*Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is being called out for his “beyond ignorant” understanding of American slavery.
Speaking on Tuesday (Sept. 20.), DeSantis claimed it was the “American revolution that caused people to question slavery.”
He added: “Nobody had questioned it before we decided as Americans that we are endowered by our creator with inalienable rights and that we are all created equal. Then that birthed abolition movements.”
Speaking to the outlet about his remarks, Professor Karin Wulf of Brown University, said “On at least three levels this is wrong. The idea of natural rights didn’t originate with the American revolutionaries; they were reflecting ideas that were widespread among political thinkers, perhaps most obviously the 17th-century English political philosopher John Locke.”
Wulf continued, “The United States as a government did not act against slavery in any form until 1807 (prohibition of the Atlantic slave trade) and acted in key ways to protect it right up to the Civil War (the fugitive slave act).
“Most egregiously, the idea that ‘no one’ questioned slavery erases enslaved people themselves who were active in resisting slavery both as individuals and collectively and in refusing the logic and legality of their enslavement,” Wulf said.
Seth Rockman, who also works at Brown University, tied DeSantis’ remarks to a greater agenda anti-Black agenda stemming from white nationalism.
“DeSantis clearly has not done the reading for class, but his error here goes beyond ignorance of the last several decades of research on anti-slavery thinking and organizing over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,” Rockman said. “What DeSantis does here is more pernicious because it places Black people outside the category of ‘we’ and ‘Americans’— a move that can only be understood as part of DeSantis’s strategy to ride white nationalism to higher office.
“This statement is yet another deliberate DeSantis move to ‘trigger’ or ‘own the libs,’ but let’s think about the implications of DeSantis’s statement here: When DeSantis says ‘no one’ he pretends that enslaved African and African-descended people aren’t worth taking seriously as people whose opinions about slavery might matter, then or now.
“The slaves who staged massive revolts in New York, South Carolina, and other mainland colonies throughout the colonial era, were they not questioning slavery?”
Professor Sarah Pearsall also reacted to DeSantis’ statement.
“The claim by DeSantis is completely incorrect. Plenty of people had questioned slavery before the American Revolution. Of course enslaved people had resisted the system since its inception, but there were also tracts by colonists, such as Samuel Sewell’s The Selling of Joseph, published in Boston in 1700, which argued that the institution was unacceptable,” Pearsall told Newsweek.
“Early abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic included Quakers; their efforts in some cases predated the outbreak of the American Revolution. Since DeSantis also states of history that ‘It’s gotta be accurate,’ he might want to practice what he preaches.”
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