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Driva Man
by Max Roach Quintet with Abbey Lincoln
From The Howard Zinn Education Project ( http://bit.ly/2Ms31d0 )
On August 20, 1619, Africans, kidnapped from their homeland Angola and brought to British North America, were brought by force to Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe, Hampton in Virginia. The August 1619 disembarkation led to the establishment of the British trans-Atlantic slave trade, as well as slavery itself in the British colonies, and, subsequently, in the United States. Since 2010, several organizations, including Project 1619 and the city of Hampton, have observed an annual African Landing Commemoration Day.

The Point Comfort name derived from the first English settlers finding “comfort” on this point of land in 1607. But in 1619, the “20 and odd” Africans were inhumanely traded like chattel by the English captain of the Dutch vessel to Virginia’s colonial Governor George Yeardley and merchant Abraham Peirsey. They were dispersed to several other locations.

According to various histories, the Africans were part of a contingent of about 350 enslaved Africans from the Portuguese colony of Angola. The Portuguese took the Africans aboard the São João Bautista, which was to sail to Vera Cruz, Mexico, but was attacked by a Dutch vessel, the White Lion.

Hampton History Museum curator Allen Hoilman said: "The Angolans that were brought here came from a vibrant, sophisticated civilization. If they survived that terrible voyage, they would have been brought to this culture that is barely surviving and hanging on."

Historians still debate whether these first Africans were slaves or indentured servants, but as Howard Zinn points out in 'A People’s History of the United States', “it would have been strange if those twenty blacks, forcibly transported … and sold as objects to settlers anxious for a steadfast source of labor, were considered as anything but slaves.”

Two centuries later, the U.S. Army used slave labor to build the massive Fort Monroe as a strategic bastion, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, to protect America’s liberty against foreign invaders. In another twist of history, Fort Monroe became known as “Freedom’s Fortress” during the Civil War because Union Major General Benjamin F. Butler welcomed thousands of runaway slaves, declared them “contraband of war” and refused to return them to the Confederate plantations.

@eclectric pointed in the comments to a series of articles in the NY Times. There is also an interactive web version of their 1619 Project: https://nyti.ms/2NlxQzM


'Driva Man' is part of 'We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Suite', that was released as an album in 1960. The suite consists of five selections concerning the Emancipation Proclamation and the growing African independence movements of the 1950s.

Written by Max Roach and Oscar Brown, 'Driva Man' tells the explicit story of slavery through its lyrics and accompaniment. A historian wrote that the Driva' Man "is a personification of the white overseer in slavery times who often forced women under his jurisdiction into sexual relations."

Also in the lyrics are "pater ollers." The liner notes include a description of the patrollers by a former slave who says they are men "who would catch you from home and wear you out and send you back to your master...Most of them there patrollers was poor white folks...Poor white folks had to hustle round to make a living, so they hired out theirselves to slaveowners and rode the roads at night and whipped you if they catched you off their plantation without a pass."
1960 - United States - but the mamie ain't his wife
Posted: 20th August 2019
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Paul L
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