Like an Obstacle Course

Manila Bulletin, November 11, 2008 | Go to article overview

Like an Obstacle Course


IN my hometown's sidewalk cafe two or three regulars asked if the US president-elect descended from families of workers/slaves on the southern state plantations.

His father was Kenyan from the Central African state of Kenya, about twice (225,000 sq m) the land area of RP, with a population of 35 M and one of the least-developed countries in the world.

Switching to Obama

My barkada were equally divided between McCain and Obama. After the November 4 election more and more of them switched to Obama, a typical Filipino trait since 1903 when the American initiated limited suffrage in PI provinces and towns.

With Obama's convincing triumph bias against the black Americans or negroes (now called African-American first used by US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first negro on the highest court) probably came to a final end.

First cargo in 1619

The struggle of the black Americans has been exceedingly long and often tragic since the first cargo of Africans to arrive in North America was brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 by Dutch traders.

The institution of slavery had existed throughout recorded history and is probably as old as civilization itself. In America the rise of the plantation system lay in the type of export crops grown in the South: Tobacco, rice, and indigo, a plant producing a blue dye. The colonies were allowed to ship all three only to Britain as required by the Navigation Act.

Emancipation from a Republican

The first edict of freedom (called Emancipation Proclamation) for the black Americans was signed by Lincoln, a Republican president, on January 1, 1863 declaring "all persons held as slaves within any State ... shall be then ... forever free..."

Most hated decision

One of the main causes of the Civil War (1861-1865) was slavery and passions were further inflamed when the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Dred Scott case. Scott, a slave, had sued for his freedom, arguing that the years he spent with his owner in Illinois and Wisconsin Territory (where the Missouri Compromise barred slavery) had made him a free man.

The southern-dominated Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland, a slave state, rejected Scott's claim, arguing that slaves were property, not people, and as such, they were not citizens and therefore lacked standing in a court of law. The Court went further and declared that Congress had no authority to regulate slavery in the territories. The North denounced the ruling, seeing it as an example of southern dominance of the federal government.

Abolition, etc.

After Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865 three successive amendments to the Constitution were ratified: 1) Amendment XIII, Dec. 18, 1865, abolished slavery within the United States. 2) Amendment XIV, July 28, 1868, making persons born or naturalized in the United States as national citizens and the immunities/privileges of citizens shall not be abridged. It grants due process and equal protection to all. 3) Amendment XV, March 30, 1870, states that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

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