Dear H-Slavery Subscribers,
As you may have already seen, there is an interesting discussion taking place at H-Afro-Am about McGraw-Hill's recent apology for its treatment of slavery in one of its textbooks. I would like to invite you all to share your thoughts about the matter by commenting on this post. The discussion of this topic is spreading to multiple H-Net groups, and H-Net will be collecting conversations across networks about it... so commenting here will contribute to a much larger discussion.
We'd love to hear your thoughts.
An important component of my recently published book concerning war captives in New Zealand Māori society (referred to in English as ‘slaves’) is a discussion of semiotics and word use in that context. One quote from eighteenth-century England seems particularly relevant to this issue:
“The politically astute have always known the value of manipulating language. So, as far back as April 1789, when abolitionists were pitted against the pro-slavery West Indies lobby, a mischievous correspondent using the nom de plume ‘No Planter’ wrote to the English Gentleman’s Magazine cynically suggesting that because ‘[t]he vulgar are influenced by names and titles’:"
"Instead of SLAVES, let the Negroes be called ASSISTANT-PLANTERS; and we shall not then hear such violent outcries against the slave trade by pious divines, tender-hearted poetesses, and short-sighted politicians.”
[From The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 59, January–June, April 1789, cited in Hazel Petrie, Outcasts of the Gods: The Struggle Over Slavery in Māori New Zealand, Auckland University Press, p.325.)