George Washington's Slaves
Jude Wanniski
February 18, 1999

 

Memo To: Min. Louis Farrakhan
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Poignant Story in Emerge

I happened to see your picture on the cover of the February issue of Emerge Black America's newsmagazine and bought it to read about your preparations for the Million Family March you plan for October 16, 2000. (Good luck!) The reason for this memo, though, is because of a column that appeared on the last page of the magazine by a freelance writer named Gregory Wright. The headline was "A Romantic Take on Slavery?" and it involved a shock he had in conversation with his 7-year-old daughter. "I wish I could have been George Washington's slave," she told him. "Had I heard correctly? Sure did, followed by statements regarding how he had treated his slaves. He was kind and gentle in his role as a master. Therefore, though distorting the immorality of slavery, the sanctity and heritage of the father of our country has been preserved."

Wright goes on for several hundred words denouncing slavery and slavemasters and the idea that teachers and schools and society would want his daughter to "see slavery in a positive light... [out of a] desire not to sully the reputation of a very prominent figure in our country's history. She was actually saying that if she lived in 18th-century America, and if she had been a slave, then she would like to have been the property of an owner who provided relatively well for the tyrannized, unpaid underclass servants. (That's supposed to be a good thing, by the way.)"

How sad it is that a little girl is caught in this multi-cultural cross-current. Black intellectuals are running around denouncing Washington and Jefferson and all the other Founders who owned laves. Little black children are having to learn about the Father of our Country, who never told a lie, who suffered through the cold winters of Valley Forge to beat back the British imperialists, et cetera and somehow reconcile it with the fact of their slave-ownership.

Do you remember at one of our first meetings two years ago, I suggested you speak out against the multi-culturalists who were dragging Thomas Jefferson through the mud? I still wish you would see how destructive it is to drag down our national heroes, because it will never end. The "news" that Jefferson was a slaveowner and that Lincoln wanted to send all the Negroes into Latin America is nothing compared to that which I reminded you that there is no evidence in the 19th century of any white man who believed in the intellectual equality of black men. Why do we have to go back to the 18th century to discover racism when at the time of your birth and mine in the 1930s there were very few white men or black who believed in the intellectual equality of our respective races? Remember how we spoke of the continued existence of the white supremacy you spoke about in your speech at the Million Man March in 1995? Remember me telling you how Jack Kemp and I spoke of how white men as recently as 1975 or 1980 believed there would never be a black quarterback in the National Football League? Black men could jump and run, block and tackle, kick and catch, but they did not have it upstairs to be quarterback and when blacks did show sufficient skills to quarterback, it was assumed white men on the sidelines would have to call the plays. This is not only in our lifetime, Minister Farrakhan. It is just over our shoulder. The Bell Curve bestseller, which purports to show that people of color have an intellectual disadvantage from conception, was written in this decade, for goodness sakes.

Yes, Gregory Wright has a problem with his seven-year-old daughter, but he has to face the fact that there would have been no slave trade if it were not for the willingness of black tribal chieftains to sell black men and women to European traders. They did not sell their brethren, of course. They sold the black men and women who they themselves held as slaves. We talked about this and I have heard you talk about this in some of your speeches, facing the facts of history so it could be dealt with honestly. The history of mankind is a history of slavery, of men owned by other men, of white men owned by other white men, and of men of color owned by other men of color. Slavery actually was an advancement in the history of civilization, an advancement over cannibalism. When tribe clashed with tribe thousands of years ago in all the world, no prisoners were taken by the victors except those which could be easily absorbed, mainly young women and children. In some parts of the world, prisoners, were taken and held as livestock, to be eaten. In Africa, with the arrival of Europeans came the introduction of cattle and fowl to replace human livestock. Prisoners then were held as slaves. Some were treated well, others were not, depending upon the value placed on them by their owners.

There is little doubt my distant ancestors were slaves, because that's the way the world economy worked long ago before the arrival of civilization, language, money, and the beginnings of science and technology. Why do the editors of Emerge magazine kid themselves into thinking the world owes people of color something special, because George Washington owned slaves. I think it would be much more realistic and constructive for Gregory White to tell his 7-year-old daughter that slavery existed a long time ago, and it indeed was good that President Washington and Thomas Jefferson treated their slaves well and were loved for doing so. Please tell me if I am wrong, Minister Farrakhan. Because I am white, I can't know the subtleties and complexities of thinking black. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe if I were Gregory White I would try to tell her that it was wrong for Washington to have owned slaves even though in his time and in his place it was the natural thing to do. How can we build a future together if we spend so much time terrorizing each other with grotesque distortions of the past.

What I find so shocking is the willingness of so many of my contemporaries to excuse the behavior of our current crop of leaders who will commit high crimes and misdemeanors in the highest office and get away with it because the economy is doing pretty good, who can get away with bombing innocent people in other parts of the world because we are powerful and they are not. I continue to be shocked at how willing black men are to live on the liberal plantation of white men, just because they are tended to with free food, free clothing, free housing, free medical care, free education, as long as they get out and vote the party line. Am I wrong to be shocked at that kind of enslavement? It was you who told me and my colleagues in Florida, at our conference two years ago, that if the government gives all these free things to a family, what is there left for the man of the house to do? One form of slavery gives way to another. I'm sorry you can't be with us at our conference in Florida next week, but this year your Savior's Day weekend celebration in Chicago coincides with my supply-side festival. Perhaps I will talk about this issue at my conference, if it seems appropriate. I wish you would do the same. These are things that should be openly discussed, I believe you readily agree.