Tag Archives: american

Thanksgiving: The ugly truth, slavery connection

The REAL story of the “first” Thanksgiving

In December of 1620 a splinter group of England’s Puritan movement set anchor on American soil, a land already inhabited by the Wampanoag Indians. Having been unprepared for the bitter cold weather, and arriving too late to grow an adequate food supply, nearly half of the 100 settlers did not survive the winter.

On March 16th, 1621, a Native Indian named Samoset met the Englishmen for the first time. Samoset spoke excellent English, as did Squanto, another bilingual Patuxet who would serve as interpreter between the colonist and the Wampanoag Indians, who, lead by Chief Massasoit, were dressed as fierce warriors and outnumbered the settlers.

The Wampanoag already had a long history with the white man. For 100 years prior to the Pilgrim landing, they had encounters with European fishermen, as well as those who worked for slave traders. They had witnessed their communities being raided and their people stolen to be sold into slavery. They did not trust the newcomers.

But Squanto was an exception. He had lived with the British, after being captured by an earlier sailing vessel. He had a deep fondness for the Europeans – particularly that for a British Explorer named John Weymouth, who treated Squanto like a son.

Chief Massasoit and Samoset arrived at the colony with over 60 men, plus Squanto, who acted as a mediator between the two parties. Squanto was successful at making a peaceful agreement, though it is most likely that there was a great deal of friction between the Native community and the colonists. The Englishmen felt that the Native peoples were instruments of the devil because of their spiritual beliefs and trusted only the Christian-baptized Squanto. The Native people were already non-trusting of the white man, except for Squanto, who looked at the Europeans as being of “Johns People.”

It was Squanto who then moved to the English colony and taught them to hunt, trap, fish and to cultivate their own crops. He educated them on natural medicine and living off the land. A beloved friend of the Pilgrims, for if it wasn’t for him, they would not if survived. The Puritian Pilgrims thought of him as an Instrument of God.

Several months later the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims decided to meet again to negotiate a land treaty needed by the settlers. They hoped to secure land to build the Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. The Native people agreed to meet for a 3-day negotiation “conference”. As part of the Wampanoag custom – or perhaps out of a sense of charity towards the host – the Native community agreed to bring most of the food for the event.

The peace and land negotiations were successful and the Pilgrims acquired the rights of land for their people.

In 1622 propaganda started to circulate about this “First Thanksgiving”. Mourts Relation, a book written to publicize the so-called “wonderfulness” of Plymouth, told of the meeting as a friendly feast with the Natives. The situation was glamorized by the Pilgrims, possibly in an effort to encourage more Puritans to settle in their area. By stating that the Native community was warm and open-armed, the newcomers would be more likely to feel secure in their journey to New England.

The sad, sad truth (what happened next)

What started as a hope for peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag, ended in the most sad and tragic way. The Pilgrims, once few in number, had now grown to well over 40,000 and the Native American Continue reading

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Filed under black history, culture, history, injustice, slavery

Watch It: Goodbye Uncle Tom

This movie may be quite simply the most shocking, screamingly offensive blaxploitation movie of all time!!! is an unabashedly incendiary look at race relations in America during the early seventies that’s guaranteed to leave your jaw on the floor. This movie has it’s flaws, as critics like Robert Ebert have pointed out. However, I rank it right up there with Sankofa on the scale of movies that illuminate the horror, the absolute inhumane nature of the institution of slavery…no sugar coating.

The Italian filmmaking team of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s 1971’s GOODBYE UNCLE TOM (a.k.a. ADDIO ZIO TOM) (view it here) is an epic that puts the team’s documentary background to good use and outdoes all their other films in sheer outrageousness. Some would say that this pseudo-documentary is arguably the most shocking (yet effective) cinematic treatment of slavery and its consequences, surpassing all the others–ROOTS, MANDINGO, DRUM, AMISTAD, ILL-GOTTEN GAINS, BELOVED and MANDALAY. Well, I can say that this movie has something to anger just about anyone. Want to see it…there are some clips available on YouTube (I think the whole movie is on Google Movies). Here are some comments from others.

I thought this site summed it up well…

The movie is filmed as if modern filmmakers took a trip the antebellum south and recorded what they saw there, with an emphasis on the most inhuman stuff they could find. So, we get to see rape, torture, children being sold as sex toys, beatings, and just about everything else you can think of. Even when there are not massive amounts of violence on the screen, it’s still pretty disturbing. There’s a shot of a little white girl and a little black boy running through a field together; after a little while you realize the girl has the boy on a leash. And about every five minutes, there’s someone prattling on about the inferiority of blacks people. Much of the dialog comes from the actual letters and documents of time, so at least there’s some devotion to historical accuracy. I’m not sure how accurate everything else is, but even if only 10 percent of it is true, it would still be absolutely horrible.

In the end, Goodbye, Uncle Tom is not so much a racist movie as it is a completely tasteless movie. It’s like watching a John Waters-directed version of Black Like Me – whatever lessons about racism there are to be learned, they’ll be overshadowed by the scenes of transvestites getting hit in the face with colostomy bags. I have no problems with a discussion of race relations or the horrors of slavery, but bringing a Jerry Springer-type sensibility to it is a really bad idea. The movie stands as a testament to good intentions gone completely awry.

Robert Ebert says…

The movie gloats over scenes of human degradation. And this time there isn’t even the excuse of documentary; every scene in this movie was specifically staged. Unfortunately, Jacopetti and Prosperi have been able to find people willing to undergo the humiliation inflicted on them in “Farewell Uncle Tom“; most of the blacks in the film are apparently Africans forced by poverty and need to do these things for a few days’ pitiful wages.

This is cruel exploitation. If it is tragic that the barbarism of slavery existed in this country, is it not also tragic — and enraging — that for a few dollars the producers of this film were able to reproduce and reenact that barbarism?

Make no mistake. This movie itself humiliates its actors in the way the slaves were humiliated 200 years ago. A man without a hand is photographed shoving mash into his mouth from a trough. Very young girls are mocked in auction scenes. Pregnant women — women who are really pregnant — are corralled into a scene about the “breeding” of slaves. The fact that this film could find a booking in a legitimate motion-picture theater is depressing.

You can read the rest of Robert Ebert’s take here.

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