Reckoning with the Cotton Gin and Sin: Keeping September 9 in Mind
by Rev. Dr Mel Leaman
My initial post-college employment was as a Junior High history teacher. I taught what I had learned. So, in 1972 I was able to tell my students how the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 expanded the demand for cotton in North America and globally. Cotton comprised just 7% of our exports in 1800, but by 1860 that increased to 58%. Our country experienced a huge economic boom as Southern states provided the world with 75% of its cotton! But, what I couldn’t tell my students at that time because my history books skimmed over this truth was that despite the 1808 ban on foreign slave trade the number of slaves imported as a means of supplying the demand for cotton increased from 900,000 to 4 million in 60 years. What I couldn’t tell my students were the horrors that happened to black women, men, and children who now had to pick more cotton to keep up with the pace of production. What I couldn’t tell my students was that many slave masters were Christian church goers as were those who built slave ships in the North or filled their pockets with cotton related incomes. I JUST WISH I WOULD HAVE READ BLACK HISTORY WRITTEN BY BLACK PEOPLE!
Well, I’ve been doing just that and I am hoping you will join me. Our Scriptures in II Corinthians 5:17-25 call us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. How can we be ambassadors for reconciliation if we have not reckoned with the realities of our history that have separated us? This is not revisionist history. It is so real our hearts still resist the cleansing power of the cross to remove the stains in our souls (being) that demean our relationships with one another. It will be a bit confronting, I know, but I would like to invite you to join me and my co-facilitator, Peter Mullen as we read and discuss The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. We will begin our sojourn on Saturday, September 9th from 10:00-11:00 and do so for eleven consecutive Saturdays. Come as you can. We will view each chapter’s summary by the author via zoom on a given day of the week, but if you miss that video viewing simply come 20 minutes early to the Saturday session to view it. Thanks for thinking about this offering and letting me ([email protected]) or Peter Mullen ([email protected]) know if you plan to participate. The books website is: https://jemartisby.com/