- Category: History
- Created on Saturday, 31 January 2009 22:28
- Written by Mike Ely
For Black History Month, February 2009
By Mike Ely
Throughout the early existence of the United States, slavery was legal. It was honored in the highest offices, in the nation's pulpits, the courts, and the press. It was defended by troops, police, posses and informants -- using extreme violence. And long before there were hopes that it might be ended by a civil war -- there were slaves who rose up to rebel and escape. And standing with them was a radical and widely denounced movement of abolitionists who helped prepare the political ground for revolution and emancipation. This political preparation operated on several levels: The slaves, isolated on the broad southern belt of forced labor camps, fought. In the North, the abolitionists waged a fierce campaign of public agitation -- denouncing slavery in pamphlets and speeches, often at great risk to their lives. And sections of this movement organized themselves to help the slaves escape -- creating the Underground Railroad.
How did this armed resistance movement, and the public political defense of its illegal acts help prepare for the actual revolutionary war that abolished slavery? How does resistance give rise to revolution? What is the role of militant action and outlaw organization -- in the process of preparing revolution? And how do we answer such questions today -- as we seek ways to uphold our criminalized brothers and sisters among the immigrants or among black youth, or the deserters from the army, or the members of other despised and persecuted sections of society. What can we learn from the Santuary movement of the 1980s? Or the draft resistance movement of the 1960s? Or the illegal strike movements of the coalfields? Or the many other places where the desperate lives and bold actions of people defied the way things are -- even before their understanding imagined another way things could be.
This is one example from history.