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THE WHITE TERRORISTS — Yvette Carnell writes a scathing history of Lynching in America; Ajamu Baraka on Netanyahu the Rejectionist; Patrick Smith on Reinventing the Foreign Correspondent; Peter Lee on the Talking Cyber World War III Blues; Jeffrey St. Clair on the Real Israeli Defense Force: the US Congress. Plus: Mike Whitney: Getting Cured in Vietnam; JoAnn Wypijewski on Gramsci, Chick Webb and the Art of Living Well; Chris Floyd: Learning About the Rapture from Michele Bachmann and Lee Ballinger: Driving Nat King Cole.
An Historical Meditation From the Ann Arbor Court House Protest

The Streets of Baltimore

by PETER LINEBAUGH

May Day 2015.

Edgar Allan Poe died on the streets of Baltimore in 1849. Years earlier he was court martialled from West Point at a time when its graduates became officers in the U.S. Army commanding poor white slobs to kill Indians or back up planters, landlords, and speculators as the Cotton Kingdom expanded and slaves became restless.  Poe couldn’t hack it, so he drifted around before inventing detective fiction and police mysteries, the literary ancestors to the TV series ‘The Wire’ set in Baltimore.

He did not write directly about slavery but all his mystery, all the macabre and the gothic horror of his poetry and prose reflects the reality surrounding him:  the terror and inhumanity of the labor camps, the rapes, the forced breeding, the forced separation of children from parents, and the inevitable destiny of forced labor.  Baltimore was the capital of the domestic slave trade.  Drugs and alcohol provided him with some relief.  In 1842 Poe wrote The Pit and the Pendulum.  Toni Morrison taught us how to read white American literature in her lecture “Playing in the Dark.” Poe’s story seems to be about the 13th century Spanish Inquisition but actually its terrifying atmosphere arises from the moral miasma of Baltimore.

The story begins, “I was sick — sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me. The sentence — the dread sentence of death — was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears.” Maryland, it is true, has abolished the death penalty but civil and economic death remain dread sentences even while the One Per Cent fly the globe in private jets and lay back plush in their million dollar yachts.

Back in Poe’s day the clipper ship sailed the seven seas.  The three-masted, square-rigged, narrow-hulled vessel was designed for speed rather than bulk.   Originating in the port of Baltimore its design became the very acme of grace, a grace put to the service of merchant capitalism between Asia and America.  With speed as fast as the wind and carrying a vast spread of sail they were the very wings of global capitalism bringing tremendous profit to their Ahab-like merchants.  Baltimore was the center both of the domestic slave trade and of that imperial rush bringing those total non-commodities, misnamed “goods” – gold, opium, and tea – to the slave society of the USA.  The caffeine jacked up
stopthiefavaricious traders, the opium tranquillized potential rebels, and the gold ….  Well, the gold turned everything into its opposite, for is not money the source of all evil?

But it was an ill wind that blows no good; voices of freedom could be heard and deeds of emancipation could be seen. Frederick Douglass ran away from slavery and got help in Baltimore port from Irish sailors.  (Had they sailed before the mast of a clipper ship?)  Benjamin Lundy edited the first newspaper to call for unconditional abolition of slavery. Then in Baltimore he edited The Genius of Universal Emancipation.   He listened to African American men...

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