Americans have a very diverse heritage. It’s all-inclusive (everyone), comprehensive (everywhere), and interesting (think cowboys, heroes, and inventors) as well as enriching. If we bother to learn our history we find that it is enlightening, invigorating, and sometimes embarrassing. One of our embarrassments is shared by many nations and peoples, indeed, it is the collective embarrassment of our species: slavery.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago before recorded history people lived chiefly as hunter-gatherers. Perhaps slavery first became an entrenched tradition then. Territorial clans took females and children. The only benefit from this practice appears to have been genetic diversification. Once agricultural societies evolved, males were taken to provide labor and warriors. History has recorded that warring ancient civilizations absorbed weaker peoples into their culture by force as matter of routine. The dominated accepted their fate and readily switched their faith to the victor’s obviously more powerful deities. And so this scourge went on for millennium.
Yet, it is the American experience that haunts us. The unread often wonder why.
Well, wonder no more. There is a book that explains it all in exciting detail: King Leopold’s Ghosts by Adam Hochschild. This is the most excellent account of the most terrible institution that has ever been written, in my opinion. Read this book. You’ll gasp, cry, vomit, and have someone to blame by the time you’ve finished.