The abolishment of the transatlantic slave trade era in 1808 ushered in a rapid expansion of domestic slave trade in the United States. While the transatlantic slave trade brought the eventual end to slave transportation overseas, it had a highly profitable and adverse effect upon domestic slave trade and transportation. Towns that were once irrelevant such as Montgomery Alabama became central assets for slave transportation because they connected the lower and upper South through the railroads and steamboats. Montgomery Alabama in particular was in the center of the black belt and boasted the highest enslaved black population in 1860 at 23,710. Yet until 2013, Montgomery Alabama failed to acknowledge the injustice that occurred on their very own streets. My cultural artifact is the historical marker placed in front of the 122 Commerce Street Montgomery Alabama that functioned as a slave warehouse in the past owned by John Murphy but is now functions as a headquarter for EJI.
I was intent on doing this cultural product because I visited Montgomery, Alabama in the spring for a civil rights pilgrimage. As I toured state capital building, what struck me most wasn’t the embellishment of Jefferson Davis nor was it the misrepresentation of slavery but it was that the word slavery wasn’t mentioned at all. Even though Montgomery was the slave trade capital of Alabama, the only notion that slavery may have existed before 2013 was the misrepresentation of slavery by the mural in the capital building. The mural depicted muscular black laborers loading a train with cargo that appeared to be cotton this included a footnote that said, “Prosperity Follows the Development of Resources Agriculture, Commerce, and Industry, 1874-1930.” While the capitol didn’t fail to honor its ties as the capitol of the confederacy with a statue of Jefferson Davis inscribed with every state that succeeded from the Union. There is even a local high school named after Jefferson Davis that happens to be predominately black. Up until 2015, the capitol building even hoisted a confederate battle flag outside the building. Yet there is no mention Martin Luther King’s speech held at the steps of the capital, which culminated the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights.
I was inspired to use Montgomery’s historical markers after the reading “Family Diasporas and Parenthood Lost” because I believe the ideological camouflage of slavery and civil rights movement in the capitol building and in the majority of southern states needs to be addressed and reprimanded. The reading provided a brief overview of the reasons slave traders sought to sell enslaved children alone because without a parent a child fetched a higher price the younger they were opposed to sold with their parent free of charge. This provided slave traders a lucrative incentive to separate African American children from their kin.
The producers of my cultural product was the Equal Justice Initiative and the Black Heritage Council of the Alabama Historical Commission. The Equal Justice Initiative was inspired to create historical markers because it had just published a report that documented the slave trade in Alabama and the organization believes that in order to reconcile our nation’s past we must address it first. The Black Heritage Council of the Alabama Historical Commission sought to memorialize the history of the domestic slave trade that took place on their streets.
The historical markers of the Domestic Slave Trade in Montgomery, Alabama were erected in 2013. In the year of 2013, while the former first black President of South Africa Nelson Mandela passed away the first black president of the United States Barrack Obama began his 2nd presidential term. While this year marked the 50th anniversary of the civil rights milestones such as MLK’s letter from the Birmingham jail and the unfortunate bombing of the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham Alabama. But the celebration may have seemed bittersweet within the African American community due to the public outrage of the not guilty verdict of the George Zimmerman case. I myself still can’t excuse nor forget the decision of a 28 year old man to take a young man’s life at the age of 17. To me it’s irrelevant if Zimmerman truly feared for his life the fact still remains in the that of his head Zimmerman he was comforted as soon as he pulled the gun out of his waistband. While Trayvon Martin was a reoccurring news trend that sparked debates about racial prejudice in the United States. Henry Louis Gates Jr. took it upon himself to create a PBS documentary called “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”. Which premiered late in the year and illustrated a panoramic view of African American narrative over five centuries.
My cultural product is significant to the time period it emerged in because to this day the southern states celebrate a confederate memorial day in April to memorialize the confederate dead. But to my knowledge there isn’t a single day in the southern states or the nation that memorializes the generations of lives that were lost to enslavement and the generations of African Americans that were impacted beyond the physical injustice of slavery. Unless the United States becomes extinct, I do not believe the significance of the domestic slave trade will not change over time because it was the most vital component the United States economy during the industrial revolution which formed the United States as we know it today. Yet the relevance that the domestic slave trade has in the public mind is bound to decline if there isn’t talked about in a relatable manner or even acknowledged on an institutional level.
The slave makers produced in Montgomery, Alabama relate to what I have learned from the course readings at this point because it reinforces what I have learned about the domestic slave trade. When I read these slave trade markers this past spring I just looked at them as an informative memorialization and I couldn’t relate the impact slave markets had on the African American Family. Now I can definitively say that stigma of absent fathers in the African American community isn’t due to a psychological predisposition within black men or taught by the culture we live in. But it is simply a byproduct of what African American slaves were taught, socialized and cultured to do in order to survive as a slave but never to truly live. With that being said even though slaves were taught to obey their master’s ideology of their relationship with kin. I believe African American Fathers love being involved in the lives of their children just as all other men. In fact evidence the most recent statistics and studies have proven African American fathers are involved in their child’s life just as much as white fathers are.
“EJI Releases Report on Slavery in America and Dedicates Slave Markers in Montgomery.” EJI. Equal Justice Initiative, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://www.eji.org/node/841>.
Slavery in America: The Montgomery Slave Trade. Montgomery: Equal Justice Initiative, 2014. Print.