A Far Cry From Freedom: Gradual Abolition (1799-1827): New York State's Crime Against Humanity
The comparison of degrees of enslavement, that is whether the institutional subjugation of one race of people by another is more or less severe in one country or another or one region of a country or another, is not the designed purpose of this book. For the life-style of the Africans and their descendants enslaved in New York State prior to the mid-nineteenth century can best be described as analogous in its character and intensity to that of their counterparts in the southern states. In truth, the impact of enslavement on these Africans - who were ripped from their traditional homelands and brutally enslaved for centuries in the "New World"- their families and descendants was and is virtually the same regardless of disposition - North or South. Enslavement in the northern extremes of the United States and, in particular New York State, cannot and should not be excluded from the present day debate on restitution, apologies and reparations. The only truth to be discussed is that the enslavement of human beings, against their will and with the ultimate goal of profit for their enslavers, is a "crime against all humanity".--- L. Lloyd Stewart This is a work that deserves to be read, not only because of the quality and amount of research and thought that went into it, but also because of what it reveals about the history of the state of New York and this country. It also points to their need to come to terms with the immoral, evil and unjust acts committed in the name of race, religion and the "right" to conquest. Brother Lloyd Stewart draws a clear line between his work and many recent works on enslavement which attempt to tone down and sanitize the horror, criminality and human tragedy of African enslavement. Indeed, he is especially concerned with stripping away New York's unofficial masking of the horror of its policies and its pretension of a benevolence impossible in such a violent, degrading and dehumanizing process. As the title suggests, Brother Lloyd is very concerned with exposing the myths, hypocrisy, extended brutality and injustice in the concept and practice of “gradual abolition,” which subsidized the enslavement of children and reinforced enslavement while pretending to ease and erase it. Rich with documents and documentation, Brother Lloyd unveils the state’s sanction of enslavement with law, subsidy and ideology, its bloody vengeance for rebellion and resistance and the contradiction between self-congratulatory claims of freedom and democracy and the daily violent dehumanization of enslavement. He concludes with an argument for reparations for both the inhuman practice and its continuing consequences. Moreover, Brother Lloyd reaffirms the essential character of enslavement as a crime against humanity which demands remedy and repair as a matter of morality and law. In conclusion, the book is an important contribution to the ongoing discourse on the Holocaust of African enslavement and merits a close and careful reading for its insistence on objective analysis, cogent reasoning, ethical reflection, and a quick and salutary end to the falsification of the history of New York and the United States. For only when a society confronts and concedes the horrors of its past can it build safeguards against their repetition and begin to heal and repair the devastating damage done, not only to the immediate victims, but also to our concept and practice of what it means to be really human and do justice in the world. -- Dr. Maulana Karenga Professor, Department of Black Studies California State University, Long Beach
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