TheGrio Daily

The Capitol of Black America

Episode 90

 “If there is such a thing as Black America, then South Carolina is the Capitol of Black America.” We hear the term “Black America” all the time. Whether it’s on the news or just in regular conversation. Have you ever thought to yourself what is the capitol of Black America? Well, Michael Harriot has and he’s here to tell you where you can find it. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio is Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:04] And welcome to another episode of theGrio Daily. And since it’s Black History Month, we’re going to be concentrating on one subject, not really one subject, but one idea. So let me explain it to you. It is estimated that about 40% of the enslaved Africans who were imported to America were imported through the Port of Charleston. It’s called the Slave Capitol of the World. It was then. And South Carolina until the 1930 census was majority Black. South Carolina, as you’ll see, was the origin point for much of what we call Black history or American history. And that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will explain why, if there is such a thing as Black America, then South Carolina is the capital of Black America. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:13] Let’s start from the beginning, right? So in 1669, 50 years. Exactly. Literally exactly 50 years after 20 or so odd Negroes arrived on the coast of Virginia to start America’s legally, constitutionally enshrined human trafficking system, eight men who were called the Lord proprietors, set sail from England to this place called Charlestown and Albemarle Point. Now, unlike Virginia and, you know, Massachusetts and all of the places that were settled on the North American continent before then, Charlestown at Albemarle Point was a preplanned settlement. In fact, it was the first preplanned settlement in the Americas. Right. So they had a whole layout, a whole idea of what it would become before they even came here. And along with that, on those three ships that carried those lower proprieties in about 150 colonizers, they had a document that basically outlined the rules and regulations that would govern the Carolina territories. And when I say the Carolina territories, that huge swath of land also included what we now know is Georgia and Alabama and, you know, North Carolina. So early on, all of that was just Carolina, the British colony of Carolina. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:58] And the fundamental constitutions of Carolina had a bunch of stuff in it. You know, it contained it was written by John Locke, actually, the same guy who came up with the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He wrote the Carolina Constitutions. He was like a secretary for a group that would contain those lower proprieties and form the Royal African Company of London, which imported slaves. But we’ll get to that. John Locke wrote down this long list of stuff and the one we’re going to talk about and kind of use as a guiding principle was Article 110. And Article 110 was one of the first articles that gave America freedom of religion, but it also contained another clause. And that clause said every freedmen of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his Negro slaves. And that principle was not just an organizing principle of Carolina, but it became an organizing principle for America. Most of the things that we know as Black Codes or slave laws emerged not just from Carolina, but that single provision. And we’re going to go into that today because you have to understand what we’re going to be talking about in subsequent episodes by understanding this principle. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:45] So, in that clause they didn’t consider like the natives who lived here as freemen, Right? They didn’t consider women as freemen. What they were talking about is white men. Every white man shall have absolute power and authority. Now, again, there were no there were actually Black people here. We’ll get into that later. But who they were talking about were the people who they had enslaved. Now, you have to understand that when that ship came here, it didn’t just leave England with a bunch of gas and then come to South Carolina, nah it had made some stops. See, because when those people came from England to that pre-planned community, that suburb, I guess you would call it. They had an idea that was also in those constitutional and that fundamental constitution. One of them was Head Rights. Right. So Head Rights was the idea that as many people that you brought here to America, you could get 50 acres of free land. And most of the people who came here for the Carolina colony were actually rich white people who already owned plantations, mostly in Barbados, but, you know, all across the Caribbean, but mostly in Barbados. So they stopped in Barbados and brought some of those slaves who they had absolute power and authority over to get their land, right. It was written down in those fundamental constitutions. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:43] So that is where whites, how white supremacy was enshrined in the foundation of South Carolina. And as time went on, they enacted more laws that were kind of based on that principle. Right. So a few years later, they realized, man, you know, so many slaves been running away. And so they first of all, they cut off part of the Carolina colony and made it into this place called Georgia. Why did they make it into this place called Georgia? Won’t see those Those Negro slaves didn’t like white people having absolute power and authority over them, and they would run away to the place that Spain controlled Florida. Now, when they made it to Florida, they were considered free. So Great Britain had this great idea, hey, what if we, like, created this buffer zone called Georgia? We’re like, that would be a buffer between South Carolina and Florida, the free place that, you know, when slaves were there, we could catch them, wouldn’t necessarily have slavery, but we could catch them and return them to their rightful owners because, again, they have absolute power and control. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:17] They also created something else. Right. They created this thing. Called the Slave Catchers. The first slave catchers weren’t like we like to think of as police, right? They had a militia and every man was, you know, required to serve in this militia. And the job of the militia was to enforce these laws of slavery. Right. The only way you could get out of it. It was like the draft. I’m not the NFL draft, but like the military draft. And the only way you could get out of it was that if you were a minister, because some ministers objected to slavery. So they were excluded from being part of the slave catchers. But everybody else, man, they had to be a part of that militia. And then in 1740, something happened. There was this enslaved man named Jimmy. Now, Jimmy, he could speak Portuguese. He could probably speak Spanish. But here’s the crazy thing. Jimmy could read. And Jimmy somehow communicated with a bunch of his fellow enslaved Black people. And in 1739 they decided to go through that place, that was Charlestown at Albemarle Point. They met at the banks of the Stono River, and they began killing every white person that they saw. And. Because Jimmy could read. Jimmy knew that they were the whites were having this big church service so that they weren’t going to have their guns with them. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:18] So after what was called the Stono Rebellion. South Carolina enacted the Negro law of 1740 the Negro Act, some people call it, and the Negro Act of 1740 became the basis for every Black code, every racial law that would exist thereafter. And the reason it was upheld by different colonies and States Supreme Court was because it was the first act that specifically outlaw outlined the status of these Negroes and in the Negro Act of 1740 Black people were not considered people. They were excluded from all of these constitutional guarantees or provisions. They were considered chattel property. And so from then on, as other states based these laws on governing their slaves. They used the Negro Act of 1740 as a template. And you need to know that to understand what we’re going to be talking about for the rest of this month, because it’s going to be not just about slavery, not just about these specific laws, but will be centered in the idea that South Carolina is the Capitol of Black America. And that’s also why you need to subscribe to this podcast on whatever platform you listen to it on. And it’s also why. We’re going to leave you with a saying from Black America. And today’s saying is “It all started right down there in South Cackalacky.” If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

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