Inniss on History of U.S. Slave Trade

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The New York Times published Lolita Buckner Inniss’s letter to the editor in response to  Henry Louis Gates’s April 23, 2010 op-ed, “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game.”  Professor Inniss writes:

To the Editor:

As Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. points out, the role of Africans themselves in slave trading is one that is sometimes ignored by advocates of reparations. I fear, however, that in looking at the role of Africans in creating or sustaining the slave trade, we will make the same mistake that we make in trying to assess blame for international drug trafficking — focusing too much on the supply side of trafficking.

While it is true that without slaves having been provided to Europeans there probably would have been no large-scale trans-Atlantic slave trade, it is equally true that without the demand for African slaves in the West there could have been no large-scale slave trade.

To use the metaphor of a modern-day kidnapping, the question becomes, Who is more culpable: the abductor who initially takes the victim, or the captor who obtains the victim and keeps him (and often his offspring) captive for generations?

Lolita Buckner Inniss
Cleveland, April 23, 2010

The writer is a professor at Cleveland Marshall College of Law.

-Bridget Crawford

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