Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Ancient Combat Book Reviews
‘Dangerous Disaffection’
American Negro Slave Revolts by Herbert Aptheker, 1943, Columbia University Press, New York, 409 pages

Researched as part of a thesis in the 1930s and reprinted for the last time in 1968 in support of the Civil Rights movement, American Negro Slave Revolts, when read closely is not likely to support any modern notion that descendents of African American slaves might peacefully cohabitate with whites or each other in agrarian, industrial or postmodern cities.

Despite Aptheker’s passionate belief that American blacks possessed a higher level of humanity and equal yearning for freedom to contemporary whites, this reader has found his record to be a gold mine. The very class of whites, roundly dismissed as having no agency whatsoever [poor whites] under the plantation system by Aptheker, are brought to life nonetheless, as the lurking ghosts present, yet unacknowledged by the author. Aptheker is commendable in his inclusion of the story of Caucasian servitude, largely unwittingly, as his focus is on the plight of blacks and elite whites only, keeping with the modern liberal narrative that working whites are non entities in American history, which is merely the story of elite white avarice and heavenly black martyrdom.

I have annotated this valuable book and will use it to place white servitude in context at the conclusion of Cracker Boy.

However, Aptheker makes a good case that Negro servile unrest had three primary causes:

1. The crucial precondition was a local increase of Negroes compared to whites, caused by A) poor white migration away from desertified land and blighted cities and B) the importation of large bodies of African immigrants by elite whites based in and out of English America [often English and Dutch]. Aptheker makes it clear that the mass importation of African slaves beginning in 1680, almost immediately turned such areas of English America into seething cauldrons of discontent, from which poor whites migrated into hostile Indian lands rather than remain as unemployed laborers and unpaid slave-catchers, causing a destabilizing racial imbalance.

2. The accelerant of discontent was industrialized agriculture, which made rural work increasingly harsh, combined with the concentration of blacks in increasingly large plantations and in urban areas such as Charleston, South Carolina, New York and New Orleans, which were centers of unrest, and where black-on-black violence was the rule, not the exception.

3. Severe and frequent economic depressions were the immediate catalysts, without which uprisings would not have been significant, meaning that the plantation system [the foundation of all of the English American colonies], was doomed to failure due to its own intrinsic, economic unsustainability and extreme social inequity.

Although Aptheker thought he was writing an indictment of American black chattel slavery, he penned an indictment of the entire American system, which was and is the plantation system, crucial to which is the ideal of population replacement [which was the reason for the birth of the system in 16th century Ireland].

Aptherker’s survey further proves that the only exclusively black uprisings requiring military level responses were committed by tribal maroons and/or under strong mystical leaders like Nat Turner and that most plots that got beyond the planning stage featured white specialists and/or leaders.

By combining the dense information in Herbert Aptheker’s survey with my Chronology in America in Chains, I will be able to present a comprehensive history of underclass revolts against the American Plantation System from 1620 through 1860.

Thanks to reader Gene Gibson for the thoughtful gift of this book.

America in Chains

Add Comment