The Columnist Who Thinks African-Americans Should Be Grateful Their Ancestors Were Enslaved


Mr. Bernstein is an HNN intern.

A Seattle-area columnist has drawn the fire of more than a thousand complaining readers upset with her suggestion that African-Americans should be grateful their ancestors were enslaved and brought to America.

The column, by Adele Ferguson, was published in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal (KPBJ) on March 13, 2006. In the article Ferguson argued that black Americans should abandon the Democratic Party, claiming it doesn't have their true interests at heart.

“It mystifies me why the black population remains in thrall to the Democratic party,” she wrote, asserting that slavery was a blessing in disguise for black people, as it brought them to North America from Africa, giving them -- or at least their descendants – many new opportunities. “I have long urged blacks to consider their presence here as the work of God, who wanted to bring them to this raw, new country and used slavery to achieve it,” she wrote. Fifteen hundred readers, most of them outside the Kitsap area, wrote in to complain.

Ferguson, who is white, opened her column by saying, “I hope to see a shift in the attitudes of so many of my black brothers and sisters in this great country we share, from perpetual victimhood, to pride in their achievement on the road from slave to American citizen.”. She later wrote that black people need to leave the Democratic Party in order to more fully enjoy their place in this society. She argued that the Democratic Party does not best represent the needs of black people, especially in regard to public education.

In the days following the column’s publication the newspaper received more than 1,500 emails, according to a letter written by KPBJ Editor Lary Coppola to reader Walt Crowley, a Seattle historian. Crowley had asked if anyone on the paper’s staff had read the column before publishing it. He charged that the column was “the most appallingly racist, ignorant, and just plain stupid essay [he had] ever read.”

Coppola said KPBJ does not “condone the point of view expressed by Ms. [Ferguson], but we do believe in the First Amendment which celebrates free speech and diversity of thought. While Ms. Ferguson has the right to express her opinion, it's just that, HER opinion.” He insisted that even if he had wanted to censor the column he couldn't: “Ms. Ferguson's column is editorial material we buy, and are contractually obligated to run, unedited.”

Ferguson wrote in her column that black people need to move on from the fact that their ancestors were enslaved on this continent. She wrote that while life as a slave was certainly difficult, “many immigrants suffered hardships and indignations as indentured servants. Their descendants rose above it. You don’t hear them bemoaning their forbearer’s life the way some blacks can’t rise above the fact [that] theirs were slaves.”

While recognizing that black people now and in the past only want to be respected, she feels that “too many have yet to realize that to get respect, you have to give it.” She then discussed the treatment of President Bush at Coretta King’s funeral – treatment which she feels was shameful, especially in light of the treatment given to former President Clinton.

Because the article featured such unusual opinions, Crowley voiced concerns in his letter to Coppola that the column would reflect poorly on Kitsap County and negatively affect its businesses. Perhaps sharing Crowley’s concerns, KPBJ took down links to the column on its website, which may have had the effect of limiting media coverage of the column and the controversy surrounding it, which was limited mostly to online venues.

Crowley, summing up what was clearly the general consensus of the readers who emailed the paper, observed, “that you would publish it in the sixth year of the 21st century is only the more appalling -- and inexcusable.”

Related Links:
  • The column was pulled from the newspaper website, but you can view a scanned version here, and read the newspaper's comments here

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More Comments:

John J Capozucca - 4/17/2006

Weren't you suppose to click yourself home?

Trevor Russell Getz - 4/12/2006

Thank you Maura, I suspected as much but did not have the expertise to assess it fully.

Steve Broce - 3/29/2006

Don't forget to say "there's no place like home" while you do it

Maura Doherty - 3/29/2006

Good idea. I click my heels three times, and PUFF you are all gone!

Steve Broce - 3/27/2006

Ahh, Maura, so much easier to demonize people who disagree with you than actually refute what they say with facts or arguments.

Bravo! Good show!

May I suggest that if your name calling doesn’t drive the “Neo Nazi’s” off HNN, that
You threaten to hold your breath until they leave.

Maura Doherty - 3/27/2006

Dear Mr. Getz,
Yes, as you suspected the "take" on American history is similarly incredulous. A good case of letting lying dogs sleep.

Maura Doherty - 3/27/2006

We're not talking about "people who view history differently" from me. That's the understatement of the year. I'm talking about the Neo-Nazis, Neo-Confederates, Holocaust deniers, and misogynists who spout hatred using fraudulent history (read the fake African and American history above). I believe they are making HNN a meeting place. I have no intention of engaging them as they read only fraudulent/fake history and have not come here to be converted but to recruit. I stand by my comments.

Maura Doherty - 3/27/2006

re: "a few facts should be remembered"

I'm sorry Mr. Barrs, you haven't given "facts" you've given two selective "may haves" out of endless "what ifs."

What about the millions of Africans or African-Americans who would be alive today if their ancestors had not died on slave ships en route to the Americas?

What if one slave in 1740 had never left Africa and went on to become a popular leader successfully ending African slavery ten years later?

What if his grandchild invented an important agricultural machine that turned Africa into the bread basket of the world?

What if this prevented European colonization in the area?

It's interesting conjecture, but not historical inquiry. Nor does thinking of something worse, defend a bad institution; especially when one can think of many more positive alternative outcomes.

John Edward Philips - 3/27/2006

Would those African slave raids have taken place without the market across the Atlantic? Probably, but not as large a number. But this is "what if" history, counterfactual (and thus fictional) by definition.

Immigration (or importation) of Africans as indentured servants was taking place before slavery was instituted in the Chesapeake colonies. We need to know the causes of slavery and the associated color caste system. That's the real historical problem.

Steve Broce - 3/27/2006

Jonathan, I’ve reviewed the relevant HNN standards and, frankly, do not believe that anything I’ve posted violates or even comes close to violating these standards.

But thank you for your concern

Jonathan Dresner - 3/27/2006

And you're both in danger of violating the HNN standards for comment civility.

Steve Broce - 3/26/2006

Actually, Maura, it is you who apparently don’t understand (or at least choose not to engage in) “scholarly, well-reasoned rebuttal” You also apparently have some trouble understanding the irony of complaining about the tone that HNN has taken on, while in the same posting referring to those with whom you disagree as “racist, fascist whiners who live in a dream world of make-believe history and paranoia”.

If you truly believe that this site is “supposed to be for educated historians”, then perhaps you could show that you’re worthy to continue to posting here by refraining from suggesting that people who view history differently from you “must have smoked a lot of dope or been spoon fed your hatred and propaganda from your parents and so-called "churches" from infancy.”

Maura Doherty - 3/26/2006

You’ve apparently missed my whole point and have lost your sense of humour. The NeoNazis writing in this thread and invading HNN, to whom I address the part you quoted, don’t understand “scholarly, well-reasoned rebuttal.” And “sheeesh,” where is YOUR scholarly essay?! Do you think you’ve contributed something more valuable, interesting, or scholarly?

Al Barrs - 3/26/2006

I don't think anyone should be grateful for being enslaved in any form. However, a few facts should be remembered: 1) given the survival rate of African native babies in the 17th century many African-Americans wouldn't be here today if not for their ancestor’s enslavement. 2) Given who raided African villages, killing those not fit for sale to European and Americas slave runners, many ancestors of those alive today may have been killed in follow-up raids by other African tribes thereby preventing their inception and birth.

Steve Broce - 3/25/2006

"Some of you guys must have smoked a lot of dope or been spoon fed your hatred and propaganda from your parents and so-called "churches" from infancy. I strongly urge you to enter a rehab program and kick yourselves of your racism, anger, delusion, and self-pitying. Oh, and have a nice day :)”

Of course, Maura, your scholarly, well reasoned rebuttal to this article stands in sharp contrast to the other invective filled posts.


Steve Broce - 3/25/2006

Some of you guys must have smoked a lot of dope or been spoon fed your hatred and propaganda from your parents and so-called "churches" from infancy. I strongly urge you to enter a rehab program and kick yourselves of your racism, anger, delusion, and self-pitying. Oh, and have a nice day :)”

Of course, Maura, your scholarly, well reasoned rebuttal to this article stands in sharp contrast to the other invective filled posts.


Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/24/2006

I suspect you are right about the isms. People seem to enjoy dividing the world into simple us vs. them dichotomies. I guess that method provides clarity.

I also agree with your second point about watching people attack other people. Communications technology has an odd effect on people. They feel empowered and threatened at the same time.

Douglas M. Charles - 3/23/2006

The introduction of slavery to North America is still taught, at least in my classes.

Of the many instances of utter ignorance in Ferguson's article, and parroted by seemingly endless numbers of HNN posters, was this tid bit: “'many [white] immigrants suffered hardships and indignations as indentured servants. Their descendants rose above it. You don’t hear them bemoaning their forbearer’s life the way some blacks can’t rise above the fact [that] theirs were slaves.'”

My freshmen (I asked them) know how utterly stupid this comment is from the simple recognition that indentured servants chose to travel to North America and could achieve freedom; African slaves, meanwhile, were in a closed slave system with no chance of freedom, where they were beaten into submission, and treated as commodities.

J. Feuerbach - 3/23/2006

I think that HNN underestimates our intellectual prowess. As a result, they feel the need to publish articles that can be categorized under a particular "ism." And in order to be PC, they publish rubbish from both extremes of everything. Otherwise, they think we won't be able to have a significant and productive discussion. The other theory would be that they are voyeurs and enjoy watching how people trash each other (and not just the arguments.)

Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/23/2006

Mr. Getz:

Thanks for reminding me of the holocaust deniers that have already appeared. I should not have overlooked their efforts.

Mr. Alvarado:

I think you are on to something. Perhaps we have created a meeting place for anti-semites of all stripes.

Steven R Alvarado - 3/23/2006

At least it gives the anti-Semites from both the Left and Right a place to meet and complain about their favorite subject.

Trevor Russell Getz - 3/23/2006

Actually, there's already plenty of holocaust denier-ism on here.

Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/23/2006


I was beginning to think that I was the only one who has noticed this trend. This current thread about the "benefits" of slavery for slaves is just the latest example of right-wing ideoglogues gone nuts. What is next. An article showing us how the holocaust benefited European Jews? Endless tracts on how European colonization of North America benefited Native Americans because they brought democracy, Christianity, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream with them? I can't wait.

Maura Doherty - 3/23/2006

It's really too bad that this website is being taken over by racist, fascist whiners who live in a dream world of make-believe history and paranoia. It was supposed to be for educated historians. I think the funders should re-think whether this site serves an eduational purpose anymore. Some of you guys must have smoked a lot of dope or been spoon fed your hatred and propaganda from your parents and so-called "churches" from infancy. I strongly urge you to enter a rehab program and kick yourselves of your racism, anger, delusion, and self-pitying. Oh, and have a nice day :)

John Edward Philips - 3/23/2006

OK, maybe I didn't phrase that so well, but you should have been able to get the point. The English colonies did not have to turn to racial slavery, but chose to.

Of course they had to come, but they could have been permitted to come as indentured servants. In fact they _were_ permitted to come as indentured servants in the earliest period of colonization.

Rob Willis - 3/23/2006

Sir, you are a child. You don't have a clue what freedom and liberty are, or the very real differences between the two concepts.

If you want to call me a racist, do it to my face at your own peril.

Douglas M. Charles - 3/23/2006

"In other words, blacks didn't have to come to the future United States as slaves, forming a permanent slave caste. They could have continued to come under the same conditions that white immigrants did. "

Didn't have to come as slaves? Are you suggesting that Africans had a choice about coming as slaves or not?

John Edward Philips - 3/23/2006

Not at first. The first blacks in Virginia were indentured servants, there being no status of slavery in Virginia law in 1619. The ones who survived got freedom and land, and even owned white indentured servants. The first evidence of actual slavery occurs only after 1640. For about another 20 years there is ambiguous evidence about the treatment of blacks. After 1660 there seems more solid evidence of permanent slave status confined to blacks, although it never was codified in the statutes until about 1700.

In other words, blacks didn't have to come to the future United States as slaves, forming a permanent slave caste. They could have continued to come under the same conditions that white immigrants did.

This is well known to historians, although they have debated whether slavery caused racism or vice versa for so long that most are sick of what George Frederickson called a "chicken and egg question."

This is well-known to historians, but why is it not taught in our schools? Is it liberal "victim analysis" or conservative insistence that blacks are natural slaves who were never anything in America until Lincoln emancipated them without cause?

Or is it some sinister agreement to keep the truth about black people and their history from being better known?

John Edward Philips - 3/23/2006

Where do I start with this?

There was a predominantly Bantu concentration in South Carolina and another concentration of Ibos in Virginia. Please read Joe Holloway's _Africanisms in American Culture_.

The Yoruba slave trade of the 19th century was too late to affect the US, but did have a big impact on Brazil and the Caribbean. There was a much earlier Senegambian slave trade that influenced American culture profoundly (e.g. the banjo) but there is little Yoruba impact on US culture. Even the impact of the Ibo culture, other than words like "okra" was crushed under the weight of slavery. That's where blacks lost the entrepreneurial spirit of Ibo culture.

Slavery was dying through gradual voluntary emancipation? The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation were disasters for black people? Well, you are far from the only one spreading such neo-Confederate drivel. In fact slavery in the US was unstable precisely because, unlike African or Roman slavery, there was a low rate of emancipation and a permanent under caste was created, a problem that is still with us. BTW, if only welfare in the 1930s destroyed the Yoruba family structure, how come no Americans went back to Yorubaland after the Civil War? Many Brazilians went back to Yorubaland after emancipation there.

Nigeria committed genocide in the Biafra war? It was the Yoruba leader, Obafemi Awolowo who advocated the use of starvation as a weapon of war, for which he was never forgiven by Ibos.

"Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, the miracle Igbo president elected with 95% of the vote."

1. Not Doctor but General.
2. Not miracle, but a former head of state and a consummate politician with a proven track record as administrator.
3. Not Igbo but Yoruba.
4. Not 95% of the vote. Not nearly that in either election that he won.

Please, educate yourself about Africa before you embarass yourself again.

John Edward Philips - 3/23/2006

Africa today is a product of the slave trade and colonialism. It has a history, and (just like any other place) that history shapes its present. We don't know what Africa would have been like without the slave trade and colonialism, but to discuss the dismal aspects of its present without considering their causes is not what one expects on a history website.

Tim Matthewson - 3/22/2006

Mr. Willis and Mr. Thomas are so ignorant that they don't even know that the Bush government has already curtailed their freedom and civil rights. The security of their communication has already been eliminated by warrentless wiretapping and these guys are worried about blacks getting ahead of them and jealous that blacks might be successful.

Tim Matthewson - 3/22/2006

Has everybody forgot what it was like in the US before 1960? Has everybody forgotten the importance of the voting rights act? and the civil rights acts of 1963 and 1964?
Mr. Thomas and Mr. Willis have not sense of history and for that reasons make ignorant and racist comments, which prove that they themselves have no idea what freedom is all about.

Vernon Clayson - 3/22/2006

There's no point in finding fault with foreigners and foreign governments who still traffic in slaves. The race relations industry isn't a concern there, it only has traction here because those involved, e.g., the Jacksons, the Sharptons and the Farakhans play the rascist card and the Democrats take advantage of it, although the Republicans also go along so they won't appear politically incorrect. There are no winners except the aforementioned trio and their ilk.

Maia Cowan - 3/22/2006

"Slavery was a good thing because it gave the slaves' descendants the same opportunities as other immigrants to share in the American Dream. Racism? What racism? There is no racism. Blacks aren't taking full advantage of their opportunities because they're following the wrong leaders and they don't support school vouchers."

I don't know whether this is racism or not, but the complete failure to consider the effects of racism -- the "direct descendant" of slavery -- is certainly mindboggling cluelessness.

Trevor Russell Getz - 3/22/2006

Actually, Mr. Thomas, I'm South African , although a historian of Ghana and Senegal, mainly. However, perhaps your little rhetorical trick of trying to undermine my points by making me sound like an ivory-tower outsider will work when I tell you that I am white? Your other trick, of trying to invalidate my valid points by using the term 'politically correct', unfortunately does not confuse most discerning readers.

I must admit to being flummoxed by parts of your post, which merely undermine your earlier assertion and prove my point, but thank you. As to your assertions that we can determine cultural origins in Africa by cultural survivals/creations/diffusions/mergers here, that is a very inexact science, I'm afraid.

I am not one to tell African-Americans who their ancestors were or what their origins are... as I said, my expertise in American history is very limited and in any case identity is a rather personal thing. I will however, suggest, that your methodology is very problematic and that perhaps you should be a little less self-assured in your analyses? I have conducted extensive analysis on slave trade routes and slave origins, and they do not support your thesis. You can read my book or the articles in which this research appears in the follwoing journals: Ghana Studies, African Economic History, and Slavery & Abolition. However I recommend other historians more highly on this topic - Eltis, Gomez, Midlo Hall, Curtin, Diouf, Behrendt, Becker, Boubacar Barry, etc. In most cases I find these scholars to be better historians than me.

In any case, in order not to turn this into one of those ridiculous two-person e-yelling-contests, I will leave it at that... I will read your responses with interest but I don't plan to re-post.

Frederick Thomas - 3/22/2006


I must echo Mr. Willis' comments. I believe you may be missing some important historical perspective.

First, no American born black now living experienced slavery. Not one. It has not existed here since 1865, 141 years ago, and 660,000 whites died to make that change happen.

American Jews have experienced only privilege here, including Judah P. Benjamin, slave-owning member of the Confederate cabinet.

If you want to go way back in history, then everyone was a "poor victim of slavery" at some point, including serfs or peasants who were tied to the soil from generation to generation, and indentures.

Those blacks alive today who have actually experienced slavery are all from Darfur, South Sudan, Somalia, and other African sites. These are all black on black slavery.

One may consider the more thuggish Communist regimes, such as Korea, or formerly Cambodia, China and the Soviets, to be regimes of slavery. That has nothing to do with America.

The article in question seems to ask the question, "OK, your ancestors experienced slavery. Are you going to let that ruin your life as well?" It is a very good question for any American who cares about his fellow Americans who are black.

John J Capozucca - 3/22/2006

Yes. And how about the murderous dictator of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe who ordered the slaughter of ~20,000 Ndebeles in the 1980s and recently destroyed the homes and lives of ~750,000 of the poorest of the poor blacks in Operation Murambatsvina? The PC elites would be howling for blood if Mugabe were white, but these "little things" don't seem to bother PC elites and Pitts, etc.

John J Capozucca - 3/22/2006

Your diatribe shows how the truth is hurtful, therefore, unacceptable to you. Haven't you heard of the recent slaughters (genocides) taking place in Africa, including Sudan, Rwanda, the virtually unheard of slaughter of the Ndebeles by the Shonas in Zimbabwe? Instead of thinking yourself the sarcastic wit, you should open your mind and learn something.

Frederick Thomas - 3/22/2006

Right on. Islam still condones slavery, and practices it very widely in Africa.

Frederick Thomas - 3/22/2006

Mr. Pitts:

Please actually read before you write.

I believe I did mention European colonialism and the unfortunate British tendency to combine ancient enemies in post colonial "countries," which predictably produce civil wars, about which in this case I have several mentions in this post.

"Fault of the blacks?" That would be insulting if it were not so inane. You are so politically correct that truth is painful to you. The great victimizers of American blacks today are the lefty Dems, who throw them a little welfare in return for their lives as vote slaves.

Frederick Thomas - 3/22/2006

Mr. Getz

Ah, an African historian! May I ask of what ethnicity? I have never had an actual African speak in the politically-correct kind of terms which you use, which is puzzling, such as complaining about my comparison of the Yoruba and Celts. You actually sound more like an American of little scholarship and strong opinion, pretending to be African, but I will await your answer before concluding anything.

In the meantime let me deal with some of your points:

OK, where did I get my information?

Most of it came from my PID in West African history, which left me with a lifelong respect for the three dominant nationalities of Nigeria. Secondly it came from a close friend and business contact who is both a proud Yoruba from Oyo, and a fine amateur historian, who personifies the Yoruba trait of humorousness, his first joke to me being that I was the only white man he had met who knew who the Yoruba were. Thirdly, it came from the media, which over the past 40 years have covered Nigeria fairly closely, from the horrors of the civil war, to Dr. Obasanjo's miraculous election, to the drama of Cardinal Arinze's nearly being elected Pope, and the turbulence of the tribal politics of the country, which in some respects resembles Iraq.

For a light survey, try this link which answers your second and third questions, which I will excerpt here.


You asked how do we know that a majority were Yoruba? We know that first from the fact that like the ancient Greeks, the Yoruba did not call themselves Yoruba until recently, instead they used the names of the city-states to which they belonged. Therefore other search methods must be chosen. Quote:

"Until relatively recent times the Yorubas did not consider themselves a single people, but rather as citizens of Oyo, Benin, Yagba and other cities, regions or kingdoms. These cities regarded Lagos and Owo, for example, as foreign neighboors, and the Yoruba kingdoms warred not only against the Dahomeans but also against each other. The name Yoruba was applied to all these linguistically and culturally related peoples by their northern neighbors, the Hausas."

Therefore unless you can do research about what the slavers (who knew nothing of "Yagba", etc) called the regions from which they got their slaves, you will not get many hits against the slave manifest sort of database. Don't most of them simply say "The Niger" as the source?

"It is no accident that the Yoruba cultural influence spread across the Atlantic to the Americas... Slave wars launched by the kingdom of Dahomey against some of the Yoruba kingdoms, and slave wars between the Yoruba's themselves made war casualty Africans available for transportation to the Americas. Yoruba slaves were sent to British, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the New World, and in a number of these places Yoruba traditions survived strongly."

But we can develop reasonable estimates of majority in other ways, by analyzing whose customs showed up here. In most cases the dominant customs were the Orisha of Yoruba:

"In Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad, Yoruba religious rites, beliefs, music and myths is evident even at this late day. In Haiti the Yoruba's were generally called Anagos. Afro-Haitian religious activities give Yoruba rites and beliefs an honored place, and the pantheon includes numerous deities of Yoruba origin. In Brazil, Yoruba religious activities are called Anago or Shango, and in Cuba they are designated Lucumi."

Finally, we know the Yoruba were the greater part of the Africans who came here because of the geopolitics of their area, and the many specific slave wars againt them, which made them by far the most vulnerable to being enslaved, of the West Africans. Certainly the inland Hausa, Fulani and Ewo were rarely enslaved, likewise the Igbo who were Christianized and had an unapproachable coastline.

Now, I do not assert that Yoruba were the only slaves. Every nation of West Africa contributed some, particularly since Islam condoned slavery. But the cultural influence of Yoruba is strongest and in some areas the only African cultural influence in the Americas.

"In recent years, availability of attainable air travel has enabled African Americans to go back to the essence from which this great culture derived (Africa) and gather the information needed to teach and assist others. Places like Oyotunji village in Beaufort South Carolina, DOYA (Descendants of the Yoruba in America) foundation in Cleveland OH, Ile Ori Ifa Temple in Atlanta GA, and African Paridise in Grffin GA where Yoruba culture and religion is still practiced, are just a few of many locations that offer a place to reclaim the religion of self awarness, inner strength, inner peace and unlimited power for our evolution."

Rob Willis - 3/22/2006

I haven't heard such disconnected thoughts in a long time.

Who in the world are you to suggest that "most whites take freedom for granted"? Who in the hell is in Iraq right now, trying to spread it? Have you tried to threaten the freedom of the average white guy lately? You might just get a mouthful of knuckles for your trouble.

These sort of arguments are always and ever designed to grant someone some special status, and they are wearing thin. Blacks in America who wish to assume African citizenship, they are FREE to do so. If they don't get a spear in their nose, surely the malaria will get them. Thank God they don't have to deal with that, eh?

christopher noel pitts - 3/22/2006

You neglected to mention European colonialism. Small thing I know, but I did not see mention of it in that Nigeria conflict of the 1960's. Maybe you are right, it is all the fault of the blacks. They probably were not manipulated to any degree by whites. Sign me up for your Blame Africa First newsletter.

christopher noel pitts - 3/22/2006

Indeed. I applaud your truthiness and factless attacks on the East Coast Media Liberal Elites that are keeping down the blacks by protesting the excessive wastefulness of the Bush Administration when these funds could clearly be going to education. The Democrats must wake up and realize that this is freedom waste. It must pass through the bowels of war to spread the aroma of American Democracy around the world.

So shame on you Democrats. Imagine if we had left all those men, men of their prime, in Africa to live their own lives and build their own societies. Clearly, brutalizing them did them good. Without that, we would not have Cornell West or Sir Mix-a-lot. Clearly, years of oppression and brutalization have added character to blacks. You are welcome.

Furthermore, those divisive teacher's unions continually press for higher teacher pay and smaller class sizes. Andrew Jackson went to school in a small schoolhouse, Little House on the Prairie style, and look at him! He is on our currency! So stop hurting America and let NCLB dictate how our children turn out. Our children only need their books (the ones from my childhood were good enough then, so they are good enough now) and a teacher that speaks their language. Democrats want to give them more funding, as though throwing money at the problem is the answer. Does it not make more sense to say that if you are not doing well, you loose the privilege of having funds? Makes perfect sense to me.

So bravo Ms Ferguson. Keep preaching that truth.

Tim Matthewson - 3/22/2006

For those who doubt the words of Peter Kovachev, see the webside of the AASG, American Antislavery Group at http://www.iabolish.com/.

Peter Kovachev - 3/22/2006

As contentious as this issue may seem, it's somewhat of a red herring. What is far more relevant and immediate today is that slavery, especially slavery victimizing Black Africans, continues unabated and at a massive scale.

This issue is somewhere at the bottom of the international and humanitarian agendas today. Why this is so is not a huge mystery; the chief violators are the Arab world and other Islamic states of Africa, the Near East and Asia, some of which sit comfortably at UN's human rights tribunal.

What is a greater mystery, though, is why Blacks in the West continue to believe that Black slavery was solely an American issue and that it ended as a world problem with the Civil War. As things are, Black leaders and activists are far more likely to get exercised over the treatment of terrorists or the display of the Confederate flag in historical re-enactments rather than the well-documented ongoing slave trade and slavery conditions of African Blacks.

Tim Matthewson - 3/22/2006

The comments above neglect the key word of freedom. Modern American, except black Americans, do not know the value of freedom because they have never experienced its opposite, slavery. Those who have experience slavery, Jews and blacks Americans, share a common experience of having been enslaves, and having experience the quasi-free experience of life in a ghetto. This is their great contribution to American life, the insight that freedom is the greatest achievement of western history, and their love of America, despite its faults, is derived from the fact that America is a land truly devoted to liberty and equality. Most whites are unable to understand the contributions of Jews and blacks, so they make ignorant and racist comments such as those of columnist Ferguson. Early Americans would have been able to understand the importance, but today such understanding is lamentablly confined to minority groups and it is taken for granted by the great mass of whites. This is why I fear for the future of freedom in modern America and anticipate that we may be so trusting of our leaders and opinion makers that we may be about of having our freedom taken from us.

Trevor Russell Getz - 3/22/2006

Mr. Thomas, where do you get your information? I only ask because it's vastly inaccurate. To start with with, any assertion that 'MOST American blacks are descended from the Yoruba' would require a great deal of research. The most complete database on this topic - the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database - can be queried and the results suggest that there was no 'majority' ethnic origin of African slaves brought to North America. That is without even considering the misrepresentation of ethnicity (both purposeful and mistaken), the fact that most African-Americans have ancestors from multiple ethnic groups and regions of Africa, and the reality that ethnicity in Africa in this period was very complex (what do you mean by nation?... language group? state?). If this opening statement is suspect, your post the deteriorates into even more problematic and simplistic constructions of a very complex history. It's not even worth engaging the notion that certain ethnic groups are better looking than others? (what makes the Yoruba 'good looking' vis a vis any other African peoples)? How do you come upon your judgement that the Yoruba (and not the Igbo, for example) were the 'master metallurgists' of the region? Have you compared their metallurgical skills? I suppose you're fortunate that few Africanists would engage such a ridiculous narrative.

I am an African historian, not an American historian, so I cannot tell for certain if your assertions as to events on the other side of the Atlantic are any more accurate, but certainly I have doubts given that your African history is so distorted and judgemental.

Frederick Thomas - 3/21/2006

Let's forget political correctness for a moment and try to examine the reality which existed in Africa and in the US South during and after slavery.

Most American blacks descended from the Yoruba nation of Southwestern Nigeria and Bénin. They were pushed there by the warlike Muslim Hausa and Fulani to the north, and reached their present location by about 1500, just in time for slave traders to begin to operate in the area.

The Christianized, commercially minded Igbo nation of Southeast Nigeria traded with them but stayed on their side of the Niger River.

The Yoruba peoples resembled the Celts of Europe more than any other European group. They are generally tall and good-looking, great individual warriors and atheletes, but like the Celts they emphasized individual valor over the disciplined organization which wins wars, and so they often lost against their more disciplined neighbors.

Also like the Celts, the Yoruba were the master metallurgists of the region, and had a gloriously complex pantheon, the "Orisha," not unlike the pre-Christian Celtic religion. Finally, the Celts and Yoruba each warred among themselves when no external threat was available.

The internal warring reached its climax with the victory of the state of Oyo, Yorubaland over all of Yorubaland in the 1600's, which was the key event in accelerating the slave trade, under the exclusive control of Oyo merchants.

Slaves were the only reasonable booty of war, and slave traders from Europe often paid the highest prices. It was unfortunate that the Yoruba were so close to the shore. The slaves so taken almost all went initially to Brazil and the Caribbean to satisfy the world's thirst for rum.

Most Caribbean plantations were hell on earth, with Jamaican "Maroons" selected from among the slaves and given privileges to brutalize the others. Life was nasty, brutish and short, as it was in much of the world anyway. The lucky few who were excess to the need escaped by shipment to North America.

There indeed conditions were better. Slaves were well fed (like any valuable property, and like endentured servants) and cared for by physicians when ill.

Marriage, family and childbirth, which were so central to Yoruba religious belief, were encouraged, where in the Caribbean they had been forbidden.

The Yoruba adapted their Orisha pantheon to the Christian saints with ease, and developed a literate clergy and a unique series of denominations which survive to this day, with much music, spiritual posession and passion, like the Orisha. Old traditions such as jumping over the broom at weddings survived Christianization, but not urbanization.

As slavery became more morally questionable during the early 19th century, slaveholders such as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee began a process of education and training of their slaves, and slow release for those who were capable of supporting themselves. The same process was going on in most slave countries, and by 1885 there were no more slaves in the Americas, anywhere, though the system was still widespread in Yorubaland in Africa. America suffered the Civil War needlessly, as it happened.

The end of the American Civil War was an economic disaster for slaves. Their diets were formerly nutritious, but now became gruel, collards and hogback. Organized medical care was not available as it had been before, and death of a thousand fevers became commonplace. There was no question but that the war was a disaster for them, taken as a group, but at least they were suffering alongside whites who were similarly disenfranchized.

This finally ended about 50 years past the civil war, and many blacks had developed marketable skills by the 1020s. This was trashed by the emergence of forms of welfare in the 1030s which would only be paid if the father was gone from the family.

This destroyed the all-important Yoruba family structure and the source of economic strength, and corrupted black society. The programs of the war on poverty in the 60s compounded the previous social ills, and ended up putting more in poverty than it saved.

Should blacks have accepted a deal with the devil in return for "emancipation" which comes with starvation, or for a welfare check? I cannot answer that.

Back in Nigeria, in the late 60s, a civil war broke out when the Igbos seceeded to set up the nation of Biafra. This was the most vicious modern war, of which the Tutsi-Hutu conflicts further east was a later pale imitation. Biafra lost in a sea of blood and starving parentless children, whose parents had been hacked to pieces before them.

It is a reasonable question to ask whether American Yoruba would have been happier in that Nigerian hell or on picket lines in Alabama.

In any case, we now have a situation in which abundant opportunity exists here for blacks who have skills and are willing to work.

A large trade college near my home has an impressive array of young blacks there on time every day, to learn to be a chef, legal assistant, med technician etc. and I see hope for them, for which I credit Bill Clinton and the Republican congress who gave us welfare reform in the 90's, and the tax cuts of George Bush which have given us a full employment economy.

While black experience in America is a mixed bag, in the end I would come down on Ms Ferguson's side. The only way forward is up, through education and hard work, and bitching about slavery is irrelevant to that.

That upward progression is hard to see in the fetid slums of Lagos, despite Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, the miracle Igbo president elected with 95% of the vote. If it were me, and I was willing to strive and produce, I would much rather be here, despite the remaining annoyances. Oddly, the Yoruba virtues of self-imprevement, hard work and love of family are the very things which have been lost, but also the things most needed for progress, and they are reappearing.

John J Capozucca - 3/21/2006

I suggest everyone read Adele Ferguson's article with an open mind. Then decide for yourself whether "in the sixth year of the 21st century" free thought and expression should be censored or banned from the American media.

It's not a surprise that Ms. Ferguson's insightful and daring article describing the inarguable fact that the Democrats and teachers unions are "keeping your [black] children down too long already," has been spun by the politically correct elites into an article by "the columnist who thinks African Americans should be grateful their ancestors were enslaved." Quite a metamorphosis. Just read the article compared with Andrew Bernstein's selected quotes.

Ms. Ferguson also hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that Coretta Scott King's funeral was not the place or time for America's black "leaders" to bash President Bush.

Ms. Ferguson's thought-provoking and politically incorrect content coupled with the mention of God, practically ensured a public lynching by the PC elites.

God bless you Ms. Ferguson for your free thinking and courage! Thanks for reaching out to fellow Americans of color without the usual PC correct "great white father" hogwash.
I hope others appreciate it as much as I do.

Richard Newell - 3/21/2006

Adele Ferguson's column strikes me as equal parts idiocy, and equal parts (almost) mainstream criticism. Subtract the idiocy, and her column could have been written by Charles Barkley and Keith Richburg.

Richburg, an African-American, was Washington Post Bureau Chief for Africa, and wrote a book based on his experiences there, concluding he was grateful his ancestors made it to America -- without joining Ferguson in the bizarre notion that God brought slaves to America to achieve His work, or that slavery doesn't distinguish black Americans from indentured servants, nor does their continued history of discrimination.

You can't expect to encourage reasoned debate on policy choices when you start out by insulting your audience.