Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The brutal trade in enslaved people within the US has been largely whitewashed out of history

The brutal trade in enslaved people within the US has been largely whitewashed out of history
by Joshua D. Rothman (University of Alabama)

For my recently published book, “The Ledger and the Chain,” I visited more than 30 archives in over a dozen states, from Louisiana to Connecticut. Along the way, I uncovered mountains of material that exposed the depravity of the men who ran the largest domestic slave trading operation in American history and revealed the fortitude of the enslaved people they trafficked as merchandise.

But I also learned that many Americans do not realize that a domestic slave trade existed in the U.S. at all.

A domestic slave trader's newspaper ad from 1844 says 'CASH FOR NEGROES.'
Slave trader Joseph Bruin placed this advertisement in the Alexandria Gazette on March 20, 1844. City of Alexandria, Virginia

Mentioning my research to others repeatedly provoked questions about Africa, not America. They obviously assumed that a scholar working on the slave trade must be working on the trade that brought millions of Africans to the Western Hemisphere via the terrifying Atlantic Ocean crossing known as the Middle Passage.

They did not appear to know that by the time slavery ended in 1865, more than 1 million enslaved people had been forcibly moved across state lines in their own country, or that hundreds of thousands more had been bought and sold within individual states.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The nihilism of Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court - Vox

The nihilism of Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court - Vox

Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee’s radical vision to remake America, explained.

Neil Gorsuch was ready to blow up the US housing market over a minor legal violation.

The case in front of the Supreme Court was Collins v. Yellen (2021), which had at its center the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), an obscure body that oversaw hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of transactions intended to stabilize the housing market after the 2008 recession. The FHFA is led by a single director whom only the president can fire “for cause.” The plaintiffs in Collins v. Yellen argued the president must have unlimited power to fire the agency’s head, citing the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

But under the Collins plaintiffs’ arguments, it also followed that if the FHFA head was fired, every action the agency had taken since its creation in 2008 should be declared void — a truly radical prospect. That argument won very little favor from the justices. Last June, the Court handed down a relatively modest opinion that gave President Joe Biden (and all future presidents) the power to fire the FHFA director without reversing the agency’s past work.

But Gorsuch would have none of it.

In a partial dissent, Gorsuch complained that his colleagues were too spooked by the prospect of “unwinding or disgorging hundreds of millions of dollars that have already changed hands” (an underestimate of the amount of money at stake by several orders of magnitude). The proper approach, Gorsuch opined in Collins, was to declare the FHFA’s actions “void.”

If Gorsuch had gotten his way, 13 years of work and hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of transactions would have been unraveled, possibly delivering a shock to the mortgage-lending industry similar to that of the 2008 crisis — or even sending the world economy into a tailspin.

And yet, for Gorsuch, the potential consequences were irrelevant to how the Court should rule.