Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Slavery and the 1.6%

The 1.6% and Slavery

The following is a tale of memes, bad history, poor logic, and misleading statistics. It is also a story about how information on Facebook can come unmoored from its original context and find itself applied in startlingly different directions. Above all, this narrative has to do with the way in which parts of the internet have helped perpetuate a culture of partisanship and intellectual sloppiness.

The meme above has circulated on Facebook for some time. One Thing after Another has traveled throughout the internet to find its origins—alas, without success. Like many other images, videos, messages, and memes on the internet, it has metastasized to the extent that it is impossible to locate where this tumor began.

What is clear, though, is that this kind of meme is a product of social media. Social media place a premium on concision, that is, the short, snappy expression of ideas. That is probably why wit, attempts at wit, or what passes for wit, seem to dominate posts on Facebook and, of course, Twitter; as we all know (or should know), brevity is the soul of wit. At the same time, the disposable nature of posts on platforms like Facebook (and particularly Snapchat) make for an environment that is not conducive to real discussion, mindfulness, or thought.

In their sober moments, most people probably understand these problems instinctually. And perhaps one can even realize how the nature of the social media world makes it particularly susceptible to hoaxes and other stupid gambits. Remember that one about how Mark Zuckerberg was going to give away $4.5 million to Facebook users who shared a “thank you” message? But why not latch onto a concrete example that involves history—such as the meme above that has aroused One Thing after Another’s ire?

The meme above is not particularly special. In fact, it is exemplary. It is a product of Facebook. It seems incisive, it sounds authoritative, and it appears relevant. It even cites a source in an official-sounding way. Only the dullest or most uninformed person could fail to catch the progressive message that makes an analogy between the 1.6% of 1860 and those who have been labeled the “1%” today. The rich, so the message seems to say, used us for their own purposes then in just the way that they use us now. Yet, like much else on Facebook, this meme is manipulative when it isn’t misleading. Its facts are wrong, its reasoning is faulty, and the analogy it makes is specious. And yet, when you look at the public’s reaction to this meme, you find that nobody is critical or educated enough to call it out.

We should begin by explaining what is wrong with this meme. Let us start with the 1.6% figure which was supposedly obtained from the Census of 1860. If one divides the number of slaveowners by the total free population of the United States, the figure is actually closer to 1.4%, but that’s not the main problem. Calculating the figure in such a way at all really minimizes the proportion of people who had a stake in slavery. First, determining the number of slaveowners relative to the number of “U.S. Citizens” is beside the point. Slaveowners did not “convince” all Americans “to fight a civil war.” Rather, they ostensibly convinced “the majority of southerners” to take up arms (more about why that statement is problematic later). For that reason, the number of slaveowners should be compared to the number of Southerners. But this issue brings us to a second distortion. If we want to figure out slavery’s true heft in the South, we really ought to establish how many families owned slaves. Doing so would show us how many white Southerners had an immediate interest in slavery. After all, the head of the household was not the only member of the family to value slavery. His wife, his children, and any other dependents had a stake in the institution. Indeed, as his children grew older, they too, in all likelihood, would become slaveowners themselves.

Figuring out what proportion of Southern families owned slaves is really quite simple. The University of Virginia has a Historical Census Browser that allows one to search, map, and calculate figures associated with various censuses (the calculator for the Census of 1860 is here). One Thing after Another has run the figures, but for convenience’s sake, we refer you to Andrew Hall at Dead Confederates: A Civil War Era Blog who has presented them in a tidy table. As you can see, about 31% of the families in the states that seceded owned slaves. The range runs from 49% of families in Mississippi to 20% of families in Arkansas. In some ways, these figures don’t even begin to capture slavery’s centrality to Southern social and economic life. Let us push to the side that slaves were responsible for producing the South’s main cash crops or that slaveowners often rented out slaves to those who did not have them. Let us just focus on the fact that almost a third of families in the Confederate states owned slaves. That figure gives one a much better sense of slavery’s gravity than “1.6%.”

Given these figures, a great number of these slaveowners could not have been “rich plantation owners.” In fact, according to the Census of 1850, half of all slaveowning families owned between one to four slaves. There were great plantation owners with over 100 slaves, but there were fewer than 8,000 families in this position in 1850 (compared to the almost 175,000 families that owned between one and four slaves). Clearly, slavery’s strength did not rest on the power of a few rich men. Rather, its strength was grounded in its distribution among a great many middling men.

This point is confirmed by Joseph Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse. A very high proportion of men who volunteered to serve in the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia were slaveowners, belonged to families of slaveowners, or had some connection to slavery. “Rich plantation owners” did not need to convince such men to fight; they were already willing to fight. And that fact completely undermines the point of our unfortunate meme.

Such a picture of slavery makes nonsense of the claim that slavery “reduced the value of their [Southerners’] own labor and pay.” Starting with Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (1974), which was the first work to subject the economics of slavery to serious study, it has become increasingly clear to historians that slavery was very lucrative. That is why so many Southerners bought slaves. If Southerners did not invest in railroads or factories, that was because investment in slaves who could grow cotton was much more profitable. That fact accounts for the enormous amount of Southern capital tied up in slaves during the antebellum period. Confidence in the profitability of slavery was reflected by the fact that the price of slaves was skyrocketing up to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Some of you might read this post and think to yourself, “Congratulations One Thing after Another, are you proud of yourself for destroying a dumb meme?” No, One Thing after Another is not proud. The problem is that you can search the internet far and wide without locating a refutation of this meme. In fact, wherever you find this meme posted, you are sure to see that it has elicited a variety of comments that reveal the degree to which the ideas of historians and the beliefs of the public are separated by an enormous abyss. In other words, the meme seems to evoke historical lunacy and delusions among commenters.

Not only that, but the misinformation associated with this meme has spawned other inaccurate memes that repackage the “facts” in a very different interpretive framework.

The 1.6% of whites

If our initial meme was progressive in outlook, its offspring leans in a very different direction which is just as mistaken and just as dangerous (if not more so). What further memes will this meme generate? Where does it all end? How can academia counter the rapidly pullulating mass of memes that apparently pass for education on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? By writing a blog post?

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54 comments

  1. Your analysis immediately lets “off the hook” all Northerners as we were not slave owners for the most part. Not all “whites” were involved yet all “whites” share equally in the disparagement. Also, why is the term ‘white” not deemed demeaning but the term “black” is somehow. You define “whites” by a name not really descriptive of their skin color just as we are accused of defining “blacks” by a name not really descriptive of their skin color. We most stop pointing fingers and trying to place blame for the sins of our fathers (actually great-great-grandfathers) and solve the problems of today on today’s terms, with love, understanding and forgiveness.

    1. All whites do not share in the disparagement or discrimination, and or much less slavery. Hundreds of thousands of whites left their families, wives, and infant children to fend for them selves on small farms in the north; to go and die in the fight against secession and slavery. More than 250,000 died and and more than a half million were maimed or crippled on the side of the Union. It’s about time the black race give these people credit for what they did. Black people did not free themselves and the black race in America is delving in hatred against whites in general which is a product of ignorant self education internalized.

      1. Yes, and the vast majority of the 250,000 who died on the side of the Union were REPUBLICANS. The vast majority of those who died for the south were DEMOCRATS.

      2. You are correct that many whites risked life and limb to fight against slavery. You slide off the rails when you take that fact and use it to demean others. “the black race in America is delving in hatred against whites” is a loaded statement and says more about your preconceptions than about how people actually feel and behave.

      3. You just proved my point! You say even mentioning how white people died to abolish slavery demeans black people. Please tell me what then doesn’t demean black people. That’s their problem they need to get over their psuedo masochistic self patronizing cry baby attitudes. Many people and various races have been enslaved or owned slaves throughout history. It is the worst but you don’t have to live in self pity and self denial forever. Raise people to have morals and succeed not to be afraid of work because your ancestors were slaves. Blacks need to stop crying racist, and if you don’t know how prevalent black racists are you must be living in a cocoon.

    2. Northern white democrats owned slaves. The war was about the northern anti-slavery Republicans against the northern and southern pro-slavery Democrats. It was not north against south… it was Republicans against Democrats. Not one Republican owned slaves in 1860. Prove me wrong.

      1. “Not one Republican owned slaves in 1860”

        Incorrect.

        One example: Every Republican Congressman from Kentucky, which did not accept the party’s “containment” platform, owned slaves between 1854 and 1864.

        But don’t let that stop your preconceived notions.

      2. I hope this sheds light on your “republican” and “democrat” issue is resolved. Things tend to change over time.

    1. Absolutely the point! Who still living had any say in the ownership of slaves? That whole argument is so tired and I’m tired of listening to it. My ability to sympathize is gone.

      1. Let’s not be discriminatory here, there are whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc, who haven’t changed in racist attitudes. That’s just the nature of the human population, it will always produce some with less intelligence, less rational-thinking ability.

      2. a FAR greater number of blacks are racist compared to whites…if your so against slavery,did you know there are OVER 29 MILLION black slaves TODAY in Muslim countries? what have YOU done about that?

    2. Yes. Based on the 1860 U.S. Census, only about 8% of American families owned slaves, and these were concentrated in the South. Most white American families actually did not own slaves.

      Also, hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers shed their blood to preserve the Union without slavery. In my family, two Union soldiers suffered grevious injuries. Their sacrifice is worth something as well.

  2. From my perspective, your article seems to support the analogy more than debunk it. It suggests that if the 1.6% throw a big enough bone to the next class of citizens then they can buy their cooperation in oppressing the lowest class. In the end, everyone is just some level of servant to the 1.6%. Think of Sambo and Quimbo in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

  3. The meme says ALL U.S. citizens. You agree and actually say its closer to 1.4% than the 1.6% mentioned in the meme. Then you go ahead and change the parameters of the meme and say its wrong. With your math you are adding 1 month old babies to your numbers and 1 year olds. Does that seem fair? Does a 1 month old have a say on the households slavery decisions? Basically this whole article is just a giant meme

  4. Interestingly, approximately the same % of free blacks held black slaves as well. And white indentured servants, which were effectively slaves as well.

  5. According to the opinions of the author, the family members of slave owners are also considered slave owners by default.
    Therefore, instead of 1.6% reported by the 1860 census of overall US population being slave owners, the Author would like us all to believe that number is actually between 20% to 49%.
    Using the same logic, I’m certain the author would have no problem agreeing by default that 100% of decedents of slaves are violent criminals.
    If the author disagrees in any way, the “family association by default” argument should be thrown in the trash.
    You can’t hold the family responsible or count them in either argument, period.
    One is NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OTHER.

    1. I’m confused. If 31% of families in the south owned slaves, how what % of the population owned slaves? Do you mean 31% of people were within families that owned slaves? And that 69% of people were not within families that owned slaves? I think your writing is confusing. Thanks, Craig.

    2. I don’t understand the link between enslaved people being violent criminals? Are you attempting to say that enslaved people were violent criminals and thusly, there descendants will be also? Your analogy doesn’t make sense. What is the likelihood/ratio of 1000 enslaved people born in 1725 having all of his/her descendants become violent criminals in 1750, 1775, 1800, 1825, etc? You know, there were descendants of slaves in the 18th and 19th century. What is the likelihood of 1000 slave owners in 1725 willing to their children any living slaves and their off spring? He’s basing his conjecture off an odd or likelihood.

      But what’s puzzling is someone who refers to an enslaved person as a violent criminal when the system of slavery is a crime against humanity itself.

      1. I think Sleddog’s point is that if you take the number of black people incarcerated present-day, for violent crimes and then you counted all the extended family members of each of them as equally guilty, it would sound much more heinous about the entire black race than the true number of people who actually committed the crimes. And the same thing applies to the premise about the families of slave-holders on which this article is based. I can’t speak for him, of course, but that was my take on his comment.

    3. It is a FACT that the VAST majority of whites, even in the south, did NOT own slaves. Which were predominantly owned only by the wealthy. It is also a fact that 3,000 free blacks in Louisiana alone owned 20,000 black slaves, themselves. This statistic is readily available for anyone spending an honest 2 minutes of research. Another fact that blacks like to ignore, is that the slaves that were shipped over to the USA from Africa were obtained from Black slave traders. Historically speaking, Arabs, Muslims, and blacks, have owned and traded, more black slaves that any white man ever dreamed of.

  6. One thing that the doubters of the 1.6% figure seem to not understand, is that the civil war was NOT fought solely on the slave issue. It was much more a states rights issue.

    1. Dallas – You said “is that the civil war was NOT fought solely on the slave issue. It was much more a states rights issue”.

      The left have painted themselves into a corner on this issue. Some on the left know this fact, but others have been so indoctrinated that they cannot accept this fact. So, the first set are, in fact liars, and the others are just sadly wrong, and should drop themselves from any argument involving the Civil War and slavery’s part in it.

      The area of discourse where you can see this misinformation is in all discussions involving the “Confederate Flag”. To the left, it is solely a symbol of slavery. Being the battle flag, it is, therefore, the symbol of white’s desire to keep blacks enslaved in the Confederate States.

      Facts, of course, speak differently.

    2. James W. Loewen:

      Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

      On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.

      South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed “slavery transit.” In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina’s delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

      The politics behind the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina Play Video1:37
      South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced she supports removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds. Here’s what you need to know about the history of the flag in the state and what needs to happen to have it removed. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)
      Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world,” proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. “Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

      The South’s opposition to states’ rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states’ rights. Doing so preserves their own.

  7. Let’s assume that slavery was the overwhelming issue in the South’s need to take up arms. I don’t agree with the author of this piece’s idea that family members are guilty of owning slaves when their father’s owned them. However, to be fair, the notion isn’t totally without merit. I don’t know how we could determine which family members were for slavery and which were against, so I will just go with the number of slave owners. According to the 1860 census (I’m haven’t looked, but am taking this as fact from sites I have read), there were 385,000 slave owners at the start of the Civil War.

    Dallas and the author of the piece brought up good facts about ownership. 175,000 of the 385,000 held between 1 and 4 slaves. Slaves were not cheap. The average Southerner did not make a lot of money. Mistreating your slave would be financially, well for lack of a better word, stupid. I guess, since the left are able to be racist, they have no problem saying, “slave owners in the south, just by being white, are stupid”, so to them, mistreatment would occur in all cases.

    Many of these slaves stayed with the families after they were freed by the 13th Amendment. Many were dearly loved by the members of the enslaving family, and dearly loved the members of the enslaving family, and were not mistreated. They were paid in food, clothing, and shelter. If you don’t think this is payment, try to barter this from an employer today, not claim it as income (payment), and see that the IRS has to say.

    Most, if not all, in this situation, had better living conditions than blacks in areas of Africa do today. But that is not what slavery was about. It is an insult to those that endured slavery to talk about money “not paid”. They were not free to choose their mate. They were not free to choose their way of life. They were not able to “come and go” as they chose. Those are the pains of slavery. But do they generate income? Should this alone be worth money to their descendants? Who knows, by going out on their own, they might have been killed, They might have committed crimes, and ended up incarcerated. They might ended up exactly where they did financially, they might have ended up less off, that is deeply in debt. Or, they might have done better financially. There is no way of knowing. How can you come up with a number someone owes you for what your ascendants might have made???

    Next, the majority of slaves…

  8. My previous comment, of course, was not the condition of the majority of slaves. 210,000 owned more than 4 slaves, some of these would be as my previous comment, and some would be as this next comment:

    Only 8,000 owned more than 100 slaves. It is here that there was not much of a chance to form any sort of bond with the owners. It is here that a “runner” was very dangerous to the operations of the estate, because so much money was invested in slave ownership. If one tries to run, and isn’t severely punished, then more might try. This is where there was little direct interaction between owner and slave. That also led to mistreatment. Sometimes horribly harsh treatment.

    These 8,000 held most of the money within the South. While the GNP of the South was much less than the North, prior to the war, the per capita income was higher in the South. Actually much higher. That’s because although much less money, there were far fewer to average out against. It was the space needed for the plantations, and the fact that the black laborers were not counted that made the South look, by that stat to be wealthier per capita than the North. In fact, the wealth was controlled by the 8,000.

    So, because of 8,000 huge plantation owners, the left considers all whites as evil demons. For no other reason than carrying the white gene, all whites lust for ways to hold blacks down. Even if you count all 385,000, that’s less than half the number of people that live in Columbus, OH, yet to the left, this means all whites are exactly like them.

    As so many others have said, 620,000 overwhelmingly white, were willing to give up their lives for (based on the premise) the purpose of freeing blacks from these 385,000. This goes unstated by the left. Where is the talk for reparations to these families from the black families that were freed? I have no dog in this fight. My families were not here at the time of slavery.

    But the US government allowed it! True, but the US government was different back then. Matters of the people were left to the people. It was not appropriate for the Federal government to rule. It was a matter of the State. So the reparation issue should be left with the States that allowed slavery, and not have any sort of reparation be put upon States that forbid it.

    But even going to the States seems a bit unfair. Yes, the states could have forbidden slavery, but we all know, the left keeps telling us all the time, evil business money runs government. In the pre-war South, that was most definitely true. States like Arkansas were “Slave” states but only 1 in 5 in Arkansas owned slaves. Why would four out of five want to govern in a way that favors the small minority? It’s because the majority of the money was held by the 20%, and they controlled the legislatures with it.

    So, any talk of reparations, shouldn’t be laid upon all people being born the “misfortune” of having the white gene, but rather upon the large plantation owners that influenced the governments of the states of the South. Some blacks should receive money because their ascendants would have done better if free. But then that’s just one side of the coin. Should some blacks be killed because it’s possible that had slavery not protected their ascendant, he or he might have died. That sounds terrible, but it is just as true to assume that some would have died as it is to have assumed some would have made it rich. How do you determine?

    I think (I need to research this, so don’t take this as fact), courts have already ruled in other matters that you cannot. For example, if my father happened to step out in front of a car, and got killed, I cannot sue the government for millions because I believe my father would have made millions, and the government should have had protective railings.

  9. Hi,

    So using your data:

    ~31% of the 5.5 million slave owning states white populations were directly involved in the system of slavery. I understand your argument that the whole economic system was based on it, obviously at a 5.5:3.5 population ratio. But the population of the US in 1860 was ~30 million. Of this 30 million, ~26.5 million were white.

    So:

    31% of 5.5 southern whites is 1.7

    1.7/30= 5.7%

    1.7/26.5 = 6.4%

    So either 5.7% of the country or 6.4% of whites were involved. So explain to me the need for collective whiten guilt 150 years later? And especially after so many institutions and tax dollars that have gone exclusively to black causes.

  10. I don’t understand the point of this article. Even if you double the number to 3.2 or triple it to 4.8 the point of the meme is still valid. Stop basing your hatred of the white race on 4.8%of the population. “Don’t judge an entire population by the actions of a few”

  11. Even if the 31% figure is correct it is still a minority, and yes, you cannot blame all whites for what happened. Given that the population of whites just before the civil war begun was between 85 and 87% and the population of slaves was close to 13%, it is quite clear that slaves were owned by a minority of whites.

  12. All that when the meme is not wrong. It clearly says that less then 2% of CITIZENS….not southerners owned slaves. So this information is ‘selective’ buts it’s not wrong. This is how news works today BTW: they give you the facts in a selective way that push you in the direction they want you to go.

  13. Very interesting point. I will admit I saw this 1.6% figure long before I ever saw a meme. It was in a history book but it was years ago. I will track down where I saw it and post it here. I read the book over two years ago and have used that 1.4-1.6% since. My general point is that most of the southern legislators owned slaves and made their money from slavery and no matter how you slice the cake slavery is wrong even if it’s remunerative. Lincoln was no Clay. He tried everything he could to talk or buy the south out of holding slaves. Even accepting a higher figure of 30-35% means 65-70% of southerners gained no benefit from slavery and that means 65-70% of workers fighting FOR slavery not only derived no direct benefit but saw their own value as workers diminished, something that continues to this day. Where are the poorest counties in the US? In the south. Where are economic conditions the worst? In the south. Where are the highest rates of HIV, teen pregnancy, STD’s and suicide in the US? In the south. Who voted in a billionaire president that appears to want to push us back to 1859? The south. No matter how much you don’t like the meme, no
    matter how you parse it’s accuracy, the point still is valid to me.

  14. That’s a nice, manipulative way you have of talking around the numbers there, 39%, 49%, 1/3rd of all households. No matter how you spin them it still equals only 1.6%. If i have a pie that has been 75% eaten, you may say it’s been 3/4ths eaten or that 6 slices have been taken, but regardless there will still be the same 75% gone! You are just spinning the wheels in the direction you want them to go.
    But when talking about slavery, lets not forget that more of the african slave trade went to south america (especially brazil) than it did to america. There were only about 400,000 total african slaves in the americas by the end of slavery–a number equaled if not surpassed by the number of white slaves. And to the person who mentioned that they were treated well and did not want to leave, this is true. African slaves were expensive so were seen as a more permanent commodity so they were taken care of by their masters. White slaves and indentured servants, on the otherhand were cheap and seen as trash that could be thrown away. I’ve recently heard about a popular plantation song that had a line “i’d rather be a n*gg*r than a poor white man” because white slaves were treated with such brutality. Yet you don’t see the families of white slaves screaming for reparations. Why? Because reparations aren’t needed! If my great great great grandmother was attacked by a dog, does that give me the right to stomp on puppies now, as reparation? The same logic applies. No one should be held accountable for anything they did not do, for any situation they took no part in nor had any control over and no group (in this instance whites) should be made to feel guilt for a “debt” that they do not owe

    1. How many Blacks owned slaves! Those few Black Historians who will actually begrudgingly admit that some blacks DID own slaves find solace in the argument of “benevolence” to family and low #’s but in fact some owned many and treated them worse than the AFRICANS who sold them to Muslims and Jewish Shipowners in the first place!
      Most whites were indentured servants as well!!

  15. Half of all free people in Mississippi did not own slaves. The cost of slaves were way too high for anyone but the rich and well off. The average person in Mississippi was poor and worked agriculture, often on another persons property in exchange for money “rent” or work “indentured servitude” .

    The south is notorious for having poor families making due with the bare minimum. The idea that half of all its people had slaves is ridiculous. In a time people were still making their own clothing, you couldn’t afford much land, let alone slaves to work it for you.

  16. It is an interesting read, but despite its headline the actual author of the article basicly confirms the validity of the actual point of the the meme in their rant. The author comes up with a figure of 1.4% rather than 1.6% which for the point of informal discussion is not outside the limits of acceptability.

    The meme itself while it definitely has an agenda is not supposed to be an in depth analysis of the historical accuracy concerning the impact of slavery on the South.

    While the meme definitely has some issues that could be picked apart, its overall message is accurate and sound and it serves its purpose which is to draw the parallels of those in a position of power convincing the ignorant and less educated to work against their own self interest.

    Which is why as the author says, he can’t find a refutation of the meme anywhere. Yes, especially in this day and age you have to be aware of “fake” news and misinformation, which is why you always have to take any meme with grain of salt as there will inevitably be some sort of flaw that can be found. But on the on the converse you can’t also always be so hypercritical of a message.

    The author of the article is basicly being needlessly critical to detriment to the point of the meme and trying to set an unreasonable standard of expectation.

    If we were to try to even create a meme under the standard set forth by the author of the article it would always be as long as or longer than what was written in that article, because it would have to have so many caveats and addendums to the point. Case in point just reading the article several flaws from author could be pointed out in which you would have to write more paragraphs correcting them on their inaccuracies and misrepresentations. None of which would be salient to the actual point they were trying to make.

    Using the reasonable person standard the meme is reasonably accurate and promotes and gets across the message it trying to convey fairly accurately.

    Yes, obviously much more could be said on the subject as noted by all the paragraphs that the author came up with that were outside the scope of the point of the meme. Even sticking with just salient points in the meme you could write whole thesis papers on just those subjects. None of that however or ever would invalidate the overall message or truthfulness of the what was said in the point of the meme. Yes, the subject of slavery was definitely much more complex than was illustrated in the meme, but for logistical purposes the meme itself can be successfully argued as true (if not exhaustive in scope) as it relates to the primary point being expressed.

  17. Something I never hear mentioned is that we wouldn’t have had the slaves in this country if other blacks in Africa weren’t rounding them up and selling their own to the slave traders.

  18. so when facts don’t fit your emotional need for a tantrum you twist them into lies,
    sorry a the 1.4% ratio for all of America (not the few selective states you focused on) doesn’t change the truth that at its height less than 1.5% of all white people in the United States were slave owners and despite your hypocrisy truth is not a meme. live in denial much? if anyone is perpetuating continued racism it is you.move on no one owns you and no one owes you.

  19. I think there’s a tendency to live the lives we know. That was just as true then as it is now. For that reason I don’t particulary blame southerners, aristocratic, or other wise. I blame the Europeans – the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the English, Germans and Swedes. In the 1730 ships were regularly leaving Rotterdam to sell Africans of the Palatine to Germans in PA, who in turn ultimately opted to attempt repatriation, deporting them to Liberia. But these were free blacks, remnants of the Roman Empire. The point is, even Germany had a piece of this. I see the Civil War as largely political – these are northern Republicans verus southern Democrats, who incidentally, answered to the Democrats of the North who commanded Wall Street, and the entire cotton trade.

  20. Good article. It’s interesting and a little ironic that the southern fire-eater J.D.B Debow, former superintendent of the US Census Board and publisher of the highly influential DeBow’s Review made a very similar argument that slavery was more wide spread than the “malignantly alleged” misrepresentation that slaveholders were a small segment of the southern population. DeBow’s position was that abolition would harm many other families beyond the elite plantation owners.

    In “The Interest in Slavery of the Southern Non-Slaveholder”, DeBow cited that as many as 375,000 families held titles to slaves and total ownership exceeded 2 million slaveholders, which squares well with the current estimate that slave ownership averaged 32% across southern households in 1860.

    DeBow would have chafed at the 1.6% meme, but for entirely opposite reasons.

    1. What a bunch of bullshit! Anybody can say anything now days but don’t think we believe it. It does not make much difference today how many people held slaves in America; today nobody has slaves in America and not for many generations thanks to many brave and sacrificial White Men. The problem is getting over it and assimilating into society as a producer not as victims.

      1. Do you understand that DeBow made these comments in 1861, just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War?

        Anyone with an honest desire to understand the causes of the Civil War needs to understand the extent that slavery spanned across the south.

      2. Anyone that would ” really ” like to understand the causes of the civil war should make the effort to read the entire history of the beginning of this country and the divisions, political and social that existed before slavery existed at all to any extent. The divisive nature between Federalists and Republicans before the constitution was even intellectually considered; and the geographically situated relationships between these two ideological entities have as much or more to do with the eventual war than slavery in and of itself. By the way did this DeBow consult with CNN for his disinformation or did he run an independent study on his lap-top while touring the south several years. Read real history and try to understand the whole story.

      3. Most people who try to rewind civil war debates back to the revolutionary period try to rely on wordy generalities without naming any actual historical precedent that ties back to the civil war itself. What they generally do is talk in broad terms over the division of the early political parties, which is fruitless because parties have always faced divisions. They generally don’t mention the structural issues within the constitution itself: the 3/5 compromise, the fugitive slave clause, and the end of slave trade; which were necessary for the southern states ratification but baked in the issue of slavery which would fester and later explode after nearly 100 years.

        To understand the connection between slavery and the civil war one only needs to recognize that every sectional crisis since the Mexican American War centered on slavery almost exclusively (remember Emerson’s warning that “Mexico will poison us”). That the southern states relied on westward expansion in order to maintain political parity with a growing north. That an average of 33% of families in the deep south owned slaves – approaching 50% in South Carolina and Mississippi. That editorials from the Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Dispatch and the political pamphlets of the 1850s all extolling white dominance, political strength and social standing – all explicitly tied to the benefits of African Slavery and with hardly a word on tariffs or taxes.

        And of course there are the ordinances of secession from South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas all boldly asserting their action to preserve their “peculiar institution” of slavery. And of course, there’s Alexander Stephen’s cornerstone speech.

        It’s a shame that you don’t have the intellectual curiosity to investigate DeBow. He headed the census in the 1850s and edited the most widely read journal of its time in the south. He was also the architect of the compromise of 1850. He was both a vile and fascinating individual. Even if you’re pretending to have an interest in history, you should at least look him up on Wikipedia.

      4. You missed the whole point. Nobody said that slavery wasn’t part of the reason for the war but what you don’t understand is secession from the new country was a theme almost from the beginning; and especially within the southern caucus. I’m also sorry that I don’t understand what your talking about rewinding anything; and you don’t debate historical facts that have been documented since their occurrence. Oh and by the way what you are talking about is a division; a social and political one that turned out to be very violent and lengthy. If it is fruitless to talk about early political ideologies at the time of the writing of the constitution than it is useless for you to try and talk about the other intrinsic factors that were also involved in the cause of the secession and consequently the war. The basic and original Constitution had little if anything to do with slavery, later some of the amendments began to deal with the problem; and by the way it was only about seventy years after that the Civil War started not 100 years. The rest of your jumbled, mumbo jumbo, is basically scattered and irrelevant. Again the talk of secession that I am trying to make you aware of was about the fight for a strong central government that entirely dominated the states or the republicans and there determined states rights stature. It had to do with much more than who had slaves and who didn’t. But if you want to go back to that issue, of the 55 delegates that began the convention for forming the Constitution, only 15 had slaves; these were all elite, wealthy, and powerful men. They were not representative of the population as a whole which came to this country for the most part with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. The people that could afford to own their own land were almost non-existent let alone have slaves. I, with due respect, suggest that you start over at the beginning and read something more substantial; like ” The American Republic “, although it will be somewhat like work for you being two volumes and around fourteen hundred pages. Now come to think of it, that’s what being a real American is all about……work, struggle, assimilate, don’t ask for handouts, self sustaining……

  21. So using these statistics in this way. Would this not be the same as saying if your uncle owned a BMW then u statistilly own a BMW since his last name and yours were the same? The base line is pushed in the direction of a greater number slave owners then really did. The number of 1.6 is likely wrong. But lumping say all people with the same last name together is also wrong. One thing is correct slavery was wrong and a cold sore on history. It’s gone now and has been for awhile!

  22. Did you factor in that slaves were not only owned by whites, but also freedmen? One example is the barber of Natchez. 31 percent is a low percentage of the Southern population to make the statement that the Civil War was fought over slavery. And, yes, the South was ready to fight because they were many reasons for this anger, i.e., state’s rights, taxation without representation, such as cotton sold to the north without taxation then returning down South in the form of finished goods heavily taxed. Who is next in this attempt to eradicate what you progressive people are offended by? History needs to be left alone to teach future generations.

  23. A: There were plenty slave owners in the north.
    B: Quite a few of those slave owners in the south were black, outnumbering white slave owners in some areas, such as New Orleans, up to twelve-to-one.
    C: Including a slave owner’s entire family in numbers can easily be misleading. Many of those families included small children. Are you insinuating that a small child should be considered a slave owner?

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