THE BLOG

Slavery, Curfews, Property, and Marriage

05/04/2015 12:41 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

Dear Don Lemon,

You seemed puzzled why anyone wouldn't expect to get arrested for sitting in front of City Hall in Baltimore after the 10pm curfew. "My beer is $10 at the bar whether or not I like it," you said.

Being out past curfew was against the law for slaves in the colonies. Should slaves have respected the law and brought about change through legal means?

Citizens sitting out front of City Hall after curfew should have been engaged in dialogue and no one should have been arrested. All we learned tonight is that our government is violent, thoughtless, and inhuman - on principle.

You were out past curfew, and no one arrested you. That's because the curfew is interpreted by the human beings in power. Those with power were too afraid of what would happen if they allowed civil disobedience to be broadcast on television in this symbolic way, because they could later be blamed for failing to enforce "the law."

If our leaders were of the people, they would have been engaging in dialogue out front of City Hall, for all of your viewers to watch. But they aren't leaders, they are dictators.

We can't understand the circumstances of today without knowing the history. The poverty of African American communities cannot be separated from the history of legally being property, and therefore having none. All of the wealth generated by the work of slaves created accumulations of resources and property that long persisted after the end of slavery. The way our economy works is that those with wealth stay wealthy, so long as the police uphold the laws of private property and civil order.

With such a platform, you might start asking better questions, like why can't we have a dialogue in front of City Hall?

So what do slavery, curfews, and property have to do with marriage?

The times, they aren't changing.

Although each colony had differing ideas about the rights of slaves, there were some common threads in slave codes across areas where slavery was common. Legally considered property, slaves were not allowed to own property of their own. They were not allowed to assemble without the presence of a white person. Slaves that lived off the plantation were subject to special curfews.

Slave codes had ruinous effects on African American society. It was illegal to teach a slave to read or write. Religious motives sometimes prevailed, however, as many devout white Christians educated slaves to enable the reading of the Bible. These same Christians did not recognize marriage between slaves in their laws. This made it easier to justify the breakup of families by selling one if its members to another owner.