The Condition of African Americans in America: Slavery or Captivity?
By Jocelyn Jones
E. Rufus Ozomeyo, assistant professor of history, delivered a lecture on the conditions of blacks in America at the Bowie State University College of Arts and Sciences and Department of History and Government Fall 2011 Faculty Lecture on Nov. 9.
During the hour-long presentation, Ozomeyo discussed the various conditions that African Americans have endured in America and revealed the untold story of an African’s testimony.
According to Ozomeyo, the federal government offered its own apology for keeping blacks in slavery and several states, including Maryland and Virginia, offered public apologies for condoning the institution of slavery.
Africans and descendants of the New World were not slaves, Ozomeyo said, but they were in bondage. Bondage is best defined as “compulsory servitude.” Slavery is a condition that comes from cultural values.
In his study that has been developed into a manuscript for the textbook, “The Condition of African Americans in America: Slavery or Captivity?” Ozomeyo poses the questions: What constitutes slavery? How did the colonists develop the term when culturally they did not practice slavery? Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we accept situations without questions? What can we do today to right the wrongs of generations past?
Ozomeyo discussed the role of Africa, Europe and the New World and how his study examined the nature of slavery worldwide. He said he refuses to base the definition of the institution on a narrow Anglo-Saxon worldview, instead arguing that slavery in the New World was a spontaneous invention done out of business necessity and did not evolve from unintended cultural practices like the rest of the world. Slavery as it was practiced in the New World did not meet the universal criteria for the institution, he said.
Included in Ozomeyo’s manuscript is a comparative study of the institution of slavery from selected ancient societies, the process by which African Americans became slaves in British North America, the Revolutionary rhetoric and the constitutional blessing of the institution. Additionally, the manuscript includes the true nature of American slavery from the cotton kingdom to the civil war, and from emancipation to civil rights.
Ozomeyo contends that the purpose of education is to revolutionize our children. Knowledge is power, he said, and when you have education you [are] no longer the person you were before you had education. The more you know about your history the more you continue to educate yourself and others.
A native of Nigeria, Ozomeyo holds a doctorate in history from Howard University. He plans to publish the manuscript next year as an African-American studies textbook.