a racial distinction among indentured servants, the badge of slavery for life became enshrined in racist law, racist society, and racist individuals. With the destruction of English Common Law, where the child followed the race of the father, a new law to create property came into existence. With the enactment of Partus sequitur ventrem (“that which is brought forth follows the womb.”), from thenceforward the nation of America capitalized the womb—–the womb of enslaved Black women.
Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the mother.
WHEREAS some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ ffornication with a Negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act.
SOURCE: Act XII, Laws of Virginia, December 1662 (Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 170).
Property and profit.
With the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the beginnings of natural increase of enslaves steamrolled and the greed in acquiring more and more enslaves led to the wanton and sadistic rape of helpless and defenseless enslaved Black women and Black girls.
During race-based slavery, Fugitive Slave Laws were passed to ensure that any escaped enslave would be brought back to a life of chains as property.
Even free-born Black people were kidnapped and sold into slavery, because the colour of black meant one was property. Across the North, where slavery originated, the Patty Cannons filled their pockets with money obtained from the kidnapping and selling into slavery so many free Blacks.
At the end of the Civil War, Black Codes were enacted to keep former enslaves in bondage and as property. Former enslave parents had to go to court to fight to keep their little children from the grasping hands of former slave master and former slave mistresses who felt that their former property had no rights regardless as to what the United States government decreed. As far as racist supremacist Whites were concerned, Black people were still property, with former masters attacking, beating and murdering ex-enslaves who dared to resist being property. Racist Whites sought to repossess their property, because no matter what the law of the land stated on paper, Blacks would always be property in the eyes of this nation.
Property during Reconstruction.
Racist White women who felt they had every right to force Black women, men and children back into a life of slavery, a life as perpetual chattel domestic property. Racist White women who raped and sexually abused Black men during slavery, Reconstruction and segregation by promising to lie and have the Black man lynched if he did not have sex with her, thereby in essence, her raping the Black man.
Racist White men who felt they had a right——-a birthright——-to the bodies of Black women and girls. The relegation of an entire race of women to be the White man’s brothel. The property of forced sexualized gendered racism.
The rapes. The savage and vicious beatings with bullwhips. The mixed-blood progeny that would be denied by White father, damned to the red stain of bastardy and neglect and starvation. And worse.
“She also spoke of white men who murdered their own mixed-blood children:
“One man they hung not too far from here and burnt him too. Said he was riding a too fine saddle horse. His daddy was a white man, and his daddy was in the mob. This was common around here; it never will be told just how many young boys disappeared too. Just kill ’em and throw ’em in the pond and laugh about it.” (5)
Whipping A Negro Girl In North Carolina By “Unconstructed” Johnsonians.
The rigid codification of segregation with Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896.
The debt peonage of sharecropping that trapped millions of Black Americans into a life neo-slavery.
Sharecroppers pose in a Bulloch County tobacco field in 1949. Photo courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Property that was re-enslaved due to illiteracy and the racist laws stacked against them.
The property of Black Americans as a caste apart from the rest of America. The Jim Crow laws that debased and denigrated the humanity of Black people as less than second-class citizens.
The creations of convict leasing that unlawfully and monstrously re-enslaved in the chain gang so many, many Black men, women and little children. Arrested on trumped up charges of vagrancy, not working on a Sunday, leaving the employment of a White boss, talking back to Whites.
Chain gang convict leasing scene in Western North Carolina.
The nadir of lynchings. The brutality of atrocities that defy imagination. The destruction of Black lives and Black bodies with torture, burnings, castrations, dismemberment, and the keeping of body parts as souvenirs, the postcards that gleefully told of having a rollicking ‘ol time at the “picnics, barbecues” and lynching spectacles.
Laura Nelson. (The barefoot corpse of Laura Nelson. May 25, 1911, Okemah, Oklahoma. Gelatin silver print. Real photo postcard. 3 1/2 x 5 1/2″ Etched in the negative:”copyright-1911-g.h.farnum, okemah. okla 2898.” Stamp on reverse, “unmailable.” Photographer: George H. Farnum, 1911.
Property as relic and keepsake.
The mass incarceration of over 2 million Black men and women into prison for profit facilities across the United States.
Property as prisoner according to the sanctioning of the 13TH Amendment.
The cries of today’s Tea Party adherents and the followers of Donald Trump who bleat and squeal: “We want to take back our country! We want to make America White again!”
The rage at the once property having the temerity to fight back, talk back, stand up, rail against, protest against—-the idea, the nerve of the once property to want to be human.
Black Americans never ceased to be property in these United States.
Black people still are the scapegoat, the footstool, the spittoon of every racist filth and abomination that racist white supremacists can and still inflict upon us.
No matter what we do, strive for, and endeavor to accomplish, we will always be property in the eyes of those who seek the demise of our integrity and of our humanity.