Slavery and Indian Wars

When I was reading Paul Auster’s Bloodbath Nation (see my review at, I was shocked to learn, in one of Auster’s sidebars, of the sheer coldblooded butchery inherent in American treatment of non-white races. Among other things, he impugns our history of slavery. I was disturbed enough to do some research. Here’s what I found out:

European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people over about 100 years in South, Central and North America. Between 1800 and 1900, the American Indians lost more than half of their population, and their proportion in the total U.S. population dropped from 10.15 percent to 0.31 percent.

We are guilty, in short, of massacre of our native population.

And slavery? Approximately 10 million slaves lived in the United States. Four million of these slaves were living at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. Life expectancy for whites back then was only 25.5 years, but for slaves it as even less, only 21.4 years.

In other words, the way we treated our slaves reduced their life expectancy by approximately 20 percent.

It looks to me like we as a nation have been effective at covering up our history of butchery and genocide. It’s high time we faced up to our past atrocities and pled guilty.

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