Civics for Life

Emancipation's Complicated History, with Kris Manjapra

July 06, 2023 Civics for Life
Civics for Life
Emancipation's Complicated History, with Kris Manjapra
Show Notes Transcript

Emancipation in America is often presented as a single and singular undertaking. But Professor Kris Manjapra's new book, Black Ghost of Empire, complicates that story by situating America's national emancipation in a long line of global emancipations--including the first emancipations, which occurred in America's North in the late 18th century--that were in many ways structured to benefit former enslavers and ensure that the formerly enslaved remained repressed.

Were these compromised emancipations necessary concessions to the powers that existed at the time? Or did they suffer from an impoverished conception of "the possible"? Professor Manjapra joined Liam Julian, director of Public Policy at the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute, to discuss these and other questions; to examine the words and deeds of great Americans like Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass; to consider the unique beauty of facts; and to ask what it would mean to live in a truly reciprocal society.

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Liam Julian:

Welcome to Civics for Life and O'Connor Institute conversation with Professor Kris Manjapra. Kris Manjapra was born in the Caribbean, African and Indian parentage. He grew up in Canada and completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Harvard. He is a professor of history at Tufts University and recipient of the 2015 Emerging Scholar Award from Diverse Magazine. He has held fellowships at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and UCLA. He lives in Boston and his new book, which we're going to be discussing today is Black Ghost of Empire, the Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation. Kris, thanks for joining us today to talk about this book.

Kris Manjapra:

Thanks so much for having me, Liam. It's great to be here.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. So, your book is about emancipation, but it's sort of, it kind of wants to be a little bit of a corrective maybe to the story that we all learned in school. I know when I was in school, we were taught about emancipation and it was sort of an emancipation habit. Your book says, no, this is a very long and complicated history, right?

Kris Manjapra:

Correct. Yeah. I think one of the big takeaways of the book is there wasn't one emancipation. There have been many emancipations in history, really ranging over more than a hundred years and across the whole world. And also, that every single emancipation that's happened has happened in a surprising way. You know, the actual details of emancipation are not what we would expect.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. Yeah. And there's a very, at the start of your book, there's a very helpful global map. And you essentially have, I counted them, there's over 60, all the different emancipations and the dates that they happened. And then you sort of show, also there's a legend that sort of says, gives a little bit of indication about how these emancipations came to be, but yes, they're all different. And moreover, these emancipations sort of, the people learned from each other, correct? So that was also an interesting, could you talk a bit about that?

Kris Manjapra:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when I say that emancipations didn't happen in the way that we would expect, I think the main finding from the book is that, you know, we think of emancipation as being about an end, of course, the end of slavery. But in fact, they were more like conduits, you know, they were more like tunnels through time and specifically tunnels for the continuation of racial oppression and the racial rule of property. And we can talk more about that in detail, but just to get to your question, it's absolutely the case that there was a kind of a learning process taking place, whereby the very first emancipations that started in the 1770s introduced certain innovations in law, policy innovations, legal innovations. And you can actually trace how those innovations, which were fundamentally aimed to benefit the slave owners, the enslavers, as they were losing human property, they get passed forward and improved upon over time. So, in some ways, the deal gets sweeter and sweeter for enslavers through these legal apparatuses, and that's one of the main ways in which this learning process is taking place. It's not learning so as to make the condition for the previously enslaved better, but the opposite, you know, making things better for the erstwhile property owners, in human property, in slaves.

Liam Julian:

Right, and you, so you, and that's good. You start your book in the American North, and these are the first sort of emancipations that we see happening. And it's, you know, it's also important to say that you make the point, and I know this isn't new, but a lot of people don't recognize this, how entwined the North was with the system of slavery. You know, it was interesting, you know, not only were there slaves in the North, I mean, you could purchase slaves on Wall Street in New York City, but, well, here, I'll give you this. This statistic stood out to me. You write that in 1768, 18% of New England's exports went to Great Britain and Ireland, but 64% of its exports went to the Caribbean. And so, these were essentially just exports that were going to colonies that were set up to produce materials, but it was deeply entwined with the economic system of slavery the North was.

Kris Manjapra:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Liam Julian:

So, can you talk a bit about sort of those emancipations that started to happen in the North in the sort of late 18th century?

Kris Manjapra:

Yeah, I mean, there's, the book kind of looks at, in comparative terms, these different emancipation moments beginning in the 1770s, and like we were talking about, this learning process that's taking place. And in the 1770s and 1780s in New England, in particular, there are the first emancipations that are structured as, through indentureship or labor, ongoing bondage of enslaved people after slavery ends. So, the classic example would be in Philadelphia after their law of 1780, they introduce something called post-nati freedom, which means that enslaved people who are born after 1780, meaning children who are born from enslaved women, would be free, therefore post-nati after birth, that these children would have to stay in labor bondage and in indentureship for up to 25 years. And so that just gives you one concrete example of how, you know, laws were being introduced from the earliest moment to kind of get around the actual end of slavery, so that it could have a kind of a soft ending as opposed to an immediate ending, and it could benefit enslavers. And just to kind of, you know, get the main point of the book out there, there are all of these different strategies.

So, you know, one of them is indentureship. One of them is the paying of compensation of cash to enslavers. There's debt bondage, the putting of the newly freed people in these deep relationships of debt that they have to pay back for the rest of their lives, and other techniques that are introduced, and that are kind of innovated over time. And the book shows how these move through these different kind of locations from the American North to Haiti on to other places.

Liam Julian:

Yeah, what struck me when I was reading the passages about the North were the so many loopholes. I mean, it almost seemed like, you know, how people get around their taxes. You know, I mean, there were all sorts of loopholes, where if you if you sort of left for a while, then you I mean, it's sort of like, you know, how people try to sort of, you know, structure their residencies so that they pay less. And it just kind of reinforced how this is an economic system. And people are viewing this as economic, you know, much more than at the time than as anything else. And I thought that was that was quite interesting.

The other thing, though, that I when I was reading your book, Chris, and I started to think about this in the passages about the American North, you know, I know historians always counsel us that we shouldn't look back at people hundreds of years ago and attempt to sort of evaluate what they were thinking by our own 21st century standards. But the historian also has a really useful role in that he or she can help us understand what people back then were thinking. And you do that very well. You throughout the book, through primary sources show that it was not the case that in the 18th century, the 17th century, that people didn't know that this was an immoral institution. So, it's not necessarily that we are necessarily putting our 21st century standards. I mean, people knew that back then.

Kris Manjapra:

Correct. Yeah, that's absolutely the case. One good example of that is what happens in the British case. So, we go to London from the 1770s onwards. We know that, you know, Britain was a real center for abolitionism and that the abolitionism that was the mainstream was a lot about the continuation of the rule of racial property, the continuation of oppression by other means. So, it was it was not the abolitionism that we necessarily would want. That's the point about, you know, does is the 21st century mind asking for something from people in the 1700s that they simply weren't able to imagine. But like you're pointing out, that's not the case, because there are so many voices writing from places like London, Manchester and elsewhere from that time, you know, the black abolitionists and white abolitionists, too, who were who were observing that these emancipation laws were unjust, that, for example, compensation should not be paid to slave owners, but to the enslaved. This was, you know, a very strong argument, a common argument that was being made. It just didn't win out.

And you know, the book kind of highlights one person who I find really interesting. Her name was Elizabeth Hayrick, who was a radical abolitionist. She was writing a lot in the 1820s, 1830s. She was very inspired by black abolitionists, radical black abolitionists who were demanding the true end slavery and liberation afterwards. And she wrote in very plain language, this white British woman in the 1820s, that reparation should be paid to the enslaved. You know, so that's not a new idea. And that idea was taken up by other radical abolitionists in the 1830s. But like we're saying, the political wars, the climate at the time didn't allow for that side to win out. So, I see it much more as, you know, an ongoing history of struggle and contestation between these different political interests. And then the question is, why is it over time that, you know, the more conservative interests seem to win, seem to win out? That's really me the interesting question. Why does that continue to repeat itself?

Liam Julian:

Yeah, right. I mean, that's well, that's the question I was asking myself, too, when I was reading your book. I mean, is it just simply that the power structures in place were just such that this was the way it was going to go? I mean, you, you know, you show repeatedly in your book how slavery was just, you know, even in the North, the rich families in the North, their wealth was completely caught up in different types of enterprises that are involved in slavery. So, you know, and actually, when I was reading the passages about the North, I found myself asking myself, how did these emancipations ever get started in this environment? I mean, when all the power seemed to be arrayed to keep this system going, and when the system was so pervasive? I mean, maybe that's a question you could help us understand. Was it just the free black people and white abolitionists who were pushing for this? How did that happen?

Kris Manjapra:

Well, you know, I think one of the great question, one of the key points in the book is that emancipation as processes were structured to allow the system to stay the same, even though, you know, the, the details within the system were changing, i.e. the institution of slavery was ending the system of who would hold, you know, the who would be able to continue to accumulate property, who would own the lands that had been plantation lands, who would continue to have the same access to capital, and who wouldn't, you know, who would be more vulnerable to dispossession and disease and policing, you know, those structural questions were very much designed to not be quite not be asked.

And so, emancipations were designed to keep the power structure stable, they were ultimately in the interest of the, you know, conservative interests of the power of the elite. And so, I think that's a key point to make. It's a difficult point, I think, for us to sit with and digest that, to put it simply, emancipations were designed to keep things the same and not to change them. But I do think that that helps us explain why we have this ongoing, what feels like an ongoing repetition over hundreds of years of the same fundamental issues, which are the issues around racial injustice and racial inequality at a structural level.

I just wanted to say one more thing, though, before we, you know, maybe can talk about this a bit more, which is, why is this the case? You know, why is it that it was more the continuities than the break, you know, that kind of comes through emancipation? And I wrestled with that idea a lot. Part of me wants to say it has to do with just pure socioeconomics, you know, has to do with just capital, and the way that capital is conservative, you know, those who have access to it, want to keep access to it, they want their families to keep access to it. So that is, in some ways, very understandable. But I do think that there's another dimension here, which is in the realm of ideas, you know, it's in the realm of projections, it's the realm of psychology, it's, that's also an important realm to understand how racism works, you know, the ideas about the Black body as being somehow more adept at hard labor, and that it doesn't feel pain, or about Black labor as being irresponsible and lazy, and a Black people being less educated, not less educated, less able to be educated and less intelligent. These are really convenient fictions. But I think those fictions are also really deeply set in a kind of collective psyche. And I do feel that that helps us explain why it can be so hard to change social structures when those racial ideas actually remain quite deeply set, you know. So, there's a psychological and a kind of a mental side to this story, which I think is really important.

Liam Julian:

Right. Yeah. And I think we should say here, too, that your book has a point of view, you know, you're not writing as a historian, I mean, you are presenting the facts, but you're presenting the facts in support of a point of view. And interestingly, you know, I mean, I suspect that most people would think it to be a rather left-leaning point of view. But you got a really nice review in the Conservative Spectator of your book, you know, written by a former speechwriter for Prime Minister David Cameron, who was really impressed by the facts and the way that you had laid them out and said, this is a story that should be told and needs to be told. So, I really appreciated that, how you seem to sort of really use the facts to bolster your opinions.

 

Kris Manjapra:

And can I say one thing about that? You know, I think it's an opportunity just to kind of think about what are our stakes as, you know, as historians. I think it is a book by me, I'm a historian, you know, so it is a historian's book. It is a different kind of book than I have written in the past. For me, the key difference in the way that I've written the book, and it does have a very strong point of view, it's an argumentative book, I'm making an argument, is that it's also deeply connected to struggle, you know, to ongoing contemporary struggle. And I just mean that in a concrete way, that as I was writing it, I myself was very close to and very connected with groups of grassroots activists, especially reparations activists, and I am very inspired by them. And so, the book holds that fire, you know, and frankly, I think it's a good way to write. It's a good way to be a historian, to be both in the university, but also to be on the ground, to try to be in both places. I think it's kind of important these days.

Liam Julian:

It is. Can we talk about emancipation for America's South? Well, emancipation in America generally. So, we're skipping ahead now probably about 100 years, right? But you write that America's national emancipation was really very different from the emancipations that had come before, in that it was the result of war, it was the result of a war. And you write, quote, “America's emancipation more explicitly than perhaps any other emancipation process we have thus far seen, marked not a jubilee date to end slavery, but an ongoing and expanding dirty war against Black communities”. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Kris Manjapra:

Yeah, absolutely. So, if you remember from the earlier part of our conversation, I was observing that the first emancipations in the American North, they developed certain strategies, and one of the strategies was to put Black people into debt once they were freed. Another was to, you know, to what I'll call abandon them as citizens. And that happened through a lot of ways, you know, not giving them full rights, for example, making it very hard for them to vote. That is a history. It took a long time for Black people in the North, even decades and more for them to get the right to vote after they were freed. So, when we come to what happens in the South, you know, we spend a moment to kind of reflect on what our familiar story is. It is that emancipation happened, the enslaved were freed, we had Reconstruction, and Reconstruction was this, there is a, there's truth to this, was this great moment of Black inclusion in the body politic.

And then, at least in terms of American civics, you know, the story tends to get a bit fuzzy after that. There isn't a lot of discussion about Jim Crow, the long Jim Crow period that begins, but then we kind of move generally to the civil rights movement. My perspective is different, which is that we can actually see what's happening in the crucible of the Civil War and its aftermath in terms of how this tendency to dispossess Black people in and through emancipation is actually being fine-tuned. And despite the fact that there was this brief moment in 1865 in which there was the floating of an actual land reparations to Black communities, you know, in that same year, we already have the shifting of the tide, and we have the clawing back of those lands, the clawing back of laws that are, that we're supposed to, and constitutional amendments, which were to enfranchise Black people. 

And we really have already by 1866 the beginnings of Jim Crow. So, it doesn't leave us a long time for a hiatus between the end of slavery and the beginning of what I think of as the Dirty War. And this Dirty War is being fought by other means. It's not being fought by the use of the whip and chains and manacles. But it is being fought by bulldozing, what was called bulldozing, kneecapping these practices of, you know, white vigilantes in the South, putting Black communities in fear, law, you know, the decisions by the Supreme Court that ranged over a number of decades, which put power back in the hands of the planters. Things were happening at the top in terms of, you know, how Supreme Court justices were making decisions, and things were happening at the bottom in terms of the way that vigilantes were working. That made it very hard for Black people to have freedom, you know. And I think that does speak to some of the dynamics that we've been seeing in our own times as well.

Liam Julian:

You write about Abraham Lincoln in this context in the book, and I think your ideas about Abraham Lincoln might be very different from some other people's ideas about Abraham Lincoln. And actually, the person that I thought of in sort of, it was Barack Obama, it was President Obama, who has repeatedly sort of expressed his admiration for President Lincoln, especially for the compromises that Lincoln had to make in order to save the Union around slavery and emancipation. You see it a little differently, I would say.

Kris Manjapra:

Yeah, I do see it differently, and, you know, it's not that I want to or feel that it's my role to indict historical figures. It's not an indictment, but it is a corrective, it's a different angle that I wanted to emphasize, which is, if you like, the limits of the Lincolnian vision. And I point out those limits in a couple ways. Number one, you know, when we look at Lincoln's own vision of what freedom for enslaved people could look like, it actually looks a lot like this tradition that had been well established of freeing Black people, not into a true freedom, but into a kind of nominal freedom.

So, you know, the compensated emancipations in Washington, DC, which he spearheaded, kind of did that. But then also around the same time, we see Lincoln also very informed by a decades-long conversation amongst white American abolitionists, you know, really siding with the idea that really to kind of solve the racial dynamics in the United States, it would make sense to for the enslaved to move away, you know, to kind of leave the United States and to whether they go to colonies in Africa or there was a lot of sending Black people to colonies that were being opened up in Central America, that it would be better for the races to separate, you know. Now, coming back to an earlier point we made, like when I invoked Elizabeth Hayred, it is actually historically not the case that everybody thought that way or that had to be the solution. It was a way of thinking, but it wasn't necessarily the best way of thinking, I think, given the other options that were available. And so, I think it's okay to kind of point out the limits of a vision because it helps us to salvage the other visions that were also at work that were, in fact, more liberatory, I think.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. Yeah. So, here's, this is the tough question, well, there's lots of tough questions, but this is one, right? And it is, and I'm sure this is one you wrestled with while you're writing this book. To what extent were these sorts of compromises necessary to get some movement? I mean, so to what extent were the sort of radical abolitionism that you're talking about, and in your book that you talk about in admiring terms, and there is much to be admired there for sure, but to what extent, maybe you can help us understand, in the scenario of the time, what was possible? I mean, was what Lincoln was trying to do to sort of get the best possible outcome at the time, or do you have any thoughts on that? This is tricky, right? I mean, it's very difficult.

Kris Manjapra:

Yeah, no, it is a tricky question, and it's certainly the case that folks might critique my approach and my view, because I don't prioritize this question of, you know, what is possible, or the metaphor of trying to move the needle, and you can only move the needle so much in a particular era, or a particular decade, or whatever that is. So, I recognize that as a perspective. On the other hand, I just am so taken by this long tradition of Black reparationist thought, you know, which from the 1780s, was asking for what shouldn't be so surprising, right? They were asking not just for nominal freedom; they were asking for liberation.

And that meant very concrete things for them, land, access to capital, the ability to reconstitute their identities in a sovereign way, you know, the ability to reconstruct society so that they could have full citizenship. They just wanted liberation after having experienced, you know, generations of slavery. And the problem with the long arc of history piece or approach is that it kind of normalizes what I think is the underlying problem here, which is that racial ideas, ideas of Black inferiority, and how normal it should be for Black people to simply be in that condition, they get naturalized, you know, like, we don't get to have the conversation around what a true reparations for this long history and its ongoing life should look like, because we get caught up in the discussion about the possible.

If the possible, as we understand it, is actually defined by racist thinking, then that's a possible that we should, I think for our own, I want to say for our own spirit, for our own intellectual well-being, our own spiritual well-being, we need to be uncomfortable with. So, it's for that reason that it doesn't sit well with me to kind of think about the American possible, because that possible has frankly been a racist possible for hundreds of years. And I think we have the opportunity and the need to get rid of that, you know, to move beyond that. So, I think that's kind of the core.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. Kris, you write about Frederick Douglass, and you write, quote, that he fought a hundred ways to demand essentially one singular prized social good, the guarantee of reciprocity. And so, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about what you mean by the guarantee of reciprocity, and maybe also talk a little bit about the interaction between Douglass and Lincoln, and how Lincoln may have learned from Douglass in those, in those interactions.

Kris Manjapra:

Yeah, sure. So, I find it really interesting how important reciprocity is to Frederick Douglass, and his writing, and the way that I think of reciprocity is in a pretty simple way. It's basically the, I think of it in terms of touch, you know, that when we touch another, that we expect to be touched back by the other. And I think that makes a lot of sense in civic terms, in terms of what it is to belong to a civic community, which is, we belong to a reciprocal community, that we touch it, and it touches us back. And that's fundamentally what Frederick Douglass was asking for when he was speaking with Lincoln.

And if I imagine myself in that room, you know, with Frederick Douglass and the President of the United States, I feel that there was some reciprocity going on in that room, around that table, the way that they were exchanging opinions and talking with each other and listening to each other. And it's interesting to me also that Frederick Douglass, who had this very long career, but also someone else who I mention in the book, named Anna Julia Cooper, a Black philosopher who wrote On Reparations, that, and around the same time, you know, she really highlights reciprocity as well, as like a key demand for what the Black community coming out of slavery wants. You want reciprocity as part of the American body politic. This is a theme that comes up over and over again in Black thought, you know, and I have also been really inspired by a contemporary Black anthropologist named Michael Blakey, who says that, you know, in his study of society, of human society, as an archaeologist and an anthropologist, he observes that what justice fundamentally is, is the demand for reciprocity. It's the request to, if I am to be touched, to be able to also touch back. That's all that, you know, we're talking about in the end.

But it's also interesting to me that what race is, you know, what race does is it creates these inequalities of touch, you know, it allows for some communities to touch others much more than they are ever going to be touched back, to become impervious to the other's touch. And so, we might think of, you know, an anti-racist society as a society that is a truly reciprocal society. I think those two go together.

Liam Julian:

That's interesting, Kris, and where would you, when we talk about Frederick Douglass, where would you sort of place him, you know, we talked about sort of more radical abolitionist ideas versus someone like Lincoln, who just felt that he needed to make certain compromises with the power structures that were existing. What was, where did Douglass sort of fall on that spectrum?

Kris Manjapra:

I think, you know, Douglass is a really interesting case, because he is deeply involved in the day-to-day of politics. He's setting up, he's part of the union leagues, he's really, he runs for office. He's deeply involved with the leading politicians of his day. But he, because I think he is so aware of how much race and racial oppression is part of what America needs to address, he also isn't falling into the camp of only speaking about the quote-unquote possible, especially because I think he recognizes that that possible, as it is being imagined, has a kind of, you know, racist boundary around its conception. So, I put, I put, my book is international in terms of like, you know, the international framework that I'm trying to develop. And so, I put him within this international community of really pan-African thinkers. I mentioned Anna Julia Cooper. I think that he's very, very much resonant also with Martin Delany, who had both of these sides to him as well.

You know, he was a reparationist thinker. He spoke about the creation of what he called Afraka, this new Africa, which would be born from the reunion of Black people. I mean, it was like, you might say it's like an idealistic utopian vision, but he held that simultaneously with being very practically and pragmatically involved in American civil life after the Civil War. So, you know, another person might be Edward Blyden, you know, who was a big pan-Africanist leader working in Sierra Leone, we could name others. I think they brought both of these together, you know, the idealism and also the pragmatism.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. That's fascinating. Yeah. That's really fascinating. And that's, that's such an, that's such a nice thing to sort of be able to work within the situation that you have at hand, while also you continue to advocate for the, for the possible, for what you believe the possible should be. That's a really nice way that you, you put that, Kris. Yeah. So, you do make the case in your book for reparations, which is, you know, I know that's become a buzzword and people go into their corners automatically when they hear that. You talk about it in terms of other sort of broader concepts of justice, reparative justice. But I want to have you tell us a little bit more about where you, you point out that reparations have been paid, but they've been paid, they've been paid throughout this history. They've been paid to the slave owners, not to the slaves or the formerly enslaved themselves. And perhaps you can talk briefly about both the experience with Haiti and this, this quote, retroactive emancipation that happened there, which is what a story. And then you, maybe you can also tell us a little bit about the British empire and sort of how they structured their reparations, just so people have that, those facts, you know.

Kris Manjapra:

Sure. Yeah. And I will be, I will be happy to be brief too. So just picking out the top notes in Haiti, we have a revolution. It concludes in 1805. In order for this new black nation to be recognized, they're in some ways taken hostage by their erstwhile Imperial Lords, the French state. And France refuses to recognize Haiti as an independent nation until it pays a reparations to the French. This was called the indemnity and it finally happened beginning in 1825. It was such a huge amount of money that the French state demanded from Haiti, this reverse reparations that it took the Haitian government, you know, more than a hundred years until the 1940s to pay off that alone.But then that loan created this cascade of debt and the birth of, you know, the, this was the origin of third world debt right there, you know, in the, in 1820s Haiti, as it was just coming into its freedom as a nation.So that is the story in Haiti and the story in the British empire, which happened 10 years later.

Liam Julian:

I don't mean to interrupt you, but important, I think, to say that it wasn't just that France didn't recognize Haiti, but the entire international community, including the United States was on France's side here, right? It refused to recognize Haiti until Haiti paid these, call them reparations to France. 

Kris Manjapra:

So maybe coming back to that theme of reciprocity, what was being denied Haiti as a nation was any reciprocity with the Western world, right? Because it was being boycotted and excluded until it would agree to enter nominal freedom as an indebted nation. So, the idea that black freedom has to be an indebted freedom is ingrained in that whole approach. And in the British case, 10 years later, it's a long story, but to make it really, really short, the British state basically takes out a loan, which equates to 40% of its gross domestic product. If we did that calculation today, we would be talking hundreds of billions of pounds in order to pay the slave owners, 44,000 different accounts received parts of that compensation. And that huge debt that the state took out took 180 years for the state to finish paying back. And so that payment, that final payment only happened in 2015. So, it gives us a sense of the extent, the lengths, you know, that the state was going to in order to compensate, to pay these reparations to the slave owners. So, it is possible to do. Why is it that it was happening in this reverse manner, is the question.

Liam Julian:

Right. Yeah. And that's useful. That's useful information to have. You know, Kris, I know, you know, you come to the subject with a strong point of view and you argue for it very elegantly and forcefully in your book. And there are people, you know, in our audience, I'm sure, who will disagree with your opinions and point of view. But nevertheless, the facts, just the presentation of the facts is so important because facts that you lay out in your book are often facts that are just not present in these conversations. And in order to have a sort of civil and productive conversation about these issues, it's so important to have to have the facts.

Kris Manjapra:

Right. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Facts are crucial. And also, maybe it's really important to be able to sit with the facts that are not the traditional ones. You know, I mean, there are certain facts about emancipation and abolition and slavery that I think have fortunately come to be increasingly part of our public discussion. And that in itself has been a struggle, as we're seeing with, you know, the debates around high school syllabi today in the United States. But it's also the case that we have a certain framework for what we think of as the facts we should be keeping in our minds and which ones we just have no awareness of.

And I think it's important for civic life that we be able to, as we're moving towards societies that are more reciprocal, I hope and I feel that I'm optimistic that that is in fact, you know, what is happening, the struggles that we're experiencing, the divides and the debates that we're having. In some ways, this is the diagnosis of our struggle towards greater reciprocity together. But that also means that we have to be willing, you know, to kind of sit with, like you're saying, Liam, you know, other perspectives, facts that are inconvenient, and find ways to be able to hold them all kind of on the same table together, see them all as belonging to the same conversation.

Yeah, I think it's a difficult, it's a difficult, it's a difficult conversation to have. It's obviously a difficult conversation to have. And it does raise people's blood pressure, and it does activate people's nervous systems, and it does make some people, I know that, because I see the responses to my book, you know, it makes some people very uncomfortable, and frankly, angry. I don't mind that. I think it's okay. Yeah, okay, because I don't think that we can open the conversation further without some of that happening, you know, because I know from the other side, that there are many people who the book lands in a way that activates a sense of relief, like, wow, okay, great to have these facts out here now, finally, you know, that's, that's, for me, that's where I that's where I was when I was writing.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. Well, I think we feel that way, for sure. I mean, and to your point about reciprocity, and you talked about, you know, if, if, if I can touch, you know, I should be able to be touched and this sort of thing, but it's it works with facts, too, does it not? Your facts, you don't get to, the facts are the facts. My facts and your facts have to be on the same table. When we have these discussions, we can't elide the inconvenient facts, right? We have to sort of have everything out there, if we're going to have a productive, fruitful conversation about these issues. That's core to reciprocity, in the sense that you're talking about.

Kris Manjapra:

Absolutely. And one of the key features of facts, which I like, is that they can be verified. I mean, they're evidence. So they can be, they can be checked. And if they're not correct, they can be corrected. If they are false, then they're not facts, right? And so, so it's, it is, it is exactly that reciprocal point, which is that once we are in a debate, that's a factual debate in which we are talking about things that are verifiable, then we should be in a place where we're not trying to hold on to a set of quote, you know, of our facts that excludes and to use the language I use in the book, ghost lines, you know, other facts that are inconvenient, because that's similar to that dynamic of saying, I want to be able to touch, but I'm not going to be touched in return. That's a, that's non reciprocity. That's also a definition of what privilege in some ways is. And so, people have to be willing, we have to all be willing to give up some of that privilege, you know, in, in order to live in a more reciprocal society. I think all of these things are kind of connected.

Liam Julian:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, Kris, it's, it's a wonderful book and you're, you write for, as a historian, I don't mean to sort of, you know, deride historians, but, but you write with a certain almost sort of a novelists, you know, sort of ability to tell stories, to make characters come to life. I don't know if you've ever considered, you know, doing some sort of literary writing, but I really think that there is a, you know, I mean, who am I to judge, I don't know what I'm talking about, but from, from my opinion, you're an excellent writer, storyteller. The book is excellent. The facts are there. So, thank you so much for, for doing that great work and for spending some time to talk to us today about it.

Kris Manjapra: 

Thank you so much. It was really a pleasure and I appreciate; I appreciate that feedback.