[Marxism] Fwd: The Black Struggle Against Slavery » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 10 10:19:35 MDT 2015

The Black Struggle Against Slavery

Greg Grandin’s “The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception 
in the New World” and Marcus Rediker’s “The Amistad Rebellion: An 
Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom” share both subject matter—slave 
rebellions on the open seas—and an unabashed commitment to the Black 
freedom struggle. Beyond the fortuitous combination of topic and 
political passion, however, the greatest reward for any reader is how 
both authors make history come alive. Despite their remoteness in time 
and place, the stories they tell have an obvious affinity for the Black 
struggle today as a new civil rights struggle takes shape to secure the 
final victory sought by ancestors Babo and Cinque.

“The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New 
World” is an exploration of the events that inspired Herman Melville’s 
“Benito Cereno”, an 1855 novella about the ruse orchestrated by slaves 
fifty years earlier to convince Captain Amasa Delano, a distant relative 
of FDR, that their vessel remained under their ex-master’s sway. This 
excerpt from Melville should give you a flavor of this droll and macabre 

	Three black boys, with two Spanish boys, were sitting together on the 
hatches, scraping a rude wooden platter, in which some scanty mess had 
recently been cooked. Suddenly, one of the black boys, enraged at a word 
dropped by one of his white companions, seized a knife, and though 
called to forbear by one of the oakum-pickers, struck the lad over the 
head, inflicting a gash from which blood flowed.

	In amazement, Captain Delano inquired what this meant. To which the 
pale Benito dully muttered, that it was merely the sport of the lad.

	“Pretty serious sport, truly,” rejoined Captain Delano. “Had such a 
thing happened on board the Bachelor’s Delight, instant punishment would 
have followed.”

	At these words the Spaniard turned upon the American one of his sudden, 
staring, half-lunatic looks; then, relapsing into his torpor, answered, 
“Doubtless, doubtless, Senor.”

If Grandin’s history is a fitting counterpart to Melville’s fiction, a 
work of high culture for the ages, we can see “The Amistad Rebellion: An 
Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom” as a necessary corrective to 
Stephen Spielberg’s pop culture film that like his “Lincoln” told a tale 
of paternalistic white intervention when the real history would have 
revealed something much more like self-emancipation.


More information about the Marxism mailing list