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The Clear Connection Between Slavery And American Capitalism

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The ties between slavery and capitalism in the United States weren’t always crystal clear in our history books. For a long time, historians mostly depicted slavery as a regional institution of cruelty in the South, and certainly not the driver of broader American economic prosperity.

Now 16 scholars are helping to set the record straight by exploring the true ties between 19th century economic development and a brutal system of human bondage in the 2016 book Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development.

Contrary to popular belief, the small farmers of New England weren’t alone responsible for establishing America’s economic position as capitalism expanded. Rather, the hard labor of slaves in places like Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi needs to be kept in view as well. In fact, more than half of the nation’s exports in the first six decades of the 19th century consisted of raw cotton, almost all of it grown by slaves, according to the book, which was edited by Sven Beckert, the Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University and visiting professor at HBS, as well as Seth Rockman, Associate Professor of History at Brown University.

The slave economy of the southern states had ripple effects throughout the entire U.S. economy, with plenty of merchants in New York City, Boston, and elsewhere helping to organize the trade of slave-grown agricultural commodities—and enjoying plenty of riches as a result.


“In the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War, slavery—as a source of the cotton that fed Rhode Island’s mills, as a source of the wealth that filled New York’s banks, as a source of the markets that inspired Massachusetts manufacturers—proved indispensable to national economic development,” Beckert and Rockman write in the introduction to the book. “… Cotton offered a reason for entrepreneurs and inventors to build manufactories in such places as Lowell, Pawtucket, and Paterson, thereby connecting New England’s Industrial Revolution to the advancing plantation frontier of the Deep South. And financing cotton growing, as well as marketing and transporting the crop, was a source of great wealth for the nation’s merchants and banks.”

We asked Beckert—who researches and teaches the history of US capitalism in the 19th century—to discuss the book and to talk about what lessons today’s business leaders can learn from the past.

Dina Gerdeman: The book makes note of the fact that a myth existed for many years: that slavery was “merely a regional institution, surely indispensable for understanding the South, but a geographically confined system of negligible importance to the nation as a whole.” Why do you think for so many years historians made slavery out to be a “southern problem” and didn’t seem to make a strong connection between slavery and things like innovation, entrepreneurship, and finance, which are at the heart of American capitalism?

Sven Beckert: This is an excellent question, and indeed, as you note, quite puzzling. It is puzzling for three reasons: For one, into the early years of the 19th century, slavery was a national institution, and while slavery was never as predominate a system of labor in the North as it was in the South, it was still important.

Second, there were a vast number of very obvious economic links between the slave plantations of the southern states and enterprises as well as other institutions in the northern states: Just think of all these New York and Boston merchants who traded in slave-grown goods. Or the textile industrialists of New England who processed vast quantities of slave-grown cotton. Or the bankers who financed the expansion of the plantation complex.

And third, both the abolitionists as well as pro-slavery advocates talked over and over about the deep links between the southern slave economy and the national economy.

Why did these insights get lost? I think the main reason is ideological and political. For a long time after the Civil War, the nation really did not want to be reminded of either the war or the institution that lay at its root—slavery. A country that saw itself as uniquely invested in human freedom had a hard time coming to terms with the centuries’ long history of enslaving so many of its people.

When slavery became more important to our historical memory, especially in the wake of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the work of reconciling the history of freedom and the history of enslavement involved quarantining the history of slavery to one section of the nation only. That allowed for doing two things simultaneously: It allowed for the belated acknowledgement of the importance, barbarity, and longevity of slavery in the United States. But it also allowed for a continued telling of the story of freedom, since the national story could be told as one in which one section of the United States, the North, fought hard to overcome the retrograde, coercive, and inhumane system of slavery in the other section.

Of course, this story is not completely wrong. Yet what it effectively did was to insulate the national story from the problem of slavery. A focus on the economic links generated around slavery, the story that our book charts, brings the story of enslavement squarely back into the center of the national history as a whole. And this is where it belongs.

Gerdeman: The book says “the relationship of slavery to American capitalism rightfully begins on the plantation.” Can you explain how the North benefited from the slave-grown cotton in the South? And how did this “empire of cotton” help create modern capitalism?

Beckert: There are very many economic links between the southern plantation complex and the development of American and global capitalism, involving trade, industry, banking, insurance, shipping, and other industries. The most prominent link developed around cotton.

As you know, the cotton industry was crucial to the world-altering Industrial Revolution as it first unfolded in Great Britain and then spread from there to other parts of the world, including the northern states of the Union. Until 1861, until the American Civil War, almost all cotton used in industrial production was grown by enslaved workers in the southern parts of the United States. Slavery thus played a very important role in supplying an essential raw material for industrial production.

Yet there were further links: British and later U.S. capital financed the expansion of the slavery complex in the American South. Advancing credit was essential for southern planters to be able to purchase land and labor. Northern merchants, moreover, organized the shipment of cotton into global markets.

And of course northern manufacturers, along with their European counterparts, supplied plantations in the South with tools, textiles, and other goods that were necessary to maintain the plantation regime. Plantation slavery, far from being a retrograde system on its way to being ousted by industrial capitalism, saw a second flourishing in the 19th century in the wake of the industrial revolution. And in the United States, cotton was central to that “second slavery.”

Gerdeman: Some argued that with the abolition of slavery, the North was poised to “kill the goose that has laid their golden egg.” Can you explain why that wasn’t the case?

Beckert: Slavery was important to a particular moment in the history of capitalism. But there were also severe tensions between the deepening and spread of capitalism and slavery.

For one, slavery was quite unstable. Slaves resisted their enslavements, and slave owners needed to deploy a lot of violence, coercion, and oversight to ensure the stability of the plantation and slave society more broadly. Moreover, slavery did not satisfy the labor needs that emerged in modern industrial enterprises; very little slave labor was used there.

And last but not least, slave owners had a very definite idea about the political economy of the United States, focused on the export of agricultural commodities to world markets, free trade, and the territorial expansion of the slave regime into the American West. That was quite distinct from the increasingly urgent and also powerful political needs of northern industrialists and bankers. They wanted tariff protection and the expansion of free labor into the American West. Both these political economies depended on the control of the federal government.

With the advent of the Republican Party and then especially with the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, that control became uncertain. As a result, southerners struck out on their own, provoking a violent Civil War that was won by the forces opposed to slavery.

Gerdeman: Do you think today’s business executives could learn any important lessons from this new understanding of the connection between slavery and the American market?

Beckert: Yes, definitely. The most important lesson this history provides is that business leaders whose companies’ history goes back into the antebellum era need to be proactively researching this history and confronting it. No one alive today is responsible for slavery—a crime against humanity. But we all need to face our histories and then try to move forward from that acknowledgement of the past.

More generally, it is crucially important that companies have a full understanding of their supply chains and of the labor conditions that are to be found throughout these chains. If they violate fundamental human rights, companies have the responsibility and also the ability to act.

There were powerful business interests in the 19th century who worked diligently against slavery. Just think of the Tappan brothers of New York, merchants who combined their business with anti-slavery activism. And then there were also entrepreneurs who refused to process slave-grown cotton. These people can serve as examples of what is possible. They show that to have a full understanding of all aspects of one’s business and to aggressively enforce fundamental human norms and rights is possible and necessary.

When you read the letters of businessmen of the 1840s and 1850s, you see numerous efforts to separate business and morality into distinct realms. Merchants and manufacturers in the past did know that slavery was a moral problem, but then they tried to say that such moral considerations were extraneous to the concerns of business. In retrospect we can all agree that these claims are preposterous. Such observations should make everyone today acutely conscious about making rationalizations that seek to insulate business from moral responsibility. History (and historians) don’t look kindly on this.

 

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Landscaping business owner helps fatherless kids through non-profit in Ennis, Waxahachie

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WAXAHACHIE

Justin Chappell grew up without a father. Much later in life, he did find his heavenly father and now helps other fatherless children to do the same.

Chappell is an Ennis resident who runs two businesses in Ellis County – Bama Landscaping in Ennis and Chappell’s Copieshop in Waxahachie. Chappell said he works tirelessly throughout the week for both of his businesses, but he runs the two to fund his real passion: Bloodz For Christ, a non-profit he founded in 2009 to support and minister inner-city youth in low-income communities.

He said the goal was to help the next generation through one-on-one mentorships and relationships some of them might not have had at home.

“I donate probably about 85 percent of whatever profit we make to my nonprofit to keep these kids off the streets,” Chappell said. “My business is pretty much the only thing funding my nonprofit.” ″


But years before he even thought of starting BOC, Chappell had a bleak past that was filled with drugs, gangs and jail bars. He said he was able to overcome it with God’s help, and he hopes to help show others how to do the same.

FROM ALABAMA TO TEXAS

Chappell was born Jan. 23, 1984 in Birmingham, AL. Chappell said he didn’t have a father, and he got into it with some of the wrong people, which included a few gangs.

“Alabama is real bad,” Chapell recalled. “My buddy got kidnapped. They killed him. I was honestly scared.”

Chappell got away from Alabama and moved to Corsicana, where he received a scholarship to play basketball at Navarro College. He later transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington before suffering a career-ending injury.

Chappell said he got depressed. So, he attempted to fill the void through unconventional means.

“In Texas, drugs are cheap,” Chappell said. “So I started trafficking, living that lifestyle. Not having any other avenue as a black man, the easiest thing for us to do is to sell drugs. It’s right there. We can all do it, and you got people to train you.”

Chappell said his mother kept discouraging him from drug trafficking and kept pressing him to go to church. He didn’t listen, and he paid the price much later when he was arrested for drug possession.

He said his bail was set at $150,000. His mother didn’t have the money.

“It was my rock-bottom,” he recalled. “I remember praying to God, and it was like ‘God, if you get me out of here, I will go to that church my momma has been telling me about. I promise.’ I just kept begging him.”

That same week, his stepfather won a lawsuit he had been fighting for about a decade. Chappell’s freedom was bought and paid for. He was 22.

Chappell said he messed up big time, but God was watching him and leading him on the right path.

“It was like a reality check,” Chappell said. “I cried, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity. He could have sent me to prison.”

LIFE OUT FROM BEHIND BARS

Chappell started going to church, just like he promised. He said as he went, his whole outlook on life began to change.

“I started seeing a lot different,” Chappell said. “I changed my whole philosophy. God had a purpose for me, and I had to serve it.”

But life was difficult to adjust to after Chappell left the county jail. He said he was on probation, and people didn’t want to hire him given his criminal record.

He said he couldn’t find a job because of his circumstances.

Around that time, he explained, a close friend had just been released from prison after being locked up for the better part of 10 years.

When they were discussing what they could do, he asked his friend what he was good at. He said, “cutting grass.”

That was when Chappell had the idea of starting a small landscaping company, ultimately deciding to call it “Bama’s Landscaping” after his sweet home Alabama.

“I was doing this broke, making $500 every two weeks, a single father with a one-year-old and a three-year-old,” Chappell said. “It’s sad, but it’s motivation. I was still doing this.”

One thing Chappell realized quickly was how difficult it was for many former prisoners to find employment after release. To help others and his business, he offered jobs to former inmates once they served their sentence.

Chappell has since purchased six trucks and partners with the Ellis and Navarro County probation departments to find new workers.

“I open it up,” he said. “Guys that normally can’t find jobs, I’ll hook them up with a job and give them a truck. Then they’ll pretty much create their own business.”

“The business kind of took off on me,” he chuckled.

BLOODZ OF CHRIST

Whenever he was working, Chappell said he felt like he needed to do more for his community. He said he saw many kids in the same dangerous situations as he once was.

So in 2009, he founded BOC to instill the values in the next generation that he never learned himself. The organization partners up with the Boys and Girls Club in Ennis and supports more than 100 boys from Waxahachie, Ennis, Desoto and Dallas.

“Black males with no father, it’s like a cycle,” he expressed. “And I know the only way to break the cycle because I’m supposed to be a statistic. You mold them. You teach them. You show them how to make it.”

Chappell said he started the program with six kids. Three of them are now preachers. The other three, he said, have all been to prison, but he plans to help them whenever they get out by saving a job for them at Bama’s.

“I go to poverty-stricken areas, and I lay my smack-down,” he stated. “I gather as many kids as I can get, and they just come to me like a magnet. I’m like a celebrity when it comes to kids.”

Chappell said the BOC has several activities that the kids can participate in. He said the kids could be part of a Mime Club and join in dance-offs, can compete in a chess club and make their own music from Chappell’s recording equipment.

Plus, Chappell trains their youth basketball team on Sundays at the Boys and Girls Club in Ennis.

But the extraordinary moments for Chappell involve the BOC’s outreach efforts to the community. He recalled one memory when a woman was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, and the BOC went to the hospital to pray with her. Two weeks later, she visited one of the BOC’s dance-offs at their church and expressed her gratitude to them, saying that her own grandkids don’t see her as much as the BOC kids did.

She died two weeks later. Chappell said he was grateful that she got to spend some of her final moments with the BOC.

“They get to see this stuff,” Chappell said. “I get to teach them real-life lessons that school is not going to teach you – that not having a man in your life is not going to teach you. To see them to grow up and become ministers to the world. We fund that.”

Recently, Bama’s Landscaping won a customer video contest with Mulligan Funding, a privately owned family business in California that issues loans to small and medium-sized companies. The prize was a 60-second professional video animation produced by Mulligan Funding to be used for promotional purposes at the business’ discretion.

However, instead of the promotion, Chappell asked Mulligan if they would instead donate the money to the BOC. Chappell said Mulligan complied and gave $1,500 to the BOC, which Chappell said would last the non-profit about three months.

Chappell said he’s happy and grateful for the opportunities he’s been given to help guide these kids toward their futures.

“I’m doing something positive and feeling blessed from it,” he expressed. “We’re saving lives, man.”

If you would like to donate or learn more about the BOC, call 214-554-8358 or email bloodzofchrist@yahoo.com.

By David Dunn | ddunn@waxahachietx.com

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Handcuffing of 2 Black Men Waiting For Friend in Philadelphia Starbucks Called ‘Reprehensible Outcome’ by CEO

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Two black men were handcuffed and paraded out the door of a Philadelphia Starbucks for allegedly refusing to leave when asked by staffers and police in an incident captured in a video that went viral and prompted the chief executive officer of the coffee company to say the “reprehensible outcome” should have never happened.

The video, posted by Melissa DePino, took place at around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday inside of a Starbucks on Spruce Street near South 18th Street.

DePino’s footage immediately went viral on Twitter, racking up more than 9 million views.

Starbuck’s CEO Kevin Johnson released a statement apologizing to the two men on behalf of the company and saying he hopes to meet with them to “offer a face-to-face apology.”

“The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks mission and values,” Johnson said in his statement released late Saturday. “Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”


In an interview with ABC News, Melissa DePino, a 50-year-old writer and mother of two, said a Starbucks barista shouted from behind the counter at the two men to make a purchase or leave.

“They were sitting quietly minding their own business, and waiting for their friend to come,” she said.

DePino said she was so appalled by the incident, she plans to not go anymore to Starbucks.

“Plenty of other local places to go,” she said.

The incident caught on video also brought criticism from the mayor of Philadelphia, which has the nickname, City of Brotherly Love.

Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted: “I’m very concerned by the incident at Starbucks. I know Starbucks is reviewing it and we will be too. @PhillyPolice is conducting an internal investigation.”

On Saturday evening, the mayor put out another statement saying he was “heartbroken” to witness what “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”

“For many, Starbucks is not just a place to buy a cup of coffee, but a place to meet up with friends or family members, or to get some work done,” he said in the statement.

Kenney also said that he had asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to “examine the firm’s policies and procedures” and would be reaching out to Starbucks “to begin a discussion about this.”

He went on to add there would be “a thorough review” of police policies with regard to “complaints like this.”

The same day Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. posted a detailed account of the incident, in which he defended his officers’ actions.

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SOURCE: ABC News – M.L. Nestel

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raceAhead: A New Nielsen Report Puts Black Buying Power at $1.2 Trillion

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A new report from Nielsen on the current buying power of consumers of color offers a fascinating look at how we’re spending our money. For one, we seem to be eating a lot of vegetables.

For another, we’re shaping markets.

In the report Black Dollars Matter: The Sales Impact of Black Consumers, the message is clear: While African Americans make up just 14% of the population, we are responsible for some $1.2 trillion in purchases annually. Further, consumers of color are showing an outsized influence in several key consumer categories, and are increasingly demanding that businesses do and be better.

In some cases, black consumers make up over 50% of overall spending, such as the category of dry grains and vegetables. But other categories are stand-outs as well, like baby food (42.76%) personal soap and bath needs (41.64%) and air fresheners and deodorizers (38.29%).

But the big takeaway is the willingness of smart brands to respond to the needs and feedback of black shoppers.


“Our research shows that Black consumer choices have a ‘cool factor’ that has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of color but the mainstream as well,” says Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, Nielsen. “These figures show that investment by multinational conglomerates in R&D to develop products and marketing that appeal to diverse consumers is, indeed, paying off handsomely.”

But don’t try to play if you’re not ready.

Nielsen’s research shows that 38% of African Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 and 41% of those aged 35 or older expect the brands they buy to support social causes, outpacing the total population by 4% and 15%, respectively. The data also shows that once black-themed products are leaving the “ethnic” aisle and finding a wider audience. But the process can be fraught, as charismatic Shea Moisture founder Richelieu Dennis discovered last year when a poorly conceived video advertisement rankled their core customers.

Andrew McCaskill, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Multicultural Marketing, and long-time diversity advocate, breaks it down. “With 43% of the 75 million Millennials in the U.S. identifying as African American, Hispanic or Asian, if a brand doesn’t have a multicultural strategy, it doesn’t have a growth strategy,” he says.

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