This week’s teach-in strives to correct three popular misconceptions about abolition and slavery. First, is the canard that abolition was a liberal movement led by white people to free the slaves. Another version of this same false narrative is the shibboleth that President Abraham Lincoln freed the enslaved peoples of the US. Lost in this mythology is the historical truth that abolition was, and is, a project of self-emancipation led by African Americans, especially the enslaved, themselves. Second, is the misconception that the 19th-century institution of slavery is historically disconnected from the present day, as “a thing of the past.” Lost from this myopic perspective are the many ongoing effects of slavery, along with a vast range of oppression and injustices whereby slavery continues into the present day, in different forms and under different names. Finally, these popular misconceptions lead to a false conclusion that slavery is something like an ugly piece of landscape in the rearview mirror; there is little that can be done about it, other than to look away. Nothing could be further from the truth. #SoJustAbolition presents a mountain of scholarship that demonstrates abolition as an ongoing, essential and urgent human rights movement with the potential to justly embrace philosophical, legal and financial accountability for the wrongs of slavery. If our common humanity implies anything like a shared or collective consciousness, then this is the conversation we most need to have with ourselves.
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