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IDSEMUG 2075 - The World the Slaves Made

If you have eaten sugar or rice, drunk coffee, used tobacco, or worn cotton, your life has been shaped by the world the slaves made. Slavery is America’s founding economic and political institution, one which gives shape not only to our economy and politics but to our educational systems and philosophies, our creative works and practices. Enslavement functions as the fishbowl invisibly holding and shaping our lives, and the weather through which we move. Yet consider what most of us learned about slavery: that it took place in the distant past, a different past than revered past of the American revolution and the founding of democracy; that there was an underground railroad, driven by white abolitionists, upon which some of the enslaved passively and anonymously rode to freedom; that it was a southern crime brought to justice by the sacrifice of northern lives; that it ended in 1865 with Lincoln’s magnanimous emancipatory gesture. Through a deep engagement with primary texts of the period, written, drawn, spoken, and sung, we will consider the ways that enslavement has been central to the development of democracy, individual rights and notions of justice, and dreams of freedom. In this class we will consider the ways that enslavement was not democracy’s foil but its foundation. We will break open that narrow sense of enslavement’s geography and temporality and grapple with it as something that has presence in the here and now. Class Notes: FULFILLS GALLATIN DEGREE REQUIREMENT: HUMANITIES.
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