Watch: We Built This

There are some people out there who get upset whenever we say, “Black labor built this country.” But these are, indeed, #facts. Here’s a quick history lesson.

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The first slaves were brought to the United States in 1619. Their job was simple: make white settlers money.

Fast-forward to the late 18th century. Cotton was king and the U.S. was making stacks of cash, especially with all that free labor.

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Over $600 million—or just about half of the country’s economic activity in 1836—came directly or indirectly from cotton. According to Cornell history professor Edward Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told, cotton-producing slaves were just 6 percent of the population but created almost half of the year’s economic activity.

And African-American contributions aren’t limited to the South. Check out the video above to see exactly what we mean when we say, “We built this.”

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.

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DISCUSSION

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Cabbage Patch Mather

If instead of holding slaves, the US southern states had encouraged one million West Africans to come to the US as immigrants, we’d perhaps be 100 years ahead both financially and technologically.

Of course, it’s a silly historical meditation, but my point is that no society that I can think of has ever benefitted from racism compared to the alternative. Not only is there no moral benefit, but there is no economic benefit.

The US screwed itself royally through slavery, Jim Crow, etc. Those who thought they were benefitting the South relegated the majority of the region- and not insignificant parts of the north- to economic backwardness that still exists today outside the big cities- although granted, a lot has changed even in the past 20 years.