Kanye West's increasingly political presence on Twitter has left historians and political researchers to put the record straight on several recent occasions. And while experts gave him some credit for his tweets about the history of American political parties about race – where he got his 19th century information quite right, but skipped significant later changes – West went viral on Wednesday to share the history of slavery as left many people upset.
"When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years ?! That sounds like a choice," he told TMZ in an interview published on Tuesday.
In a series of later removed tweets, he tried to clarify his statements. "Obviously, I know that the slaves did not get stuck and put on a boat of free will," he wrote. "My point is that we have stayed in that position, even though the numbers were on our side, meaning we were mentally blinded." (In subsequent tweets, he also admitted that he believed the Nat Turner movie The birth of the nation was prevented from telling relatives who were retreated instead of accepting their place and shared a fake Harriet Tubman quote.) [1
Sinha's scholarship looks at how volatile slaves and other persons in color played an active role at the end of slavery. In the uprising of Kanye West's tweets, she sees a lesson about a crucial but often overlooked part of that story – and a reminder that not only slavery was a choice, but in fact, the slaves did their utmost to get rid of it.
"Enslaved people flew for freedom when they got the chance," she says. "When they did not have the right to vote, they voted with their feet."
Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman, to which the West compares, may remain two of the most famous examples of resistance among the enslaved, but they are part of a massive story covering the whole of slavery's history. For example, the shackles in which they enslaved did the Middle Passage trip prove that physical constraints were deemed necessary, she said, and when the civil war began, thousands of enslaved people jumped to the Union's army. In fact, how to handle the growing number of abducting slaves was one of the most important political struggles that led to the civil war.
"South states wanted to enforce federal volatile slavery laws and northern states opposed it," she explains. "The northern states also passed personal liberty laws to protect some of these slaves who came into the north. When their masters took them to free territory and free states, the slaves sued their masters for their freedom. They used the law even when they did not have the right to vote . "Most famous, Dred Scott tried and failed to sue his master's family of freedom on the grounds that they once lived in free territory.
A look at which slaves who wrote and sang during that period also show that they were the opposite of "mentally blinded".
"[Kanye West] should read slave spirituals and black people from the time of slavery talking about the longing of the slaves for freedom," she says. "His music is derived from these slave spiritual ones. He should know that. He should know that even when black were slaves, their minds did not get lost."
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But although many fled, more could not. The record shows that the most common driving was young men without wives or children, but slavery hit the whole family and it was difficult to run with toddlers in trailers. In addition, in Deep South they had a longer trek than those living around the border to free and slave territories. So, those who could not fly with other types of resistance regularly, such as job cuts, cuts, secret meetings or feeding, as Vanessa M. Holden, professor of history at the University of Kentucky, has declared TIME earlier.
And, Sinha adds, it is important to remember that despite the existence of areas where the enslaved persecuted slave wars, America's demographics were not the same as a place like Haiti, which remains the rare example of a successful slave revolt. African Americans were an unarmed minority who faced an armed majority.
"In the American South, the extraordinary achievement of African Americans has survived slavery and can withstand it and develop alternative self-esteem," says Sinha. "I think Kanye should learn the story and be humbled by it."
But his word sets also a question of what it means to remember the past. In the West's recent interview with Charlamagne Tha God, he asked the question: "Why do you have to remind us of slavery?" And suggested that a figure like Michael Jordan would be better suited for a new one $ 20 bill than Harriet Tubman. Sinha says there's a point to change how slavery is used to influence modern discussions, but she thinks there's a better way to do it.
"To get rid of with things that remind us of slavery "argues," we should get rid of all confederate monuments and statues of men and women who struggled for slavery. "