Setting the Unpaid Labor Record Straight


Within the past year, we at Unpaid Labor, LLC have attended several historical conferences. In Cincinnati, we attended the annual conference of Historians Against Slavery hosted by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. We participated in the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Providence, Rhode Island; as well as the annual meeting of the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic in New Haven, Connecticut. Each of these meetings was wonderful. They each brought historians together from across the country and around the world. Books were reviewed. Papers were presented. Topics were discussed by some of our nation’s best scholars. The topics were great. In one way, these meetings were similar to the meetings of the founding fathers. The founding fathers met to agree on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. However, they could not do their business without talking about slavery’s role in the future of America.

These historians discussed the topic because they wanted to. The founding fathers talked about it because they had to. Both of them talked about it because without talking about slavery as a part of American history, American history is not history at all.

Robert Pierce Forbes, Ph.D. put it this way in his book The Missouri Compromise and its Aftermath, “…a narrative that negates all traces of a matter as massive as slavery must…distort the rest of the story as well.” To get the history of America right, we must get the history of slavery right. We must talk about the contribution of the first 12 generations of Americans of African descent as the indispensable factor in the United States becoming the most successful nation in the world in modern history. We must spread the word and set the record straight.

We plan to attend other conferences including the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the National Council on Public History Annual Meeting. And why are we going? We’re going to encourage historians to keep telling the Untold Story of Unpaid Labor. We’re going to find allies to help us get the history out to the masses. We’re going to find allies to help us to use history to help heal race relations. We’re going because the need for healing in race relations is big. It’s as big as the history that will help to get us there.