Remembering Dr. King and Slavery in Africa

By Grenier, Richard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Remembering Dr. King and Slavery in Africa


Grenier, Richard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


An 18-year-old student starting his freshman year at the elite Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire was shocked to discover that it was the only state in the union that had no official holiday honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born in India, the student was Gautam Venkatesan. For those who don't follow these matters, Phillips Exeter Academy is one of the most fashionable preparatory schools in the country. And, for those unacquainted with the financial doings of this economic class, sending Gautam Venkatesan to this school is costing his family a tidy fortune. How thoughtful of Mr. Venkatesan to be mindful of those less fortunate than he, one thinks, of those unable to afford the expense of Phillips Exeter. On the other hand, how forgetful he seems to be of the hundreds of millions of caste-ridden Indians unable to escape that most racist of civilizations. Where in India are the monuments honoring those who struggled against the repulsive caste system? (All Britons of course.) And where are the monuments to those determined British civil servants who finally succeeded in stamping out suttee, that colorful Hindu custom whereby widows are burned alive on their dead husbands' funeral pyres? India had to put up with a fair amount of screaming as the poor widows burned to death, but it was an ancient custom and was followed respectfully until the British came along. Perhaps Gautam Venkatesan has never heard of suttee, however, for if he has he might instantly flee savage New Hampshire which refuses to honor Martin Luther King and swiftly make his way to the neatness and orderliness of Hindu's caste system, where with a bit of luck he might now and then catch a whiff of daintily roasted female flesh.

But New Hampshire is not the only place in the world which refuses to honor Martin Luther King. Going far beyond simply refusing to honor King, many states, in Africa this time - a part of the world with closer links to Martin Luther King than Gautam Venkatesan - still carry on a thriving trade in human chattel. Slavery has been reported from time to time in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Chad, Sudan, as well as in the west Saharan state of Mauritania, where to all appearances it's positively flourishing. Samuel Cotton, a black American reporter who spent several days in Mauritania a year ago, estimated that the slave population there amounted to 100,000.

But among those astonishingly indifferent to African slavery - as recounted by David Aikman in the latest American Spectator - are most African-Americans and black American organizations. Last March, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, still aglow from his Million Man March, went so far as flatly to deny that slavery still existed in the Sudan - where others claim that a nice black slave can be bought for $15. …

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