Happy Birthday to the Cotton Gin!


What’s up family?

I have a really short post today…but I would be remiss not to make mention of this momentous anniversary. Before I jump into it, here’s a hint… Do you know who this guy is?

Eli Whitney

If you’re thinking that this is a blog about the Negro race, and confused… Know that our histories (all peoples) are interleaved and inextricably linked. This guy has a particularly important role in the history of  Negroes…especially if you picked cotton on a plantation in the South. That’s right! 219 years ago today, this guy, Mr. Eli Whitney was issued a patent for his famous cotton gin. The word “gin” is actually impressive in my estimation because it should the marketing prowess of Mr. Whitney. “Gin” is actually an abbreviation for the word “engine.” But I guess he saw how catch it was to abbreviate it to show something new and cutting edge…

Whitney's Cotton Gin

What is this contraption? Well, when cotton was picked, it had seeds in it. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the seeds out of cotton so profits weren’t maximized. Before it could be sent to textile mills, all of the seeds had to come out. Enters Mr. Whitney with is “gin.” You put the freshly picked cotton in end and turn the crank. As you turn the crank the mechanism inside “sifts” and separates the seeds from the cotton. This meant that cotton could be cleaned at a faster rate and sent to textile mills sooner. So how did this impact the Negroes? The plantation owner wanted MORE and MORE Negroes because he could clean the cotton faster. More hands on deck, more cotton picking, (plus the gin), results in increased productivity. This is why “king cotton” came to the South…one of the most essential crops. This machine made it possible for more cotton to be picked faster…more slaves.

As I close, here is what I’m thinking about today. I think it goes without mentioning that slavery was an awful institution. But for a moment, let’s remove all negative stigma and look at the impact of the cotton gin objectively.

One device caused the demand for Blacks to go through the roof. With this one device, productivity was elevated, wealth was established, but obviously, the Blacks, the man power that made the entire operation possible, made out on  the short end. This may be a stretch, but I ask the question, what’s the difference between the cotton gin and much of the entertainment industry today? Back then slaves were bought…today the purchase is called a “contract” or “record deal.” Back then the slave would toil, and toil, and toil to make the plantation owner rich…today the “artist” gives a team owner or record company executive use of their talents and skills to make them rich. Back then the slave obviously wasn’t paid (just like the the bait and switch sharecroppers were offered). But the point I’m making is that their work wasn’t proportional to their risk and contribution. Today, athletes put their lives and health on the line. Musicians put their talents on the line. They become millionaires, but the people sitting in the owner’s box or has the big office at the record label are billionaires.  When the slave was unable to produce anymore, either due to old age, wear and tear, or a combination of both, they were discarded to either fend for themselves or killed off. As soon as that athlete starts to “lose a step” or that artist isn’t cranking out as many hits…they are eventually brought into the office to either be told they are being sold to the lowest bidder…I mean, traded. Or they are simply cut. Maybe it’s a stretch…but you tell me, what is the fundamental difference?

My desire? I believe that education (especially college and postgraduate) is the new age cotton gin. If we, the Negro Nation, took it upon ourselves to ingrain our youths with a value of education. When this happens, not only will we be positioned to continue to offer the best of our skills and energies, but we will be positioned in posts of powers where we can take our rightful place among the ranks of the power. It’s great to be a “playmaker”  and a “hitmaker,” but it means more to be a decision maker. We need greater representation in the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches. We need  greater representation in our local and state governments. We need need greater representation in our education sectors. We need greater representation in the private sector. Education is the new age gin…will we take advantage?

Next post…the Black Apostasy. Until the next time…


John 3:30


About the Author

My name is Timothy Wright, Jr.... this is my blog. Um...read the autobiographical posts to learn more...lol.

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