Slavery Reparations?

7
1818

…by Jonas E. Alexis

Actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates are marching to Capitol Hill. Why? They plan to make a case for slavery reparations before The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. Coates attempted to persuade readers back in 2014 in an article in the Atlantic that slavery reparations ought to be set in stone. But in order to make his point, Coates had to dismiss the entire history of slavery itself. A little historical background is needed here.

It must be emphasized here that the subject of slavery is a complex issue and cannot be treated lightly. Slavery is an issue that continues to impact cultural attitudes in modern America. Despite the fact that it existed for millennia and has been abolished in the United States for arguably over a century, popular opinion lays the blame for black slavery at the feet of Western civilization, with little effort devoted to proving this theory with historical documentation. However, the truth of the matter is far different.

Coates will never discuss the fact that the international slave trade was maintained largely through the efforts of Jewish businessmen, aided by African tribal leaders. Yet, despite the clear historical evidence, popular opinion today supports the belief that the blame for slavery lies fully on the shoulders of Europeans. This is not true. A careful study of the ideological foundations of Rabbinic Judaism and African tribes shows that neither could have ignited the abolition of the slave trade. Why? Because both Talmudic Jews and African traders viewed human beings and ethnic groups in a way that was incompatible with the moral order.

Once again, a major factor in the continuance of the slave trade, from Roman times to the Civil War, was the involvement of Jewish businessmen. This is not an assertion I make lightly or without proof. In fact, I have addressed these issues at length elsewhere. Even Jewish writer Chaim Bermant declares that

“it was the London Rothschilds who found the [20 million pounds] to compensate slave owners after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. In 1854 a [16 million pound] loan to finance the Crimean War was launched through the House of Rothschild, and in 1871 they raised [100 million pounds] to help France pay her war indemnity to Prussia.”[1]

Moreover, it is well established by the historical data that Jews played a significant role in the slave trade in the ancient Roman world,[2] and this painful chapter in human history has been acknowledged even by those who try to minimize the role Jews played in both ancient and modern slavery.[3]

Historian Jonathan Schorsch declares that many scholars try to dismiss or minimize this fact, but the evidence is quite clear. Schorsch himself maintains that the Jewish participation was at a minimal level.[4]

In the sixth century, Italy, the slave trade was quite profitable, and once again it was not without Jewish profiteers; in Spain for example, Jews more often than not garnered their wealth through the slave trade.[5]

Heinrich Graetz, arguably the father of modern Jewish historiography, writes that a sizeable portion of the Jews’ wealth around the 900s came from the transportation of slaves.[6] Graetz notes that even in the 700s, the Jews turned their attention to the slave trade.[7]

Historian Israel Abrahams agreed with Graetz on these accounts,[8] and historian Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht likewise concurred with these assessments.[9] Nineteenth century historian Henry Hart Milman notes that “We have ample evidence that one great branch of commerce fell almost entirely into the hands of the Jews—the international slave-trade.”[10]


Historian James. A. Huie declared exactly the same thing.[11] That pattern continued even during first crusade, when the slave trade became an occupation for some Jews.[12] Solomon Grayzel tells us that in the Middle Ages,

“Jews were among the most important slave-dealers” to bring slaves from other places and sell them “to Christian and Mohammedan masters.”[13]

Even during the Ottoman Empire, Jews “took an active part” in the slave trade, owning Muslim slaves.[14]

Historians Albert S. Lindemann and Murray Friedman write that a small number of Jews were involved in the slave trade in the modern world,[15] but other historians  such as Jacob Rader Marcus and Marc Lee Raphael declare that the number of Jews who were involved in the slave trade in the modern world were more than significant.[16]

Raphael goes so far as to say that “in all the American colonies, whether French (Martinique), British, or Dutch, Jewish merchants frequently dominated.”[17]

In a similar vein, Jewish historian Arnold Wiznitzer declares that by the middle of the seventeenth century in Brazil Jews “dominated the slave trade.”[18] They dominated the trade because Jews were always in the minority, and Jewish slave traders were “entirely out of proportion to their numbers.”[19]

In general, slavery was not an institution that was foreign to other parts of the world or other eras; it is a human failing, not a Western one.

Throughout history:

  • Africans enslaved other Africans
  • Europeans enslaved other Europeans
  • Africans enslaved Europeans
  • Europeans enslaved Africans[20]
  • Vikings enslaved Europeans
  • Mongolians enslaved Europeans
  • Egyptians and Turks enslaved Greeks and Romans
  • Greeks and Romans enslaved Germanic peoples
  • Asians enslaved other Asians
  • American Indians enslaved other Indians
  • Europeans enslaved Christians[21]
  • Muslims enslaved Christians[22]
  • and on and on it goes.

Yet Western civilization has taken an unfortunate hit by intellectuals who not only focus solely on the slavery perpetuated by Western civilization, but who argue that America in particular needs to pay reparations. Now here are my simple questions to people like Ta-Nehisi Coates: Why can’t they really address the real history of slavery? Will they ever have the intellectual courage to say that the slavery business was largely Jewish in its orientation? If they cannot say that, then we certainly know who their masters are.

  • [1] Chaim Bermant, The Jews (New York: Times Books, 1977), 40.
  • [2] See for example Kevin Macdonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (Lincoln: 1st Books Library, 2004), chapter 3; James Parkes, The Jew in the Medieval Community: A Study of of his Political and Economic Situation (London: The Soncino Press, 1938), 17, 25, 45-46; Isaac Mendelsohn, Slavery in the Ancient Near East (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), 99-102.
  • [3] One writer of this genre is Oscar Reiss, The Jews in Colonial America (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2000), 84-88; see also Norman Roth, Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict (New York: Brill Academic Publishers, 1994), 153-162.
  • [4] Jonathan Schorsch, Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 52-53.
  • [5] Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1919), 98-99.
  • [6] Graetz, History of the Jews, volume II, 229.
  • [7] Ibid., 142-143.
  • [8] Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1911), 98-99.
  • [9] Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht, The Fate of the Jews: A People Torn Between Israeli Power and Jewish Ethics (New York: Times Books, 1983), 39.
  • [10] Henry Hart Milman, History of the Jews, Volume III (London: William Clowes and Sons, 1883), 48.
  • [11] James. A. Huie, The History of the Jews (Boston: Dow and Jackson’s Press, 1844), 61.
  • [12] Graetz, volume II, 305.
  • [13] Grayzel, History of the Jews, 312.
  • [14] Schorsch, 53-54.
  • [15] Lindemann, Esau’s Tears, xx; Murray Friedman, What Went Wrong?: The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance (New York: Free Press, 1995), chapter 1.
  • [16] Jacob Rader Marcus, United States Jewry, 1776-1985 (Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 585-586; Marc Lee Raphael notes that “Slave trading was a major feature of Jewish economic life in Surinam, which as a major stopping-off point in the triangular trade. Both North American and Caribbean Jews played a key role in this commerce: records of a slave sale in 1707 reveal that the ten Jewish purchasers (10,400 guilders) spent more than 25 percent of the total funds (38,605 guilders) exchanged…Of the eighteen wealthiest Jews in the 1702 and 1707 tax lists, nine either owned a ship or had at least a share in a vessel. By 1721 a letter to the Amsterdam Jewish community claimed that ‘nearly all the navigation…was in the hands of the Jews.’” Previously, he writes that Jews “took an active part in the Dutch colonial slave trade; indeed, the bylaws of te Recife and Mauricia congregations (1648) included an imposta (Jewish tax) of five soldos for each Negro slave a Brazilian Jew purchased from the West Indies Company. Slave acuctions were postponed if they fell on a Jewish holiday. In Curacao in the seventeenth century, as well as in the British colonies of Barbados and Jamaica in the eighteenth century, Jewish merchants played a major role in the slave trade.” Marc Lee Raphael, Jews and Judaism in the United States: A Documentary History (New York: Behrman Hous, Inc., 1983), 14, 23.
  • [17] Ibid., 14.
  • [18] Arnold Wiznitzer, Jews in Colonial Brazil (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), 72; see also Jonathan Schorsch, Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World (New York: Cambridge University, 2004), 59.
  • [19] Lee Levinger, A History of the Jews in the United States (MD: Wildeside Press, 1952), 103.
  • [20] See Paul Baepler, ed., White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).
  • [21] Thomas Sowell, Race and Culture (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 186-187
  • [22] Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, The Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (New York: Palgrave, 2003).


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Jonas, of course you are right about slavery being common. Sadly, it’s still common today. Reparations make the most sense, when it’s for people who have very recently and personally been harmed by the gov’t. Reparations make sense for innocent people killed, or sex-trafficked, or imprisoned, recently. Even if we had the money for slave reparations, if we are going to go back that far, then what about paying the families of American Indians who were enslaved here, which was commonly done before the importation of Africans? The reason the Indian slave trade stopped, was that the Indians were all dying of imported diseases, and the rest ran away successfully because they knew the country. Slavery, like the Holocaust, resulted in MANY different groups and nations suffering and dying. So where do we draw the line?

  2. The great Cassius Clay often repeated that tsar Nikolai (or Alexander) was indignant with Abraham Lincoln and his successors for not completing the emanicipation of Southern slaves by granting them land (“fourty acres and a mule”) so that they might provide for themselves.
    I think the idea utterly preposterous that US black citizens should seek redress for work they were pot to when slaves, i.e., “speaking instruments”. But as US citizens they should have been granted land and a livelyhood. This is — from the legalistic point of view — an injustice that has now lasted for 164 years and should constitute the basis for a greavance worthy of full compensation.

  3. The author certainly seems to dismiss out of hand the teachings of Dr. John Henrik Clarke & Dr. Josef ben-Jochannan, two black (Gasp! Shock!) scholars, even though the author did mention positively a reference made by Dr. Clarke in the past. Dr. Clarke commented on the difference between Chattel Slavery (offspring bonded in perpetuity per Dr. Clarke by christians & “Arab Dogs”) and Servitude, where the slave could marry in the Owner’s family & obtain positions of power in government & the slaves’ children weren’t bonded into slavery (Dr. Clarke condemned both). I always hear christians “condemn” slavery, yet I NEVER hear them condemn the Slavers BY NAME, such as George the hypocrite Washington, Thomas the-pedophile-rapist Jefferson, & the other so-called “founding fathers” (not mine).

  4. This is true. If someone can’t, is not allowed or don’t want to see the big Picture, he sees no picture at all, just made to want to believe ins. I think quite interesting case is Europe during 1800 and where did that European origin child labour in American factories came from. Approximately simultaneous to Irish Famine my country experienced something similar, but not well documented, only saying that we lost 15% of our population.

    It’s obvious that Rothschilds owned the food chain in Britain, but did they own it in here too. This was autonomous state of Royal Russia and we had our own money, or was that money our own after all.

  5. Slave reparations is a topic that surely takes second place to the genocide of native American populations whose survivors deserve compensation too.

    And no reparations to the Irish they might have dug the canals, laid the railways, built the cities from the cobble-stones up and shaped the heart of America. You just cant put a monetary price on the loss of the ‘Old Sod’ and the heart- and soul-rending pain that encapsulates. Money – f…k it!!!

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