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Articles on Slavery

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An abolitionist lithograph of the slave trade in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Capitol in the background. Library of Congress

White mobs rioted in Washington in 1848 to defend slaveholders’ rights after 76 Black enslaved people staged an unsuccessful mass escape on a boat

Riots by proslavery forces raged for three days in the nation's capital after the capture of a ship bearing fugitive enslaved people. The president, a slaveowner himself, tried to calm the city.
Medieval Christians believed that heaven was a realm filled with dancing. Italian painter Fra Angelico’s ‘Last Judgment’ showing dancing angels. Fra Angelico's Last Judgment/Wikimedia

Why Christianity put away its dancing shoes – only to find them again centuries later

Despite opposition from the early church, dance was an integral part of Christian devotion for many centuries before falling out of favor.
Huntsville reveres hometown hero Sam Houston. And he did not revere the Confederacy. Jimmy Henderson/flickr

Texas distorts its past – and Sam Houston’s legacy – to defend Confederate monuments

Texas' most famous statesman, Sam Houston, was a slave owner who opposed the Confederacy. But white Texans tend to omit his dissent in current debates over removing Confederate markers.
An early 20th-century NAACP map showing lynchings between 1909 and 1918. The maps were sent to politicians and newspapers in an effort to spur legislation protecting Black Americans. Library of Congress

How Black cartographers put racism on the map of America

Mapping is one way African Americans fight for equality and help each other navigate a racially hostile landscape.
Activists stand together during a demonstration against the slave trade and human trafficking. Photo credit should read GULSHAN KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Mali fails to face up to the persistence of slavery

Descent-based slavery – when a slave status is ascribed to a person based on their alleged ancestry – continues to exist in Mali.
Abolitionist John Brown, left, and President Abraham Lincoln, right, were both moral crusaders. Hulton Archive/Getty Images & Stock Montage/Getty Images

John Brown was a violent crusader, but he blazed a moral path that the cautious Lincoln followed to end slavery

President Lincoln was a statesman. John Brown was a radical. That's the traditional view of how each one fought slavery, but it fails to capture the full measure of their devotion.
The Port of Savannah used to export cotton picked by enslaved laborers and brought from Alabama to Georgia on slave-built railways. Cotton is still a top product processed through this port. Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Slave-built infrastructure still creates wealth in US, suggesting reparations should cover past harms and current value of slavery

Geographers are documenting slave-built infrastructure, from railroads to ports, in use today. Such work could influence the reparations debate by showing how slavery still props up the US economy.
Bill Robinson dancing with Shirley Temple in ‘The Little Colonel.’ (20th Century Fox)

How ‘Uncle Tom’ still impacts racial politics

'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' the best seller of the 19th century, is not a relic from the past. The complex Uncle Tom figure still has a hold over Black politics.
Kwame Akoto-Bamfo’s sculpture dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade on display in Montgomery, Alabama. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Why the West is morally bound to offer reparations for slavery

The turn towards authoritarianism, xenophobia and racism in Western democracies makes it unlikely that former Western slave-trading nations will agree to reparations in the near future.

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