A Global History of Blacks in the 19th Century (book review)

It Began with a Revolution

“…to reach the glorious heights of the past, history must be faced. Everything that is faced cannot be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” -Mr. Keni Hines, “A Global History of Blacks in the 19th Century: Detailed Chronologically from 1800 to 1899”

Mr. Kennith “Keni” Hines was a high school teacher and college professor. He was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and raised in Detroit, Michigan by immigrant parents. Mr. Hines majored in journalism at Wayne State University and got his MBA at the University of Detroit. He has always been interested in Black history but his study groups in Houston, where he now lives, heightened the interest. He told us that he“was in awe about how much these people knew about history.” Even though the study groups have since dispersed, his interest in the topic continued to grow. Over the past decade, he has been writing A Global History of Blacks in the 19th Century: Detailed Chronologically from 1800 to 1899, which he recently self-published via his own company: Armstrong Smith Publishing. In fact, you can buy the book from several places including tinyurl.com/blacks-19thcentury. Go to educateanduplift.com to learn more

Compiling the Chronology

For some, writing a book on an entire century’s worth of information might seem like a daunting task. But Mr. Hines still accomplished it! In fact, he was originally going to write about the 15th till 20th century, before realizing that the 19th century alone already encompassed so many key events in Black history. He chose it also because he believes the 19th century really connects to events going on in the present. To begin, Mr. Hines started with a chronology of key events happening every decade. “Usually,” he noted, “a chronology has only one to two sentences of information,” but he wanted to go a different route and write more detailed excerpts so the reader could get a true understanding of everything that went on.

As you can imagine, he had to make it concise, while being interesting. Otherwise, the book might have gone on for thousands of pages. Mr. Hines’s experience as a teacher helped him with this, especially in understanding that many readers don’t have the stamina to read through a bunch of pages at a time. As a result, he broke things up into small chunks that were related and easier to understand.

Understanding the Present Through the Past

In this book, Mr. Hines mainly discusses the 19th century but he also touches on how this time connects to the present day in his introduction. For example, when talking to us he told us about how voter suppression techniques from the late 1800s are similar to those being used today. Now, just like before, “the vote is so precious, people are willing to do almost anything for it,” whether that is in Congress or a different branch, like was the case when Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th US president, was doing all he could to prevent Black voters from voting. Furthermore, Mr. Hines tied the Reconstruction Era between 1865 and 1877 to now, similar to how Dr. Manisha Sinha explained to us.

As he concluded, “if you have a basis for understanding what happened in the past, you can relate it to now and learn from those mistakes” when explaining the importance of learning history.

Diving into the 19th Century: The Haitian Revolution

After our introduction about Mr. Hines and the 19th century, we dove into the historical part of our interview.

One of the first key events to happen in the 19th century was the Haitian Revolution. It began because the free Blacks on Hispaniola wanted to escape French control. Though this Revolution is not often mentioned in history classes it impacted everywhere from Central and South America to the United States, and the rest of the world. After the Revolution, enslaved people everywhere began to react differently to the rules keeping them in slavery. Finally, here was an example of people who had broken free of the shackles keeping them from their natural human rights to freedom and equality.

One reason Haitians were able to win this Revolution was because they were surrounded by people from their same country or family, who spoke their language. Unlike enslaved people in the US, who could be separated from family members, many of the enslaved people in the French colony stayed with their families/communities.

This land the Haitians were fighting for was not cheap. Mr. Hines tells us that the money and resources in Haiti were more valuable than all of the 13 colonies combined! The French would be enormously impacted by the loss of such an important colony.

The Haitian Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase

This is why the Haitian Revolution was the main cause of the Louisiana Purchase. As Mr. Hines put it, “Haiti weakened France to the point that it had to sell the land.” The land he is talking about was the Louisiana Territory, which stretched up the whole middle of what we now call the United States. France needed money and the US wanted to land, so they bought it for about four cents an acre, Mr. Hines tells us. That only accumulates to about $15 million of land!

But, as you get more territory you need more people to clear that territory, which means that the US slave trade grew because of this trade.

‘The Scramble for Africa’

The other main event we discussed with Mr. Hines was how the colonization and imperialism of the African continent by European countries, leading up to the Berlin Conference altered Black history and helped shape our current world.

As (mainly) Britain and France fought over land control, the Dutch lost control of the Cape Colony in South Africa. Everyone wanted a piece of the African continent, even though this continent was full of people with their own ways of life, cultures, and values.

At the top of the African continent is Egypt, originally explored by the French. However, the British had eventually taken control of the Northeastern region. They wanted to build a railroad from Cairo to South Africa, while the French wanted to build a railroad from East to West. Moving southward, Belgium had taken the Congo, where the rubber resources, elephant tusks, and other resources were plentiful. Though Belgium was small compared to other countries, they had found the gold pot.

Meanwhile, Italy and Germany were late to the party. With nothing to grab, they decided to put together a conference, now known as the Berlin Conference, to set up the rules of the game that is sometimes known now as ‘The Scramble for Africa.’ All in all, there were a number of European nations who participated in the Berlin Conference, in addition to the United States, the only non-European country there.

In fact, the events leading up to and during ‘The Scramble for Africa’ contributed to World War I with Germany and Italy being angry over not getting a foothold in Africa, while Britain officially had enough land that the sun would never be able to set on their empire, at least for some time afterward. In the end, Liberia and Ethiopia were the only African countries not claimed. But even now, Italy is still trying to take Ethiopia, which goes to show that ‘the Scramble for Africa’ may not have really ended.

In Conclusion

Overall, the events of the 19th century were monumental to constructing today’s world and still play into our multicultural society today. As always, we must first remember history to truly understand the events of now. Learning in-depth about the Haitian Revolution and the Scramble for Africa was fascinating because neither of us knew a lot about how the Haitian Revolution influenced the Louisiana Purchase or how the Scramble for Africa had a big impact on the beginnings of World War I.

Oftentimes, school portrays events in history as isolated points on a graph, when instead they are the whole, curving line. We must realize that history is as interconnected as a spider web. Each event is a small silk strand in the web that makes up our world.

If you enjoyed this taste of the 19th century, check out “A Global History of Blacks in the 19th Century” at educateanduplift.com or Mr. Hines’ book by clicking either button.

A recording of our interview with Mr. Hines will be published on our YouTube channel soon.