Slavery Did Not Die; It Still Peddles Its Evil

by James M. Wall

The Professor asks”: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?”

This question is posed by a professor of African and Middle East History at the University of North Texas. Her name is Constance Hilliard. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, she also writes a​ blog,​​ Soul Wisdom.

Again: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?” 

In her recent blog posting, Dr. Hilliard offers her answer to her question.

My answer would be creating a world of make-believe so fortified by lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms or when their wives were sexually assaulted by the plantation owner.”

Current parallel examples abound that link this nation’s period of slavery and continued segregation to our current period with Donald Trump as our president.

Donald J. Trump’s immigration policy is based on what he feels is the white Christian American’s superior faith and race. Mexicans will face a wall if Trump is allowed his say. A select number of Muslim citizens from countries tagged by Trump as dangerous will be denied a brighter future than the one we gave them with our totally unjustified wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everyone else will be judged qualified to enter our nation built by immigrants, entirely on their English proficiency and job skills.

While looking for some way to address this continued misconduct by our current President, I found Professor Hilliard on Daily Kos, a progressive writer on a progressive site.

Professor Hilliard is a regular contributor to Daily Kos. Read her opening lines above again, slowly. Click on the highlighted title and read the entire posting.

She links two mindsets, one that, in a major way, delivered Donald Trump to us, and another in 19th-century America where economic developments made it easy to inveigle a God-fearing, Bible-believing public in cotton-growing states, to accept slavery as God-given.

Professor Hilliard explains how slavery spreads its evil into our lives today:

While the institution of forced labor was dismantled after the Civil War, the peculiar mindset that defined reality as whatever the patriarch said it was, regardless of the evidence of one’s own senses, escaped the confines of the South and spread to other areas of white working class America.

It was a worldview built on an invented moral authority. Southern evangelicals had fought the abolitionism of their northern evangelical counterparts by creating a new hermeneutics — Biblical literalism.

It proclaimed that anything theologians found in the world of 2,000 years ago as having made its way into the Bible could be declared sacrosanct and God-inspired.

Critical thinking skills, even personal observation, were disdained for the proclamations of the patriarchal leader. In that context, lies were whatever liberals said, and the truth was the patriarch’s mumblings.

In the time of slavery and the segregated racial divide that followed, generations of “patriarchal” religious leaders and their institutions believed, taught and enforced, what Hilliard described quite accurately as “an invented moral authority”.

Last time I looked, major American Protestant ruling bodies were still  “debating” what they feel about the evil of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Debates have long been one of evil’s favorite tools of deception.

The modern mindset which Trump embodies and exploits, is part of a discontent which allowed our current president to ride into a job he lacks normal skills to handle.

As Jimmy Carter pointed out in his 1979 address, “Crisis of Confidence”, economic disparity, as gross as the economic disparity that created slavery, still has the power to build a fake reality, a reality that only a Trump can handle.

In her recent posting, Hilliard focuses our attention on the reality of  darkness in our culture, one that surfaced in a major way in the evils of slavery and now, 200 years later, is surfacing to impose new iterations of evil on present and future modern generations.

That darkness comes in various shapes and shows itself constantly through human action, just as it has done since those days when Adam and Eve resided harmoniously together in the Garden. 

Until, that is, they did not. They created a new existence when they came up with their own “invented moral authority”.

Since then, that darkness has continued to surface in a particularly ugly form in those moments of human history when forgotten, ignored, or unlearned, normal restraints disappear in a power-grabbing cloud of dust.

We are in a moment when grand juries will come and go, and presidents may come and go. But evil will persist and remain attractive to those vulnerable to easy answers crafted by earlier generations of land-grabbing, human exploiters.

As Hilliard writes, that exploitation surfaced in one of this nation’s darkest moments and made slavery morally acceptable as an essential tool in our nation’s economy.

In our current moment, the general population still feels the effect of slavery as we desert “the least of these”, and deny the reality that all people are equal.

Whatever name we give to our transcendent power, we must consider the possibility that this power is groaning in agony as nations continue to choose and then embrace politics powered by a satanic “invented moral authority”.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Slavery Did Not Die; It Still Peddles Its Evil

  1. Powerful, Jim. Thank you. I especially like “Debates have long been one of evil’s favorite tools of deception.” Amen.

  2. Noushin Framke says:

    Great insight on today’s divided landscape. I commend to your readers an excellent podcast series out of Duke U.’s Center for Documentary Studies that turns the lens back onto “Whiteness.” The 12-part series is called “Seeing White”: Scroll back and start with episode 31 which is the first in the series on this topic. It is a brilliant and much overdue discussion on what I call “the default setting” of America.

  3. wallwritings says:


    I am most grateful to you for this “Whiteness” podcast link. I followed your instructions and scrolled back to episode 31, the first in a 12-part series. Powerful. This statistic from episode 31 caught my attention: “58% of white voters voted for Trump”. Why is this stat new to me? I did not hear this on MSNBC. I did not hear it on PBS or Fox. Maybe it was in the New York Times and I missed it. But the Podcast gave it to me. For readers unfamiliar with Podcasts, you, Noushin, have provided the necessary instructions.

    Now, faithful readers, do yourselves, your children and grand children, and every you know, a favor. Before you pour your first cup of tea or coffee, turn on the Podcast. Turn it up loud enough to hear all over the kitchen. Turn off your morning television and put aside your morning newspaper. Think of this Podcast as your visit to the campus of Duke University in North Carolina. This is continuing education of the finest sort. If you are white, like me, reflect on the reality that 58% of our tribe voted for Donald J. Trump in 2016.

    Our mainstream media promotes the notion that Trump’s “base” has shrunk to 32%. But hold on, it was not his “base” alone that elected him. It was our white “tribe”, 58% of whom voted for him. Look at Trump’s actions. He is not cultivating his “base”. He is cultivating members of his tribe. Watch for the decline of “civil rights” actions for racial minorities.

    Thank you Professor Constance Hilliard and thank you, Noushin Framke.

    James M. Wall

  4. Pauline Coffman says:

    Jim, I just finished reading Frances Fitzgerald’s book on Vietnam: Fire in the Lake. What a story of our government creating and BELIEVING in an alternate reality. Without listening to the Vietnamese, we blindly kept pouring weapons and army personnel into a tiny country and wondering why we weren’t winning the war. The same seems to be true in Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Now I’m contemplating the idea that our racism is also an alternate reality that so many of us believe is being “fair” to everyone. Thanks, Jim.

  5. Thanks, Jim, for bringing Prof. Hilliard to our attention. As a footnote to her comment on slavery, “lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms” I want to suggest that this is shown in Steve McQueen’s fine film 12 Years a Slave. Just before that film came out I came across, while preaching in a KY church, a book printed in 1853 by two ministers A BIBLICAL DEFENSE OF SLAVERY. Of its many lies & distortions, the authors claimed that slaves whose children are sold do not feel deeply about this. I quoted this passage in my description of the movie scene in which Eliza is sold at an auction but her children to someone else. She is still weeping when she is taken to her new home where the mistress tells her, “Your children will soon be forgotten.” My review (with several other quotations from the despicable book) is at
    Thanks again for all of your good work in shining light on subjects/events often ignored by mainstream media.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s