Kanye West's increasingly political presence on Twitter has prompted historians and political scientists to set the record in recent times . And while experts have partially benefited from his tweets about the history of American political parties in relation to racial history – in which he found his information from the 19th century rather right, but later skipped major changes – West became viral Wednesday he had shared a recording about the history of slavery, which has outraged many people.
"If you've been listening to slavery for over 400 years, since 400 years?! That sounds like a decision," he told TMZ in an interview published Tuesday.
In a series of tweets deleted later, he tried to clarify his statements. "Of course I know that slaves were not bound by free will and put on a boat," he wrote. "My point is that we stayed in that position, even though the number was on our side, that we were mentally enslaved." (In further tweets, he added that he thought the Nat Turner film Birth of a Nation was hampered by telling the story of enslaved people who fought back instead of assuming their place, sharing a fake quote
Ironically, Kanye West's version "totally ignores the story of thousands of slaves who fled slavery and rebelled against it," says Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave Affair : A History of Abolition.
Sinha's scholarship examines how fleeting slaves and other colorful people played an active role at the end of slavery. In the outcry over Kanye West's tweets, she sees a lesson on a crucial but often overlooked part of this story ̵
"Enslaved people they always fled to freedom when they had the opportunity, "she says. "When they were not voting, they voted with their feet."
Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman, with whom West has likened, may remain two of the most famous examples of resistance among the enslaved, but they are part of a great history covering the entire history of slavery. For example, the shackles with which the slaves made the Middle Passage journey are proof that physical restrictions were considered necessary, she says, and as the civil war began, thousands of enslaved people ran to the Union Army. In fact, the fight against the growing number of runaway slaves was one of the most important political battles that led to civil war.
"The Southern states wanted to enforce federal slave laws, and the northern states resisted them," she explains. "The northern states even passed personal liberties laws to protect some of those slaves who came to the north, and when their masters brought them to free territory and free states, slaves sued their masters for their freedom." They used the law, even though Most notably, Dred Scott tried and failed to sue his master's family for freedom because they had once lived in free territory.
A look at What slaves wrote and sang during this time also shows that they were the opposite of "spiritually enslaved".
"[Kanye West] should read slavegirls and black folk tales from the time of slavery that speak of the yearning of enslaved people for freedom," she says. "His music comes from these slave spirituals, he should know that, he should know that even if blacks were enslaved their heads were not enslaved."
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But, though many are fleeing, more could not. The records show that the most common outliers were young men without women or children, but slavery had an impact on the whole family and it was difficult to walk in tow with young children. In addition, those in the deep south had a longer migration than those living on the border of free and slave areas. Those who could not flee regularly addressed other forms of resistance, such as work stoppages, slowdowns, secret meetings, or runaways, as Vanessa M. Holden, assistant professor of history at the University of Kentucky, explained earlier to TIME
Sinha adds it is important to remember that despite the existence of areas where the enslaved numerically inferior slavers, the demographics of the United States was not the same as a place like Haiti the rare example of a successful slave revolt. African Americans were an unarmed minority faced with an armed majority.
"In the American South, the extraordinary performance of African-Americans has survived slavery and is able to withstand it and develop alternative sources of self-worth," says Sinha. "I think Kanye should learn this story and be humble."
But his words also raise the question of what it means to remember the past. In West's recent interview with Charlamagne Tha God, he asked, "Why do you have to keep reminding us of slavery?" And suggested that a character like Michael Jordan would be better suited for a new $ 20 bill than Harriet Tubman. Sinha says there is a reason to change the way slavery is used to influence modern discussions – but that she thinks there is a better way.
"To get rid of things that remind us of slavery" argues, "We should get rid of all confederate monuments and statues of men and women who fought for slavery."