The Abolition of the Master Class

Updated: Oct 17, 2021



Juneteenth is now a national holiday: a day to celebrate the freeing of enslaved Africans. What has not been announced is what this means for their masters. It stands to reason that the abolition of slavery was also the abolition of the master class. Now, that’s something we could celebrate all year!


When my grandfather came to the United States, he came by way of Canada, crossed the border illegally, and in time, bought lots of Nebraska land in the 1930s. He arrived, in other words, years after the abolition of slavery, but not the abolition of the master class.


He was able to buy land, acquire loans from banks, hired “farmhands” to help with the wheat harvest. He didn’t need to own enslaved people to be part of the master class. He was white. And he knew a thing or two about dealing with banks and government officials. As far as I know, he assumed that the world of the master class was as natural as raising a family or burying the dead. It was not, for him, a world that belonged to the enslavement of millions.


Masters and slaves are two sides of the same coin. The fact that the abolition of the master class was not carried out in 1865, but rather intermeshed with American Exceptionalism and the American Dream. That leaves us with work to do that should have been done years ago.


Maybe Juneteenth will give us another opportunity to become a people with different social identities and a shared humanity.

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