F-Word: Anti Racist Rebellions Deserve Their Own Monuments

The removal of monuments and memorials dedicated to the Confederate States of America has been gaining steam ever since the Charleston church massacre of 2015 and it's taken off after the racist Unite The Right uprising in Charlottesville this summer. Dedicated to those who fought and killed for the Confederacy which, before the civil war, supported the extension and expansion of slavery, the vast majority of those monuments were erected in the Jim Crow era to intimidate African Americans seeking civil rights. No matter, so they're defenders. They're simply about honoring history. When he was just a Republican Alabama Senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called removing the Confederate flag from public buildings an effort by the "left" to delegitimize the fabulous accomplishments of our country.

Let's think about that. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump and I might disagree about the Civil War but when it comes to throwing off British colonial rule, I bet we'd agree about that. To celebrate that accomplishment, how about we erect some monuments to the motley crew? As Peter Linebaugh points out in his important book, The Multi-Headed Hydra, slave revolts and slave trade mutinies were the real precedents of the events of 1776. You want heroes? How about Tacky, the leader of a 1760s slave rebellion that raged for months in Jamaica. Tacky's revolt left 60 whites and several hundred slaves dead after it was suppressed by Colonial troops but it inspired revolts across the Caribbean and into New England.

The 1760s and '70s saw enslaved Africans organize rebellions in among other places Alexandria, Virginia, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Norfolk Virginia and Charleston itself. Those uprisings got good coverage in the Quaker publications of their day. Tom Payne was certainly aware of them. He wrote about the multiracial mobs of blacks and natives along with Irish teagues and so called saucy boys, as he put it, and rowdy women who protested the Stamp Act and the Tea Act long before the Boston Tea Party.

Those rebels drew inspiration, some, from the English diggers and levelers who opposed peonage and bondage of every sort, to bosses, parliaments, kings or profit. They set the scene for what even Jeff Sessions surely would count among the country's fabulous accomplishments, the Declaration of Independence. So, how bout it? For history's sake, how about some monuments to that motley crew of black and native and rowdy Irish and saucy whites? I can see it now. What great monuments they'd be, for history's sake.

 


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