Scholarship today

Rigoberta Menchu wasn’t the first: the leading first-person account of the “Middle Passage” endured by slaves brought to the New World turns out to be about as authentic as Roots or Martin Luther King’s scholarship. The ex-slave author of the narrative was in fact born in South Carolina. Quite naturally, a lot of people are furious with Vincent Carretta, the scholar who checked out the facts. Carretta himself doesn’t see the problem. If the author created a fictional account in order to reveal a greater truth, he says, that doesn’t make him a liar. Instead, “it may make him even more heroic.” Others agree, saying the discovery “reveals a new side of Equiano as a brilliant rhetorical writer creatively serving the antislavery cause.”

6 thoughts on “Scholarship today”

  1. This is old news, really.
    This is old news, really. Jerzy Kosinski’s and Binjamin Wilkomirski’s pathologically sadomasochistic “accounts of the holocaust (Wilkomirski spent the entire war in a cabin i Switzerland, Kosiniski lived with his parents in Poland, protected from Nazi brutality by the very same Polish peasants his book claimed raped and beat him savagely for years AFTER WWII) was never denounced by people like Cynthia Ozik or Elie Wiesel. Israel Gutman, the boss of Yad Vashem in Israel, commented on the insane picture painted in Wilkomirski’s “Fragments” with the following words: “His PAIN is authentic”. Thus, when playing the blame/shame game it doesn’t matter if you were skiing when others were enslaved or exterminated, just write some pretentious BS, and the “authentic pain” shall set you free. In other words, with fictious (in the case of of Kosinski’s book even fraudulent) litterature is apparently perfectly legitimate as acounts of real events, as long as the sentiment expressed is the correct one.

  2. This case seemed interesting
    This case seemed interesting because the account was published 1n 1789, although there’s certainly nothing unusual in pumping up an atrocity story one way or another.

    I agree the real significance is the response today to the debunking of the story. That’s a phenomenon that extends far beyond books and academics, by the way. For example, in a notorious incident some years ago one of the current contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination here in the United States, a black man named Al Sharpton, chose several white men more or less at random, publicly accused them of raping a black woman, and started a highly publicized campaign to “bring them to justice.” There was no basis for the accusations at all; it was simply a publicity stunt to advance Sharpton’s career and create pressure for black causes. Nonetheless, a lot of people thought he had done a valuable thing by drawing attention to white oppression of blacks and today he’s a national politician.

  3. The intellectual left’s
    The intellectual left’s reaction to this finding should not suprise anyone. Martin is quite correct that such fraud and hucksterism is quite common in Holocaust literature. If truth is no defense for violating the precepts of PC then it stands to reason that lie is an acceptable way to deseminate PC.

    “Even if it’s not verifiable as his own personal experience, it doesn’t mean it’s not verifiable as a communal experience . . .” – Carretta

    That sentence is one of the most brilliant examples of Orwellian doublespeak I’ve yet seen.

  4. The amusing thing to me is
    The amusing thing to me is how America gets beat over the head for the slave trade, when it was largely the English who were responsible. Over eight times as many slaves were hauled to the Caribbean and South America as were ever brought to America. But do we ever hear about that? Oh, no. Moreover, within America, it is the South that bears the brunt of the opprobrium, when it was exclusively Northern slave merchants who took up the slack that the English left here after the Revolution. Almost no Southern ships—zero, zip, nada—were ever involved. Moreover again, few people know that it was the South that attempted to get the slave trade stopped in America under King George. Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence even included a large paragraph about the slave trade as one of its complaints against the King. It was excised in order not to irritate Northern sensibilities.

  5. Mr Calb:

    If my comment in
    Mr Calb:

    If my comment in any way suggested that the posting of the article was pointless, I apologize. Since my native tounge isn’t english I tend to be swept away by rethoric, sometimes ending up in strange, hostile places.

    To follow up on the actual topic, and I would risk being murdered if I said this in the wrong place, it is a fact that the slave trade for a large part was done with the help of the Africans themselves. Of course the American/European (and Islamic) societies that took their slaves from Africa made the custom far more extreme and widespread, but the trade was based on existant customs in many African tribes, where enslavement of defeated opponents was common, and the actual capturing of slaves was often done by native Africans.

    This information was also, strangely enough, included in the American book of history we used when I studied History A at the UmeƄ University in Sweden. Most of my teachers at the time, old 68 communists gone well-paid, upper-middle class feminists, was of course outraged by this, but had to admit that it in essence were correct. It was quite amusing.

  6. Yes, my understanding is
    Yes, my understanding is that the slave traders had stations on the coast where they would buy slaves from local sellers. What reason would they have had to do otherwise?

    There were black slaveholders in America as well. A black man, Anthony Johnson, was actually the one who first established the right of a slaveholder to the perpetual service of his slave, by suing some white people for the return of a slave named John Casor (Johnson v. Parker, Northampton County Viginia, 1654). The latter is a bit of an oddity, but it does suggest problems with the rhetoric surrounding slavery. And everything related to race these days becomes throroughly rhetorical.


Leave a Comment