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The cotton (or coconut) picking truth

Richmond Enquirer

Verité sans peur

July 5, 1862

Govt backs ‘slave business’

The government of the Confederate States of America, cotton farmers and slave traders have dismissed claims by a human rights group that black slaves used to pick cotton are maltreated and announced plans to take foreign diplomats on a visit to see the slaves at work for themselves.

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, Secretary of State, said the slave owners did not abuse or exploit the negroes, which have been humanely trained to pick cotton.  ‘I own 100 slaves myself, so I know.’ said Secretary Hunter.

‘The Confederate government is ready to invite foreign diplomats to visit cotton plantations and see how the slaves pick cotton so they will realise this is not human exploitation’ said Secretary Hunter.

He also said he has instructed Confederate agents overseas to provide an explanation to cotton buyers in foreign countries.

Simon Legree, the owner of a slave market which supplies Negroes in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, said the practice of capturing blacks from Africa to pick coconuts ceased a long time ago. 

The costs of transporting slaves from West Africa had become too burdensome, especially when about one-third died during the so-called ‘middle passage’.  Conditions on board slave ships were so harsh that on arrival, the poor health of many slaves meant that they fetched only low prices on auctioneer’s blocks throughout the South.

Currently, slaves are bred and raised before being put to work, Mr Legree said. ‘Foreigners may not understand our livelihood. White people are not built to bend over to pick cotton. They get a pain in the back, unlike Negroes which have the natural ability to do so,’ he said.

‘There is no cruelty. Actually, the Niggras are looked after well. They are fed well three times a day. They are treated like family members.’

Other cotton-growing regions -- including India and Egypt -- harvest cotton without slavery and the Confederacy’s fear is that one of its main exports funding the war effort will lose out to competitor producers. 

One human rights organization claimed ‘The slaves on these plantations -- many of whom are illegally captured as babies -- display stereotypic behaviour indicative of extreme stress. Slaves are kept in chains or confined to cages that are barely large enough for them to turn around in.’

Whites in the South have founded their breakaway country on a belief in white supremacy. Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens described its ideology as being based ‘upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition’.

Observers believe that even if the South loses the war and is forced to abolish slavery, its ideology of racism will persist and blacks will not be treated equally for generations to come. 

‘I can even foresee statues to southern leaders like Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee being erected all across the South in future days,’ said one historian.  ‘Thousands of schools, streets and military bases will be named in honour of our leaders who rebelled against their government, initiated the bloodiest war in our nation’s history, and enslaved people for no other reason than the colour of their skin.  These are our heroes.’

Asked what he thought about the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’, one southern politician, general and slave-owner replied ‘Of course black lives matter. Have you seen the price of a good slave these days?’