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February, 2007

The Future is Up to Us!

Why is African American history at the heart of American history?

Editor's note: This column is based on excerpts from the book, "The Future is Up To Us: A Revolutionary Talking Politics with the American People ," by Nelson Peery. We encourage our readers to join the discussion. Send your thoughts to info@peoplestribune.org. Order the book by sending $12 to Speakers for a New America Books, c/o People's Tribune, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.

Nelson Peery

Let's start at the beginning. As the capitalist system developed through the slave trade and the Caribbean plantations, capitalism became firmly planted in the colonies. Every colony had slavery, and none of the colonies, north or south, could have economically moved forward without the brutal working to death of the slave.

Capitalist agriculture was for the market -- rather than for consumption -- and never reckoned with preservation of the land. This is especially true of cotton. The solution was the constant westward motion for virgin land. In fact, it was the westward movement of slavery.

One example of this was the removal of the five "civilized" (i.e. slave-holding) Indian tribes in order to open up their native lands to slavery by the Europeans. The "Trail of Tears" is an indelible moral condemnation of US state policy for the expansion of slavery. Can you imagine the condition of the Indians' African slaves? Another example was the annexation of Texas and later the war against Mexico and the ripping off of half her national territory. There was no other reason for this expansionism than the proliferation of slavery. The westward march of liberty is a joke.

Most people understand that the Civil War was fought over the African Americans' condition as slaves. Few realize that Wilson was a vicious white supremacist and probably would not have been elected president if Blacks were able to vote. Roosevelt would not have won his third term without a solid African American vote. This goes for Truman and a number of presidents who changed the political direction of the country.

In addition, every single one of the oppressive labor laws had their foundation in the control of the African American. The control of a disjointed working class was achieved through uniting the white worker and capitalist to exclude the African American.

In the realm of culture, if it weren't for the African Americans we would still be dancing the minuet. At the heart of American culture beats the culture of the African American people. They would not have created this culture if not for the isolation, brutality and segregation of the African Americans as a people. Apart from the culture of the Indian, the culture of the African American is the only American culture. Everything else was an ethnic culture brought over from the old world. The other aspect is, it is becoming a world culture.

So when we say that the African Americans are at the heart of American history, we don't mean that they were in control of that history. The sad fact is that controlling and manipulating the Black 10 percent was the way to control the white majority. This is the only way we can make sense of a history that gives the world the most exalted visions along with the most brutal and callous exploitation and destruction of human life.

Order "The Future is Up to Us" for $12 from Speakers for a New America c/o People's Tribune, P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654.

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