Tortured Truth


Tortured Lies. The indignation over the use of torture is no surprise. But no one should be surprised  that Americas sense of moral superiority has already been marred by our long history of slavery. As much as we whitewash over the brutality of slavery as evidenced by this (L) happy slave as portrayed in a 1950s children’s coloring book, slaves were regularly beaten and tortured, (R) as seen in this illustration of instruments torture devices used on slaves.  (R) Image  (L) Illustration from “Our Country Historical Color Book” 1958

Torture is not part of our American mythology of goodness and justice for all.

“It’s not who we are,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in response to the CIA Torture Report.

“…It’s contrary to our values,” asserted our first African-American President.

“…a stain on our values and history,” lamented Senator Dianne Feinstein.


Now wait just one cotton pickin’ minute!

America’s sense of moral superiority has already been blemished by that “peculiar institution” slavery- the stubborn stain we just can’t whitewash away.

But not for lack of trying.

A Stained Page out of History

Over the years Americans have told themselves varying stories about enslavement of blacks presenting slavery as perhaps wrong but not such a bad thing.

What child of the late 1950’s wouldn’t enjoy coloring in a jolly picture of a happy slave picking cotton in the Ol’ South.

The illustration featured  above was a page straight out of history.  A 1958 coloring book of American History whose pages are filled with other fun-loving, morally defining American history moments  such as the Atomic Bomb explosion.

In a 1937 textbook called “Our Nations Development” slavery was as painfully whitewashed as you could get: “Nor was the slave always unhappy in his cabin. On the contrary he sang at his work …if his cabin was small there was shade trees about and a vegetable garden nearby.”

The truth of course was tortured.

 Whitewashing Torture


Whitewashing our Past. (R) 1863 Photo of an escaped slave showing his wounds from torture

This “peculiar institution” had some “peculiar” torture.

Blacks were routinely tortured by flogging, whippings and subjected to medieval devices such as thumb screws, metal collars with spikes, and other disturbing instruments of torture used on Black People by slavers to control their kidnapped victims.

Just like in a coloring book, the message was clear – stay within the lines.  The consequences were brutal.

It turns out the truth hurts.

Copyright (©) 2014 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

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  1. Sally, once again you hit exactly the right note on a topic of tenacious resistance to efforts to make go away. Some people think to bring up the negatives of our history is “unpatriotic”, but nothing is more of a betrayal of the high ideals of the founding principles than to overlook little details like slavery, genocide of aboriginals, egregious excesses of our economic system that periodically causes catastrophic economic collapses for most and significant gains for a few, and the ugliness of racism and more. We can do better, but we first have to accept that we sometimes have failed in big ways, ways that hurt specific groups of people in our society or in other countries.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Thank you for shedding some light on this. Another point about slavery in America, is America was the only country that needed a war to end slavery. Other countries just realized the immorality of slavery and ended it peacefully.
    Thanks for sharing.


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  5. It still feels like slavery through this whitewashing laws low minimum wages where you can barely pay your rent feed your children. We don’t want government handouts we need justifiable living. We didn’t ask nor did we want to come here we had our own land we had our own food.


  6. Myra

    I loved how you put so much emotion in this I understand completely everything. What they did was just inhumane.


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