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33 U. Mem. L. Rev. 265 (2002-2003)
Ancient Slavery versus American Slavery: A Distinction with a Difference

handle is hein.journals/umem33 and id is 275 raw text is: Ancient Slavery Versus American
Slavery: A Distinction with a
Difference
ROY L. BROOKS*
In this article, I address an important issue in the debate on
redress for slavery: Should our government apologize for slavery
when, in fact, the institution dates back to the beginning of
recorded history?  In other words, given the fact that chattel
slavery-the use of human beings as a commodity and in a bestial
manner-was a universally accepted practice during the time the
government enslaved blacks, does that absolve the government of
any obligation to tender an apology? My answer is no. The
federal government still has a moral obligation to apologize for its
prictice of chattel slavery (hereinafter African slavery).
Slavery has a long presence in Western civilization. From the
times of ancient Mesopotamia to 1888, the year Brazil freed its last
slave, human beings were used as a form of currency. They were
used as commodity for a variety of purposes, such as to retire debts
or as items of barter. Human beings were, in addition, treated like
domesticated animals or pets. The latter-what Orlando Patterson
refers to as the Sambo stereotype' and David Brion Davis calls
the effort to bestialize human beings2-is the common thread of
all systems of slavery. Yet, none of this justifies or even explains
the singular evil of slavery in the Americas initiated by the
Portuguese in the fifteenth century. The Atlantic slave system was
not slavery as usual. More than that, the United States government
gave crucial life to the system. The government should, therefore,
apologize for its participation in African slavery.
*  Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego
Law School.
1. ORLANDO PATTERSON, SLAVERY AND     SOCIAL DEATH: A
COMPARATIVE STUDY 96 (1982).
2. DAVID BRION DAVIS, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD: RELIGION, MORAL
VALUES, AND OUR HERITAGE OF SLAVERY 134-35 (2001).

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