What to Watch

Here’s what Oliners recommended you watch or otherwise consume! Note that Frankly Speaking and its editors do not necessarily endorse any of this content; its just an anonymous collection of tips from fellow Oliners!

TV Series

Avatar the Last Airbender, a feel good show that’s full of complex characters and wonderfully good for the heart. Currently on Netflix!

The Midnight Gospel – netflix, very trippy and they talk about death a lot but you can’t look away, incredible dialogue

THE OFFICE 🖥

 Blood of Zeus: perfect if you like greek mythology and epic music. It’s available on Netflix

The Good Place: hilarious and very thought-provoking (Netflix)

Dash & Lily: adorable and screams CHRISTMAS! (Netflix)

Orphan Black (TW: suicide, addiction)

Los Espookys is a show about a fictional Halloween VFX small business growing in success despite its employees dealing with personal problems including juggling part time jobs, a cult-like pyramid scheme, being the heir to a chocolate empire, and just wanting to be left alone to do your spooky stuff. Produced by Fred Armisen, who also plays the best valet parker in the world. My all-time favorite tv show. Available on HBO.

Netflix: Pose – such amazing genderqueer stories of suffering and love and hard work and dreams

Selena: The Series – if you love music and a beautiful story and strong gender dynamics lol

Altered Carbon – why rich people are literally evil

Hulu: Westworld – dystopian, robots, *let it change you*

Daria, my highest recommendation, deadpan, real, alternative, Jane Lane is my animated crush, but Hulu got rid of it, so idk Amazon Prime?

The Good Place— there was a celestial bureaucratic mixup and the wrong person gets sent to heaven, it’s very entertaining. There’s also a genderless Siri-like sentience named Janet who has just the best lines. It’s also worth noting that beyond the idea that there’s an afterlife with “a good place” and “a bad place,” it’s not a religious tv show.

Boy Meets World- wholesome wholesome wholesome <3 Started as a story of friendship, wound up becoming a love story over 7 seasons

The Middle- lots of solid, relatable humor. Does its job as a sitcom

Stranger Things- stellar production, leads to excellent discussions with Rob Martello

Dash and Lily is a super cute short holiday romcom on Netflix ! Mindhunter is also on Netflix and a cool serial killer show that evolves really well.

Queens gambit. TW: addiction, drugs/alcohol, suicide. You’ve probably already heard about this show, but if you haven’t, here’s a blurb I blatantly stole from google: “Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in world.” I think y’all will love this show. Given that you (the reader) go to Olin, imma assume you’re a nerd. So chess might be up your alley. Either way, what’s not to love about chess, passion, sacrifice, and copious quantities of drugs and alcohol?

The Newsroom: what should an ideal news outlet look like

The Witcher: Toss a bitcoin to your Witcher

The Americans: Soviet spies living in the US during cold war

Great British Baking Show – funny, relaxing, motivation to bake

Great Pretender – TW: child soldiers, sexual assault, child sex trafficing. This might be anime, but it’s a really good show that constantly surprises you. The TW are heavy (especially in season 2), but they are not portrayed in a good light or as normal. 

Goosebumps is really good. I watched it heavily with my household this semester and it’s scarier than most scary movies. 

Anime recs

Bungo Stray Dogs; very good and aesthetic supernatural anime placed in modern japan. All the characters are names after real authors and their abilities are named after their pieces.

Your Lie in April: super beautiful and has lots of classical music (Netflix)

The Promised Neverland: very suspenseful. I can almost guarantee that you will binge this show after watching the first episode (Netflix)

Mob Psycho 100! A young psychic learns to control his powers. Available on crunchyroll.

Erased. 

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – pretty animation and great soundtrack, I think it’s on Netflix

Attack on Titan. It here! The final season. This show is absolute insane! I’m not even sure how to describe the pure lunacy of this show, so imma just say, look up the synopsis for yourself. But I will say that every season thus far has been a STRAIGHT BANGER! Now that the final season is airing, why not go back and watch from the start. You won’t regret it!

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun – comedy, slice of life, one of my favorite animes

Haikyu! My first year roommate watched it over and over and I finally understand why. It also provides a really interesting perspective on teaming that I think many can benefit from.

Movies

Ali Wong’s comedy specials on Netflix. Just so worth it. She is hysterically funny

Three Idiots – Netflix – Amazing Bollywood Comedy about engineering students,

Dangal – Netflix – Another great Bollywood movie about female wrestlers

HARRY POTTAAA

I, robot; haven’t watched it in a bit and really want to

The Brainwashing Of My Dad is a documentary about how the director’s formerly liberal and kindly father gets sucked into conservative media, starting with Rush Limbaugh and going to  Fox News and Alex Jones and how that transformed him into this bitter, cruel, and just angry man. When outside circumstances cut off his access to these pundits, he started turning back into his old self again. It truly followed the cycle that many cults use to brainwash their members, and the director Jen Senko got it all on camera.

Nightmare Before Christmas

Coraline

Tangled

Airplane!, Top Secret: hilarious plot-optional comedies, a joke a minute.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: surreal tragicomedy about two minor characters from 

Hamlet. I hear the play is even better, but the movie is a great experience.

The Big Lebowski: Weird, fun characters, kinda complex plot, kinda surreal. Quite an experience.

Hillbilly Elegy was a great recreation of the book, super interesting and about a lot of very real problems that people in America face (on Netflix).

Hunt for the Wilderpeople. You’ve probably never heard of this movie, but you may recognize it’s director Taika Waititi as the mastermind behind classics such as Thor Ragnarok and JoJo Rabbit. Anyways, this movie is a hilarious journey as we follow a boy and his reluctant foster father as they become the center of a nationwide manhunt when they become lost in the New Zealand outback. Watch them escape the authorities, make terrible mistakes, and so much more. Definitely one of the funniest movies I’ve seen recently. Also who doesn’t love a good old kiwi accent. Check it out on Netflix! An absolute hidden gem!

The Lighthouse

Jingle Jangle was very cute and was STEM heavy with a POC heavy cast. It was something I would have really wanted as a kid. 

Klaus is another really good christmas movie that incorporated fun Christmas traditions into the story line.

Audiobooks/Podcasts

Reply All – available everywhere and through Gimlet Media. These people dig into some very niche stuff and boy do they commit, especially recommend the “Snapchat Thief” episode

ITS THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

Finding Fred; very compelling look at the life of Mr. Rogers, the type of person he was, and what we could apply to our own lives

The Adventure Zone!! Three comedians who are brothers play D&D with their dad. Hilarious and eventually deeply heartwarming storytelling.

If you’re a fan of horror, I highly recommend The Black Tapes and Tanis. Tanis is a little more *out there* than The Black Tapes, but is also (imo) scarier. I binged both of them in a week and regretted it in the moment bc nightmares but loved it in the long run. I think both are available where most podcasts are but I’ve listened to both through Spotify.

1619 – history is wrong, everything in America is about slavery

Sincerely, X – such compelling stories, this one is amazing from a storytelling perspective, will expose you to new perspectives; Jemele Hill is Unbothered – because she’s funny and cool and talks about real shit

Behind the Bastards is a podcast about evil people and organizations through history and their rise to power. It’s fascinating, horrifying, informative, and often has parallels or adds context to a lot of current events. Be aware that you’ll get angry listening to most episodes though, this is not a calming podcast. I highly recommend “How Nice, Normal People Made The Holocaust Possible” and “The U.S. Border Patrol Is A Nightmare That Never Ends.” Also, all the trigger warnings are attached to this, they talk about some really dark stuff.

Ghosts in the Burbs is a podcast that interviews people from Wellesley (yes, our Wellesley!) who claim to have seen ghosts or paranormal happenings. Fun stuff.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – super good book about indigenous practice and the environment that really helped me rethink my approach to conservation/climate action, I listened on Hoopla through my public library

If you’re interested in psychology, sociology, rational thinking, game theory, and hallucinatory cactus-people: The Slate Star Codex podcast. I can’t recommend this enough, it’s thought-provoking and a joy to listen to.

Revisiting American History: Early African Resistance

Warning: The following article wrestles with a difficult topic in American history, a topic contains some horrid depictions of human suffering

Note from the Author: Sorry I missed November! As classes and grad school applications began ramping up, I didn’t have time to write. I know we’re all short on time as finals ramp up, so I’m going to keep this brief. I hope you can still take something away from this snapshot of America’s past.

This article is a continuation of the Revisiting American History Series, where each article revisists a section of American history with a critical eye for the different groups of people involved in that history. In October, we learned about the origins of slavery in America, and now we’re going to continue that thread by learning more about African resistance and how closely early policing in America was tied to race.

When African people were ripped away from their homes and forced into slavery, they resisted. On the voyage from Africa to America, many African people decided they would rather drown than be forced into slavery, and they jumped into the ocean, killing themselves to end their suffering. Those who made it to America found subtler ways of resisting. They would find ways to sabotage their plantation, or work together to participate in slowdowns. Some were courageous enough to run away altogether, either establishing villages on the frontier, or attempting to pass off as free with skills they learned on the plantation.

Gerald Mullin, author of Flight and Rebellion, studied slave resistance in Virginia in the eighteenth century. He studied plantation and county records, as well as newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves. According to his work, “The slaves described were lazy and thieving: they feigned illnesses, destroyed crops, stores, tools, and sometimes attacked or killed overseers. They operated blackmarkets in stolen goods. Runaways were… men who visited relatives, went to town to pass as free, or tried to escape slavery completely, either by boarding ships and leaving the colony, or banding together in cooperative efforts to establish villages or hide-outs in the frontier.” 

This spirit of African resistance was truly admirable. Landon Carter, a slave owner from the early 1700s, complained that his slaves were so uncooperative that he began to question whether keeping them was worthwhile. I believe that is a feat worth congratulating. Even more impressive, when the first African slaves were forced to work in Hispaniola in 1503, the governor of Hispaniola complained to the Spanish court that the African slaves were teaching disobedience to their Native American counterparts. Not only were African slaves able to hold on to their roots and resist as individuals – they were able to inspire other enslaved and disenfranchised people to resist with them.

Of course, not all of this resistance was so subtle or non-violent. Many African people decided to take matters into their own hands, and fight for their freedom. In 1739, in Stono, South Carolina, a group of twenty slaves killed two warehouse guards to steal guns and gunpowder. Once armed, they headed south, killing people in their way, and burning buildings. They inspired other slaves along their path to join them until they reached about eighty slaves in total. According to one account at the time, “they called out Liberty, marched on with Colours displayer, and two Drums beating”. These slaves were ready to rise out of their condition. Unfortunately, the militia found and attacked them. The slaves defended themselves. By the time the battle was over, about fifty slaves and twenty five whites were killed. Stono’s Rebellion had just been crushed.

America’s ruling class, composed of landowning white men, was fearful of exactly this kind of outright revolt. As Governor Alexander Spotswood warned in a speech to the 1710 Virginia Assembly, “… freedom wears a cap which can without a tongue call together all those who long to shake off the fetters of slavery and as such an insuerection would surely be attended with the most dreadful consequences so I think we cannot be too early in providing against it, both by putting our selves in a better posture of defense and by making a law to prevent the consultions of those Negroes.” In an attempt to keep African slaves from rebelling, the ruling class broke up family ties amongst the slaves, disciplined them with hard labor, lulled them into adopting new religious beliefs, and even created separation amongst the slaves by splitting them into either more privileged house slaves or less privileged field slaves.

The ruling class was especially fearful of what might happen if slaves were to work together with the lower classes of white freemen to overthrow the ruling class. As early as 1705, Virginia’s ruling class was making attempts to draw a clear color line between white and Black. Virginia’s ruling class proclaimed that all white men were superior to Black, and required that masters must provide their white servants whose indenture time was up with ten bushels of corn, thirty shillings, a gun, and 50 acres of land. Their Black counterparts were to receive nothing. The purpose of laws like this was clear: Give the lower class white people just enough privileges that they will see the ruling class as an important defender of those privileges, and maintain the status quo against the further disenfranchised Black slaves. 

As Edmung Morgan, a specialist in American colonial history, describes it, “Once the small planter felt less exploited by taxation and began to prosper a little, he became less turbulent, less dangerous, more respectable. He could begin to see his big neighbor not as an extortionist but as a powerful protector of their common interests.”

This led to a form of early policing in America known as “Slave Patrols”. White men were legally mandated to serve as patrollers for up to a year. They were paid for fulfilling their duty to police Black people, and were fined if they chose not to show up to patrol. These patrollers had very few restraints, and could even forcefully enter anyone’s home based on alleged suspicions that they were sheltering escaped slaves. As historian Gary Potter explains, these slave patrols served three primary functions.

“(1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves

(2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts

(3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside the law.”

Slave patrollers considered it their civic duty to beat and terrorize America’s enslaved population. In fact, they were legally compelled to do so. They enforced curfew, checked travelers for a permission pass, and broke up any assemblies that were held without permission, explicitly preventing any form of organized resistance.

While this wasn’t the origin of policing in the entire world, it was the origin of policing in America. When you think about American policing and it’s modern day controversies, remember that this is where it started: America’s ruling class uniting with disenfranchised white people to oppress an even more disenfranchised Black population.

I feel that oftentimes, when people are confronted with controversies in current events, they hide their opinion behind the question of, “What’s the legal precedent? What does the law say about this?” While it may be easy to hide behind the supposed objectivity of the law and its legal precedents, we must remember that our laws were not written by some objective arbitrators of moral justice. They were in fact written by people, and we need to be cognisant of what their motives were. Were we never to question and rewrite our laws through new legislation, we might never move towards a more just and equal America. Next time you come face to face with an important issue, I invite you to ask why the current laws and social norms are set the way they are. Who do they benefit? And who created them? I believe that this is key to promoting change in a healthy democracy.

I haven’t yet decided whether I will continue this series next semester. We’ll see how much work I have to do. Regardless, I hope these articles have opened your minds to the tremendous insight we can gain from historical context. Good luck with finals!

Sources:

  1.  A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn

Many pieces of this article are either direct quotes or paraphrased paragraphs from Zinn that aren’t explicitly called out. Part of this is due to his unique style of writing I hope to capture in this article, how well he articulates certain ideas, so that I can be certain I’m not misrepresenting any facts presented by Zinn, and to not disrupt the flow of the writing.

  1. NPR Throughline on American Police: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/03/869046127/american-police

By Rund Abdelfatah, Ramtin Arablouei, Khalil Gibran Muhammad

This was an incredible recollection of the history of policing in America, starting out with some of the podcast guest’s personal experiences, and then exploring the history from slave patrols to the Harlem riots.

Anonymous Compliments

The F. W. Olin Family™ is wonderful, and these anonymously-submitted compliments provide a small and sweet sampling of some of the reasons why. Much love!

audrey lee – thanks for always relating to me and nerding out together

jules brettle – you are such a kind person with a warm heart

Thank you Meg K for being an amazing friend <3

kristtiya – meme queen of olin ’22

james davis has the best hair. hands down. you can fight me on this one. not to mention being super friendly and a mega talented dude.

Meg, you’re one of the most genuinely kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. I’m constantly amazed by your compassion and empathy–in addition to, obviously, how frickin smart and cool you are. You’re such a good person and I’m so lucky to know you!

Sam D, you are such an incredible and inspiring person. How do you walk around with such a ginormous heart full of so much love and care??? I love all your incredibly niche STS memes and your lovely laugh. Truly honored to be your friend <3

Cali has really positive vibes and I’ve loved seeing her creativity in her paintings and baking!

quinn kelley is one of the kindest, most supportive people I am lucky enough to call a friend

Prisha, you’re one of the sweetest people I know. thanks for always making me laugh you cutie <3

Carlos has the meats

Francine- you’re the best at covering all my frequently asked questions

Adva. Adva. Adva. We would be lost without her.

Gilda’s story at Convocation was so powerful! (As were the stories that MarCom posted after!)

julia chomowicz is the best. julia is SO SWEET and livens up any occasion. she always says hi to you with a big smile and it’s a very special thing to behold. we stan julia

Serna, you are always there for your friends and you do everything you can to make Olin a

better place.

Shout out to Rachel Won and Alex Frye for coming to talk with our Advising Family about registration even though they’re on LOA. You rock!

kate mackowiak is a loving friend and she is so cool and wow I am just so lucky to know her

nathan faber is a cool dude. the man gives great hugs and loves his bikes like they are his children. gotta love him

scoleman is so fun to be around

Jon Stolk, you are an amazing professor. Thank you for truly and genuinely supporting and caring about your students.

thank you alana huitric for helping me with my homework and everything in between <3

Luke M has been such a ray of light in my life this semester. if he sees this, keep being you!! so endlessly grateful for you.

cara has the most comforting presence :)

Eriel makes me laugh. Always.

the modsim teaching team is the best!

prisha sadhwani is absolutely gorgeous and has the most infectious laugh ever. wow. she is just the best

Casey May (Lil Flex) is just one of my favorite people. He is so cheerful and always knows the kindest thing to say in any circumstance. Plus, I love having a friend that I can send cute dog pics and memes to.

Jeremy Skoler has an inspiring amount of confidence to try new things.

Maeve you’re the best thanks for being an awesome friend!!! Keep being your gay, trans, badass self <3 <3

ally bell is *the* kindest soul

Himanshu is so positive and kind

annie tor is so sweet and so hard working

To the Koala Tea Friends- thanks for everything! <3 I hope we will get to be all together again

Jules, I so appreciate how out of your way you’ll go to make tools for other peoples’ organization or learning. They’re always so elegant and well-thought-out!

emma mack – a loyal friend with giving and fun energy!

Skagglioli has got the ravioli

nicola van moon is awesome. she is great to work with and even better to talk to. I think nicola is the most relatable person around and an excellent source of friendship

Han Vakil was a great negotiator when trading for black market supplies in our candidates

weekend design challenge.

Taylor Swift, thank you for saving me while writing my SCOPE midyear report <3 Wouldn’t have made it through the assignment without your jams

Kristin Aoki, you never fail to make my day better, and my hopeless romantic heart has found kin in your hopeless romantic heart. Thank you for being you <3

Jason Woodard is a 10/10 SCOPE adviser

Lynn, you’re the best advisor in the whole world. You always know exactly the right questions to ask. Thank you for your tireless dedication to your students!

3OH!3, thank you for recognizing us! It’s pretty rare for a community college to get shout outs like that ;)

Leon Santen is always tirelessly trying to make the Woodland experience work for everyone. He deserves so much appreciation.

Emma Pan and Erika Lu bring me joy with their cute, bright personalities and creativity

Leon Santen – You have such interesting perspective on the world and open my mind with every conversation.

Lydia H is so hard working and positive, and has one of the best smiles ever!

Vivian from the registrar is so sweet

Erhardt is one of the most passionate professors I know. His knowledge is boundless and I’m so privileged to learn from him.

Meg K. you inspire me every day!

katie foster, i love hanging out and doing homework with you!

Cassandra is a thoughtful, positive, and really supportive friend. She was always able to notice when I wasn’t in the best mental state and really makes me feel like she has my back

clark pohl – thanks for being lively and hard-working

Alison Wood, thank you for being a professor at Olin! You make Olin a better place. I promise, I’ll find some way to make you queen

Serna, thank you for all of the things you do for the community <3

Camille, you have so much compassion and patience. I’m so thankful for your presence at Olin

The Frankly Speaking team has put a lot of work into keeping an awesome part of Olin alive during a chaotic time. Thank you for that!

Grace, you’re one of the most empathetic and caring people I know. I’m constantly blown away by your capacity to care for people even when they’re going through really, really hard things. You’re amazing and I’m so glad we’re friends <3

Looking into Anya’s eyes is like looking into the galaxy

I’m really thankful for the Community Connections Storytelling Workshops. I went to most of them and found it a time to connect with faculty and staff (and alumni!) who I wouldn’t normally get to just chat with. Thanks for doing these!

Rajiv, I enjoy all of our conversations and you make AMAZING cookies. Definitely friendship-earning-worthy cookies! <3

Arla, you’re a natural-born leader and you’re gonna take over the world, and I can’t wait to see

what you do. Cheering you on always <3

Anna Commers is always up to something unique and awesome.

Meg Ku makes everything work. More Meg, please

Maia M is a sweet pea

Erhardt, I am so fortunate to have you as a professor and mentor. You’ve taught me so much about how to be an effective teacher, especially in the way that you care and believe so much in your students. Your constant support and belief in me makes me believe in myself. Thank you so much!

gail romer, such a kind-hearted soul

Sara Hendren. Review in the m-f’ing NEW YORKER and NPR’s Best Books of 2020. Could we be any luckier to have her at Olin?

Our sketch model artist in residence Arlene really encourages us to think about society and making in different ways and stretch our worldview

Max, I’m really glad that we’ve become friends this semester!

Julian saved our scope team with TLC

scoleman, I’ve never met such a giving yet fun person before

Declan – Talking to you always makes me feel so much better about my self and the world

Reid – I super appreciate your perfect blend of compassion and honesty

Leon: little nail, thick head

Mia Skaggs is always ready with the right mode – joke mode, sweet mode, party mode. They’re all awesome

shoutout to SG and SLAC and Frankly Speaking and Catalyst and everyone else trying to make things happen

Sabrina, you have the sweetest smile and the coolest sense of style. I’m so glad we got closer this semester <3

I live, laugh, and love solely because of Anusha’s reminders

someday. I wouldn’t have made it through Olin without you.

caitlin kantor is such a gem. she is so sweet and so cool and so much fun to be around. you should consider yourself lucky if you get the chance to hang with caitlin

Riya, you’re one of the most Mom Friend people I know and also one of the most adorable. I love when you interrupt yourself mid-text, it brings me so much joy. Loved working with you this semester <3

Class of ‘21, y’all bring me so much joy. I’m pretty crushed that we won’t be spending our spring semester together. Keep being your unique selves and go out into the world and do strange, marvelous things!

I want to be Jadelin’s friend really badly

Horrorscopes

Aries(March 21- April 19):

This is a scary month.   

No comment. 

Spooky Article: Unopened ream of W.B. Mason high definition paper.

Taurus (April 20-May 20):

This phrase will help you when you need it most: 

Fhdfs9e9idwokdleo93ijl0qks 

Spooky article: Enchanted Dagger

Gemini (May 21–June 21): 

Expect to be driving down a long road one night, when suddenly a small cat appears on the road. You’ll stop the car to save the cat. It will start raining and your car will break. You’ll follow the cat and arrive in front of a Victorian-style house. You’ll knock, and then walk in. When you’ll cross the threshold, you will find… a giant cat. 

Spooky Article: Catnip

Cancer (June 22–July 22):

Better luck next time. 

Spooky Article: Unopened Cutlery (salt and pepper included).

Leo (July 23–Aug. 22):

When you visit that antique store, don’t buy the amulet.

Spooky Article: the amulet we told you not to buy.

Virgo (Aug. 23–Sept. 22):

Think twice about claiming your inheritance from Colonel Beauregard Sanders.

Spooky Article: Coupons good from June 3010-Nov 2099.

Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 23):

Do cover your feet under when you go to bed. (The monster under your bed doesn’t want your toes to get cold).

Spooky Article: Toe Socks

Scorpio (Oct. 24–Nov. 21): 

Avoid trouble by refraining from asking  nosey questions, such as “Why are they publishing horrorscopes in November, and not October?  

Spooky Article: Clown noses.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22–Dec. 21): 

Make sure to pick a turkey which won’t be vengeful in the afterlife.

Spooky Article: Rusted Cutting Knife.

Capricorn (Dec. 22–Jan. 19): 

Mid fall is prime time for catching a cold. Don’t forget about the typical seasonal illnesses, like all-I-want-for-christmas-is-you-itis or Wham! Fever. 

Spooky Article: Vicks Vapo Rub from 1999.

Aquarius (Jan. 20–Feb. 18): 

*around the campfire* 

“…. and then the vampire said: ‘ FW:FW:FW:FW…..’”

Spooky Image:

Pisces (ʘ ω ʘ) (Feb. 19–Mar. 20): 

To honor your astrology sign, consider jumping into the Boston Harbor, and swimming across the Atlantic

Spooky Article: Magic Hat that makes you say, “boop” everytime you put it on or take it off.

Engineering Inspiration: SSC Tuatara

Apparently, my interests have been well defined from a very young age. I’m told that I was able to say the names of car brands and models before I was able to say the names of my younger sisters. Clearly, I had my priorities in the right place. 

Growing up around cars at our family mobile car wash, I grew to love and appreciate the evolution of their designs and technology. My room always contained posters of my favorite vehicles on the wall and scale model cars that I saved up to buy. Fun fact, the first thing I ever bought was a light-up Hummer H2 from Walgreens – best ten dollars I’ve ever spent. Still, my love for cars is very untraditional as I have rarely had the opportunity to mechanically work on them. Instead, I spent hours combing through Motor Trend, Auto Week, and Road and Track clipping pictures of new vehicles and then writing down information about them on the back. My thesaurus-like knowledge of new cars led to nicknames from friends like “Hot Rod,” which only further defined me as a car guy.

Exerting the expertise that I’ve built over the past 18 years of my life, I must say that October of 2020 has been the most significant in the history of modern vehicle performance.

The automobile, much like its predecessors, was created with the intention of making travel easier. Over time, its’ purpose has shifted to meet different needs such as higher efficiency, larger size, greater luxury, and of course – speed. The past century and a half have been jam-packed with speed records that were continually broken, evermore pushing the boundaries of what a car can do. The most significant up until this month had been back on April 27, 2005, when the Bugatti Veyron broke the 400 kilometers per hour barrier that no production vehicle had ever reached. Reaching a single direction top speed of 411 kilometers per hour (255 miles per hour), no production vehicle had ever accomplished the feat. The Veyron became known as the first “Hyper” car as it was no longer competing with a regular “Super” car. It was in a category of its own.

The Bugatti Veyron served as the pinnacle of automotive engineering for nearly 15 years, challenging the boundaries of automotive and aerospace engineering as many of its instrumentation were developed by the aero industry. Bugatti not only sat at the top of the top speed pedestal but aimed for more, eventually making an iteration of the Veyron (the Veyron Super Sport) that was able to go 268 miles per hour. As unattainable as that speed sounds, there have been a handful of companies that had officially challenged the Veyron. Companies such as Hennessey and Koenigsegg were creating their own “hypercars” and getting the Guinness world record officials out to officiate. Interestingly, they’d occasionally be granted the record but the “Big Boss” Bugatti, would never say anything or retaliate. You see they are too refined for that sort of child’s play and would instead focus on developing the next monstrous vehicle.

With speeds already creeping up towards 300 miles per hour, it was only a matter of time before the record was to be attained. On September 2, 2019, a factory modified Bugatti Chiron (which would later go on to have a very short production run) reached a top speed of 304.7 miles per hour in a single direction. The single direction part is very important because it does not qualify for the record unless it can hit that speed again in the opposite direction that it did on the first run. That’s because the record is taken by averaging the speed that the vehicle reaches on opposite runs. Guinness was not going to give them the record unless they could prove that they could meet that requirement. They couldn’t meet it but they also couldn’t care less. They had created the first production (or near production) vehicle to travel at speeds over 300 miles per hour and every automotive news publication had already pressed publish. There was no changing the fact they had accomplished the feat even if they weren’t going to be granted the record.

Still, someone was going to get the official record and the industry had no idea when, where, how or who. That was……..until October 10, 2020, when the unheard of SSC Tuatara had the world-renowned Top Gear publish footage of their hypercar achieving the absolutely absurd speed of 331.1 miles per hour in one direction with an average of 316.1 miles per hour over two runs. The company was unknown to most. The vehicle is typically agreed to not be very handsome. Still, the hype was there and there was footage to prove them right. The industry was in a state of confusion, shell-shock, and joy in the fact that the record had been completely decimated. How had a newcomer to the “hypercar” realm break the record that the established brands had not yet done? Maybe the answer lays in the fact that they were not newcomers and they had “not” broken the record.

SSC was founded by Jarod Shelby (no connect to Carol Shelby) in 1998 and their first vehicle was created in 2003. That first vehicle, the SSC Ultimate Aero actually held the top speed production vehicle record in 2007 for a little while before Bugatti came back and created the Veyron Super Sport. Clearly, the engineers over at SSC have pretty good experience in creating ultra-fast vehicles. So, that establishes some credibility for them but what about them “not” breaking the record. Being that SSC is not an established brand name, the majority of the press they got besides Top Gear was from automotive YouTubers like “The Stradman.” These influencers posted it all over their social media and even made videos promoting the vehicle and its amazing feat. Still, as with all things on the internet, there were skeptics that didn’t quite believe what they had seen. One of those was the wildly popular YouTuber “Shmee150,” who posted a video where he claimed to have solid evidence that they had indeed not broken the record.

In his video, Shmee goes on to mathematically disprove the video evidence provided by SSC by comparing it to a run that Koenigsegg had made a few years before on the same road in Nevada. In his video, he shows how the Tuatara claims to be significantly faster than the Koenigsegg but when the videos are put side to side starting at the same comparison point, it is actually slower. Later in the video, he even explains that according to SSC’s specifications, it was physically impossible to achieve that speed in the gear they said they did with the gear ratios of the transmission. So, they lied right?

Well, after many publications reposted and elaborated on “Shmee150’s” video, SSC’s founder Jarod Shelby, faced the public by posting a video on YouTube. In the video, he tells the story of the company, the struggles they’ve gone through, and addresses the controversy head-on. He says the footage and video had been outsourced to an external company that did everything, including sending it to the press. SSC had never seen the footage themselves since after all they witnessed it in person in real-time. Although the claims made are quite illogical, the promises made at the end of the video break the bad habits that Bugatti had made the standard. Mr. Shelby promised to redo the record-breaking run again, use a different company for the footage, and invite all those who recognized the flaws in the footage (including Shmee150) to come and watch it live.  

After that entire fiasco, the record now lays in question, and seemingly no one knows what to believe. A question entered my mind after looking at the entire situation which is, “Does it really matter if the SSC Tuatara’s footage was accurate or not?” Much like when Bugatti did not care about establishing the official record with the Chiron, the fact that they achieved a speed of over 300 miles per hour opened the stage for a new generation of vehicles and engineers to beat it. In my engineer mindset, I feel that innovation should be an inspiration for more new projects to come. In our ever-evolving world, no process (besides life lol) stops, they are always evolving into something new. It’s like when people say “Get with the times already!” because if you are not at the same point as everyone else or ahead of them, you are behind. That’s why fashion trends are always changing, new phones are always made, and why everything is becoming better with every iteration (ie. Compare a Kia from 20 years ago and one from now, you’ll be amazed). 

I truly believe that whether or not SSC actually hits 331 miles per hour again (or 350 like they claim they can), there will always be people who saw that figure and were left stunned. Those people much like myself when I first saw the Bugatti achieve its insane top speed, will be inspired and motivated to want to fly high and above those speeds someday. As I further my education as a mechanical engineer with the goal to eventually work in the automotive industry, I’m so excited to learn and see the capabilities of an engineer first hand. One day I’ll be out there pushing the boundaries that no one thought could be moved and shattering the record that we all thought were unbreakable.

The Bee

I know what you’re thinking. This is just the same story as last time. But it’s actually a shorter part 2! Just as much fun packed into a smaller package.

The story picks off at about the same time that the previous story ended. I was still pretty fed up with Mrs. Waffle’s teaching style. 

If you don’t recall the story from last time, all that’s necessary is that my English teacher only graded in class assignments. Over the first semester we wrote three essays, none of which were graded. Our whole grade consisted of one in class essay per quarter, two in class tests per quarter, and a handful of participation in class assignments. How is my atrocious writing supposed to get better if I don’t get any feedback? What’s the point of even doing work when you don’t get any feedback? Why do I even write these essay? Is she even reading them? Wait, is she even reading them?

Sometime in February, we got an assignment about poetry. The assignment was to take a poem, song or collection of either and write a huge analysis of the work. At least ten pages. And at this point, because of the past story, I really disliked Mrs. Waffle. I wrote my paper pretty easily. It was about the Pink Floyd album The Wall, and went pretty smoothly. It was about fourteen pages and I felt like it was pretty good. But then I remembered my question, “Is she even reading them?”

So I formulated a plan. I was to test this theory of mine that she just takes all of our essays and throws them in her fireplace. I just had to submit a piece of work that had enough of a length to it to be my essay at first glance, but if actually read, would quickly reveal itself to be not my essay. Then it hit me. The Bee Movie Script. It was perfect, long enough to be fourteen pages, complete gibberish, and best of all, at the time, February 2017, the Bee Movie script was the hottest meme.

The rest of the plan fell in like clockwork. I would print out the Bee Movie script, put my name at the top, and submit it in place of my essay. I would even make the font a little wacky to give her a hint. Then I would submit my actual essay via Google Drive. It was foolproof. If she actually read it, she would confront me and want to know what’s up. Because how can you, as a teacher, read the Bee Movie script and not talk to the student? Then I could tell her I had no idea what she was talking about, I submitted my essay with Google Drive. No accountability. If she didn’t read it, I would proof almost definitively that she wasn’t even reading our papers and flaunt to all the others about how I submitted the Bee Movie Script in place of a ten page paper.

Then I acted on my plan. I printed out and turned in the Bee Movie Script, submitted my real essay via Google Drive and waited. The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, and before I knew it the quarter was ending. Still no word or email from Mrs. Waffle about me turning in the bee movie script. 

After that, I promised not to do a lick of homework for that class for the rest of the year. I participated in class and everything, but I didn’t do any essays, and reading, anything. That’s not quite true, I did do two things over the rest of the year. One was a team assignment to complete an essay together. Despite my cold hard proof, I couldn’t convince all of my teammates to blow off the essay. I’m not a jerk, so I still put my full effort into the paper. The other was a short assignment, I forget the prompt, but I still have my response: 

The FitnessGram™ Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues. The 20 meter pacer test will begin in 30 seconds. Line up at the start. The running speed starts slowly, but gets faster each minute after you hear this signal. [beep] A single lap should be completed each time you hear this sound. [ding] Remember to run in a straight line, and run as long as possible. The second time you fail to complete a lap before the sound, your test is over. The test will begin on the word start. On your mark, get ready, start.

ARC Tips

This semester has asked a lot of us already and it’s hard to know these days when it’s better to take a break from our challenges or when it’s better to act.  In truth, each of those things, action and rest, are self-reinforcing.  While rest can come in many forms, the decision to act can be a challenge in and of itself because the path forward may be unclear.  You want to do something, but you don’t know where to begin.  This is where the ARCs come in!

We aren’t going to list here all the reasons each of us has to be stressed and anxious right now. But we are going to acknowledge that there are a lot. Amidst everything though, we are also all students, meaning we have classes, and homework, and projects to think about — and that is exactly what we write to talk to you about today.

Now that we are in the 2nd half of the semester, it is a good time to evaluate how virtual learning is going for you and if there is anything you want to change.  To help with that, the ARCs have collected the following tips and tricks!   The following recommendations are from others Oliners for what is helping them navigate learning during this period of virtual school.  

Task Management / Calendar

  • Post-it notes 📝: A simple physical post-it note on your laptop or near your desk is an easy access way to track tasks and it is super satisfying to cross things out. 
  • Todo list examples ☑️: If you are looking for a Todo list that is electronic and simple to set up, consider a custom google sheets template!
    • Option 1: This option features a column for each class and a column for the random tasks like email with a due date and a checkbox to tick off tasks as you complete them
    • Option 2: This option is set up for a planning out your work week and assigning different academic/personal tasks to each day of week 
  • Schedule it! 🗓️: In addition to adding classes and meeting to your personal calendar, try scheduling “do not disturb time” to get focused work done. 
  • Track Canvas assignments: Try adding canvas deadlines to your email!  Here are tutorials for adding your canvas calendar feed to outlook and gmail

Getting into a Workflow

  • Create a Commute – Before you hop on the computer for class or team meetings take a walk around the block 🌳, go for a run, or an activity that helps you to create space between school life and personal life.  
  • Bookmarks 💻 – When you sit down to get working, try bookmarking things like calendar, class websites, and other commonly visited websites.  Having these links on hand means you can get to work quickly and not get distracted while trying to find the link to the zoom room!
  • Find where work is happening – If you are living with other students, doing work together is a great way to build momentum towards getting things done while adding a little friendly accountability.  
  • Focused Work? This time technique comes highly recommended by a number of Oliners! The Pomodoro method involves 25 minutes of focused work with 5 minute breaks.  This is a great way to build-in breaks while still being able to focus.
  • Hide your Phone ☎️ – Notifications on phones were designed to distract so moving your phone away from your work area or even out of the room helps to limit distractions.  This tip can also be great when trying to get to bed on time! **Also try flora for a little extra motivation to stay off your phone!

If you find yourself wanting help implementing any of these strategies, or needing more options, feel free to reach out to Adva (adva.waranyuwat@olin.edu) to get connected with an ARC. For various reasons, getting work done right now can be challenging, but the ARCs are here to help you figure out how to get through these barriers as much as possible! 

We hope the second half of the semester is as engaging, well-focused, organized, and restful as possible!  You are not alone! 

Love,

The ARCs 

Abby Fry, Grace Montagnino, Jocelyn Jimenez, Mark Goldwater, Reid Bowen, Riya Aggarwal, Sabrina Pereira, Colin Takeda

The B

Content Warning: This article mentions predatory behavior.

Mrs. Waffle was perhaps the weirdest teacher I ever had. Her daughter was in her class. One time she made a joke about her daughter’s boyfriend moving to Oregon which made her daughter cry. You could say she really had a “hand-on” teaching style. Once when she wanted to talk to me, she massaged my shoulders while she talked. Another time when we were working on a computer thing, she was interested in something I was talking about, so to use my computer, instead of sliding it over to her, she just slipped her arm between mine and basically hugged my arm and it was super awkward. And she basically does that for everyone.

Over December: My teacher Mrs. Waffle didn’t really grade much of anything. We only had like 8 or so graded assignments. But nonetheless I had a 94.28%, a 66/70. I had never gotten an A in English before at all. My school only recorded the overall semester for college. So I hadn’t even gotten an A in any individual quarter, all Bs. So I was proud that this would be my first A.

Thursday, January 5th: The first day of school after winter break. At night I checked my grades again to see if any of them had been locked in. When they get locked in, it just shows the letter and no percentage. I got a C on the exam, so no chance of getting an A for the semester. When I looked, it displayed B [%]. When I clicked on the grade, there were no additional assignments added. I checked multiple times, adding up repeated; maybe my math was wrong. But no matter how many times I looked it over, I always ended up with 66/70 – a 94.29%. So I decided to talk to Mrs. Waffle tomorrow.

Friday, January 6th: At the beginning of class, I went to talk to Mrs. Waffle about the grade. I told her that my grade displayed a B, but I calculated an A based on the assignments. I asked if it just didn’t show some assignments, or if there was some mistake. She then held both my hands together as she talked to me, which is just so… ugh, feels so weird. She said she was sorry and would look into it and change it.

Thursday, January 12th: I had been checking my grade all week, disappointing more and more as it didn’t change. I decided to talk to her again tomorrow.

Friday, January 13th: No change. Again I talked to her before class. I told her my grade still hadn’t changed and asked why that was. She immediately held my hands again saying she forgot. Then she wrote some gibberish on a post it note and put it on her bulletin board to help her remember.

Monday, January 16th: No change. My grade still hadn’t changed. So once again I went to talk to her. As I started to walk toward her, she clearly knew what I was going to ask. I didn’t say a word as she held my hand and started to explain. She said her uncle had died over the weekend and she couldn’t bring herself to do anything. It was a real “not like this” moment, y’know? Because it’s like I wanted to be mad at her, but just couldn’t bring myself to be mad. So I said I’m sorry, I understand.

Tuesday, January 17th: No change. I think that Tuesday was a day we didn’t have English because of an assembly or something, and I didn’t want to bother her that soon anyway.

Wednesday, January 18th: No change. Pretty normal day. I went to her, told her my grade still hadn’t changed. She held my hands as she apologized again, and said she would take care of it. Nothing new.

Thursday, January 19th: No change. She was busy at the beginning of class, so I didn’t talk to her then. At class my friend next to me was cold, so I let her borrow my jacket for the class. At the end of the class, she gave it back and I had to put it back on again. So as I walked up to her I was putting my jacket on, so my hands were not available. When I started to talk to her, she went right for my hands, but haha! They were busy, can’t hold them. Without skipping a beat, she put her hand on my shoulders. She kept apologizing, saying she was sorry. Then she said “It’s not anything to do with you, I love you, I’ll try to fix it”. As she said “I love you”, she transitioned her hands from my shoulders to CUPPING MY FACE. It was so incredibly awkward, so I got out of there as fast as I could. 

Friday, January 20th: No change. I was still too weirded out to want to talk to Mrs. Waffle. I took my chance and asked her while I was behind my desk with her on the other side. Once again, she apologized a lot and held my hands. But after yesterday, I was more than fine with holding hands. She wrote my name or something on her arm to help her remember.

Of course, throughout this whole thing, I’d been telling this story to a lot of my friends. After talking to my friend Gerry, I came up with a poorly thought-out but great idea. So today, I took it into action.

At about 7 p.m., I sent her an email. The subject was “My Grade Still hasn’t Changed”, with the body simply this:

Image result for spongebob time cards

She got back to me fast – within a couple of hours. She replied “I’m not sure where you are looking or that it will.” Oh, no. I’m in trouble. The message is a little confusing, but my interpretation of it is: “I don’t know what you’re looking at, and I’m not sure it will change” -> “I’m not gonna change it because you were rude.” I sent this poorly thought out email and now she hates me. So I spent the weekend thinking through things and asking friends and family for opinions on what to do.

Sunday, January 22nd: I decided to go with the apologetic and informative approach. I drafted this long email, explaining the whole situation, linking a picture to my grade and assignments, including my calculations and everything. I even ended the email with “Love, Nathan” in hopes of appealing to the side of her that’s infatuated with me. She got back to me within an hour or two again, with the reply: 

“Trust that I have the best in mind for you <3”

What???? What does this even mean? Is it like, “trust that I have the best in mind for you, but I’m just a forgetful idiot”? Or is it more of a “trust that I have the best in mind for you, but I’m not changing your grade because you don’t deserve it”? Heck if I know.

Monday, January 23rd: No change. After consulting with others who were equally as confused as I, I emailed her back: “Does that mean that you will change it?” I expected her to get back within a couple of hours like before, but no response.

Tuesday, January 24th: No change. I went to talk to her again. I asked about the email and if she was going to change it. She said that there was something wrong with the system and that it was already finalized in one place that she couldn’t change and had been trying. But there was another place that she could change it, and that she had, but it might not show up on the website. So I left, thinking: this reassures me basically not at all. But I gotta wait for the report card to know for sure.

Tuesday, January 31st: I have a friend named Kevin who I have known since 1st grade, and know really well. But this semester, we didn’t have any classes together. But we did have one thing, we passed each other when walking from our lunch bell to 6th bell. We would meet up, walk with each other and talk for about two minutes, probably less, each day. For the past couple weeks, I had been telling this story two minutes at a time, picking up where I left off the previous day without any refresher. Today I finally finished the story thus far, explaining that I was now waiting for my report card to come. Confused, Kevin asked “it came last week, you didn’t get it?”

So when I got home, at dinner, I asked my parents if my report card came, and my mom was like “oh yeah it came last week, I didn’t think you cared.” Any other semester, she was totally right. She pulled it out of the filing cabinet. I took a look, scanning for the second quarter. English: B. The time for patience had long passed. I emailed my counselor asking to talk to him after school one day.

Wednesday, February 1st: I went in to talk to my counselor after school. I explained to him that my grade was not what it was supposed to be. I told him I had been asking my teacher to change it for the last few weeks and she still hasn’t changed it. He logged on to his thingy, and found my name. He took out a calculator and typed in the numbers. He said Nathan it’s an 85%, that’s a B. For a moment I lost all color, and feared the worst. Had I really been wrong? After all this time? No way. I had checked this over so many times. My math isn’t wrong. I told him it’s definitely a 94.29% and please check again. He typed the numbers on the calculator again. “Oh yeah, you’re right, it’s a 94%.” I guess that’s why he’s a counselor and not a math teacher (don’t take offense to this, counselors are perfectly smart people and Mr. Sweeney was great, he just made a simple mistake). He told me he’d change it now and get a new report card to me sometime soon.

Tuesday, February 7th: No word from Mr. Sweeney. So I feared the worst. He’s just like Mrs. Waffle. He’s never gonna change it. I’ll have to go farther up the chain. I went in to talk to him after school. I walked in and asked about my grade. He said, “Ah, Nathan, I’ve been meaning to email you. Here’s your report card”. I took a look, scanning the second quarter. English: A. Finally, change.

Assumptions

I wake up to the sound of my rock n’ roll inspired alarm blaring out the tunes that get my day started. Rolling out of bed, I begin to make myself look presentable for the many zoom calls and trips to the dining hall that I will be taking today.

As I open the door to head out for my favorite meal of the day, breakfast, I , by force of habit, check my pockets to make sure I have everything. “Key, wallet, phone- what am I missing….” tends to happen often. Nowadays, I can’t forget to grab a mask and have it on properly until I gladly consume my entire container of home fries and eggs. Leaving with my fish-patterned mask, I head downstairs and out of West Hall seeing the same people that I encounter daily. With a “Hi” and an air wave, I let them know of my intention to greet them and receiving a similar gesture, I assume with the same ecstatic feeling.

Inside the CC, I swipe my ID, ask for some of the day’s food specials, and try to engage in small talk with some of my favorite dining staffers. I assume their reactions and facial expressions to our conversations and wish them the best as I head to my every-morning spot. Sitting, I remove my mask and expose my excitedness to my fellow household members as I take in the view of my meal. They, way more than any others, get to see and understand my almost consistent facial reactions. I wish I could share them with more people. I wish more people could share theirs with me.

Still, if you see me around- whether it be over zoom or on campus- there is no need to assume what I’m thinking. I’m excited to be here. Everyday as I wake up, hearing that same alarm sound, I grow exponentially happier at the thought of where I am. I look forward to holding the door open for someone and love watching people do incredibly cool things outside. I love everything about out school. I love Olin.

More than ever, I think its important to express yourself outwardly because it is so hard to assume what someone else is trying to convey behind their mask. Make it known how much you love your project team meetings! Exclaim why you cannot do without the garlic knots in the dining hall! Project how much you love having access to unlimited Zoom meetings! People need to know how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and how you’re doing. So let’s stop assuming that others assume you’re “doing well today.” Let them know.

Revisiting American History: Origins of Racism

Warning: The following article wrestles with a difficult topic in American history, and that topic contains some horrid depictions of human suffering.

This article is a continuation of the Revisiting American History Series, where every month, I revisit a section of American history with a critical eye for the different groups of people involved in that history, telling stories not of America as a collective group pursuing a national interest shared by all of its individuals, but as a variety of groups all with competing interests. While this series typically does not delve deeply into current events, I hope that it does help put a lot of conflict rampant in America today into context. I’m mainly following along with A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, rereading, annotating, and distilling the content into quick summaries for you here. Remember, any story from history contains bias. Howard Zinn is not exempt from that bias and neither am I. Also, if you ever want more information or perspective, I highly recommend reading the book for yourself!

This article focuses on an exploration of the different groups involved in the institutionalization of racism through human trafficking (slavery) in America’s early colonial period. I purposely use the words “human trafficking” and “slavery” interchangeably, as I’ve become a little too used to talking about “slavery” as just a fact of history, rather than a disgusting treatment of human beings. By using the wording of “human trafficking”, I hope to return to the people abused by this system some of their humanity, and myself a reminder that these were, in fact, humans, just as you and I.

A Black American writer from the 1900s, J. Saunders Redding, describes the arrival of a ship in North America in the year 1619:

Sails furled, flag drooping at her rounded stern, she rode the tide in from the sea… The flag she flew was Dutch; her crew a motley. Her port of call, an English settlement, Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia. She came, she traded, and shortly afterwards, she was gone. Probably no ship in modern history has carried a more portentous freight. Her cargo? Twenty slaves.

We can trace the origins of human trafficking in America back to this first ship. Racism has been embedded into America’s history since its infancy. While some historians think the first black people to arrive in Virginia were considered servants, like the white indentured servants from Europe, the strong probability is that even if they were listed as “servants”, they were seen differently, treated differently, and ultimately, were slaves.

To understand why the American colonists were so open to human trafficking as a means of acquiring labor, we have to understand the conditions in which they made that decision. The first white settlers of Virginia were utterly unprepared for the harsh challenges associated with making a new life for themselves in America.

Many Virginians had suffered through the “starving time” from 1609-1610. By 1609, the population had grown to five hundred colonists from the original one hundred founders. At that point, the colony could no longer support its massive population. Colonists went from eating one small ladle of barley per meal to roaming the woods for nuts and berries, and eating the corpses of those less fortunate. As the Journals of the Burgesses of Virginia, a document from 1619, recounts the story:

… driven thru insufferable hunger to eat those things which nature most abhorred, the flesh and excrements of man as well as of our own nation as of an Indian, digged by some out of his grave after he had lain buried three days and wholly devoured him… one among them slew his wife as she slept in his bosom, cut her in pieces, salted her and fed upon her till he had clean devoured all parts of her head…

By the end of that “starving time”, starvation had reduced five hundred colonists to sixty.

After enduring that traumatic experience, the Virginians were ready for a way out. They needed labor to grow corn for their own subsistence, and tobacco for export. They had just sent out the first batch of tobacco out in 1617, and found it quite profitable. They needed food, and they needed money.

These colonists were searching desperately for a source of cheap labor. There weren’t enough white servants to do the work, and they came with a massive downside. Once their contract expired after a few years, they would have paid off their debts for the voyage to the New World. At that point, a servant was no longer a source of free labor, but just another mouth to feed. The free white settlers in the colony were primarily skilled craftsmen, with a few even being “men of leisure”, who were not so inclined to work for John Smith, who had to organize them into work gangs and force them into the fields for their survival.

In their search for gold in the Carribean, the Spaniards slaughtered and enslaved the Arawaks. Why didn’t the American colonists do the same to the Native Americans in their search for cheap labor? The fact of the matter is that the desperate and starving American colonists were no match for the resourceful Native Americans defending their home. 

Edmund Morgan, writer of American Slavery, American Freedom, a book from 1975, focuses on the frustration and dissonance these colonists must have faced, enraged that even though they had superior firepower, and a supposedly superior way of life, they just couldn’t win against the natives. As Morgan writes:

If you were a colonist, you knew that your technology was superior to the Indians [Native Americans]. You knew that you were civilized, and they were savages… The Indians [Native Americans], keeping to themselves, laughed at your superior methods and lived from the land more abundantly and with less labor than you did… And when your own people started deserting in order to live with them, it was too much… So you killed the Indians [Native Americans], tortured them, burned their villages, burned their cornfields… But you still did not grow much corn…

For all of their pain, suffering, and violence, the colonists gained nothing. Their aggression against the natives resulted only in more of their own suffering. The colonists’ own hubris and arrogance made enemies of the natives who were knowledgeable in survival and might have otherwise helped the colonists survive. Unfortunately, this relationship only grows more strained as America’s history marches forward.

At this point, the colonists were focused on survival, and they needed labor. Unable to get the necessary labor out of the servants and freeman among them, or the natives nearby, they turned to the human trafficking of African peoples.

Even if the institution of slavery had not been regularized and legalized in the colonies at this point, it would be difficult to presume that those first black people forcibly taken to Jamestown and sold to colonists as objects, were anything but slaves. By 1619, a million black people had already been brought from Africa to South America and the Carribean, the Portuguese and Spanish colonies, to work as slaves. Europeans had branded African people as slave labor for a hundred years by this point.

Since slavery had existed in the African states, Europeans sometimes tried to use it as a means of justifying their own slave trade. However, that’s not quite a fair comparison, as the “slaves” of Africa were more like the serfs of Europe. According to Basil Davidson, author of The African Slave Trade, points out that while African slavery was a harsh servitude, the humans enslaved were “altogether different from the human cattle of the slave ships and the American plantations.” One observer from the Ashanti Kingdom of West Africa noted that “a slave might marry; own property; himself own a slave, swear an oath; be a competent witness and ultimately become heir to his master… An Ashanti slave, nine cases out of ten, possibly became an adopted member of the family, and in time his descendants so merged and intermarried with the owner’s kinsmen that only a few would know their origin.”

While African slavery isn’t something to be praised, it is altogether far different from American slavery, which was lifelong, morally crippling, desctructive of family ties, without hope for a future. What made American slavery the most cruel form of slavery in history was the combination of the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture, and reduction of the slaves to less than human status, where white was master, and black was slave.

These African people who had been ripped from their land and culture were in an especially vulnerable position in America. The colonists were in their own European culture, and the Native Americans were in their own land and culture. The African people had to fight with sheer extraordinary persistence just to hold onto whatever they could of their heritage of language, dress, custom, and family relations.

Oftentimes, these African people were kidnapped in the interior of Africa, forced to march to the coast, sold, shoved into pens with people from various African tribes, and shipped off to be sold in the European mainlands or one of its colonies. These marches were death marches, sometimes reaching one thousand miles. The enslaved people were shackled around the neck, and marched under whip and gun. Two of every five of them died during these marches. John Barbot, at the end of the seventeenth century, described the cages on the Gold Coast.

As the slaves come down to Fida from the inland country, they are put into a booth or prison… near the beach, and when the Europeans are to receive them, they are brought out onto a large plain, where the ship’s surgeons examine every part of everyone of them, to the smallest member, men and women being stark naked… Such as are allowed good and sounds are set on one side… marked on the breast with a red-hot iron… The branded slaves after this are returned to their former booths where they await shipment, sometimes 10-15 days…

Olaudah Equiano, c. 1745-1797 , an African man who survived through the slave trade and escaped in 1766, describes his experience seeing a slave ship for the first time in his autobiography. 

The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror when I was carried aboard. I was immediately handled and tossed up to see if I were sound by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me… Indeed such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country.

Given the opportunity, many of these people chose to jump overboard and drown themselves rather than continue their suffering. Olaudah Equiano describes one such incident as follows.

One day, when we had a smooth sea and moderate wind, two of my wearied countrymen who were chained together (I was near them at the time), preferring death to such a life of misery, somehow made through the nettings and jumped into the sea: immediately another quite dejected fellow, who, on account of his illness, was suffered to be out of irons, also followed their example; and I believe many more would very soon have done the same if they had not been prevented by the ship’s crew… two of the wretches were drowned, but they [the slavers] got the other, and afterwards flogged him unmercifully for thus attempting to prefer death to slavery.

One of every three African slaves died overseas. Despite the horrific nature of human trafficking, the huge profits, oftentimes double the investment made on one trip, justified the act in the eyes of the slavers. 

By 1800, ten to fifteen million Africans had been forcibly transported to the Americas as slaves, representing perhaps a third of those kidnapped from Africa. As Zinn puts it:

It is roughly estimated that Africa lost fifty million human beings to death and slavery in those centuries we call the beginnings of modern Western civilization, at the hands of slave traders and plantation owners in Western Europe and America, the countries deemed the most advanced in the world.

And thus, the stage was set for the history around race in America. Remember that when we talk about racism and our modern day understandings of race in America, this was where it started. I don’t believe this to be the roots of racism across the world, but it’s certainly the roots of racism in American culture. This article helps illustrate why human trafficking based on race become so integral to American history from its roots, and begins to explore what this actually meant for the African humans caught in the midst of this system.

Next month, I plan to focus on the history surrounding African American resistance to slavery, and the instutionalization of racism as a means of suppressing class conflicts. As the institution of slavery spread thoughout the colonies, so did resistance to the oppression of the black and white lower classes alike. Fearing widespread civil unrest, the landowning elite of America found means of suppressing both while giving up as little as possible in return.

Sources:

  1.  A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn

I’m citing this source again because of how extensively I’ve used it to write this article. Many pieces of this article are either direct quotes or paraphrased paragraphs from Zinn that aren’t explicitly called out. Part of this is due to his unique style of writing I hope to capture in this article, how well he articulates certain ideas, so that I can be certain I’m not misrepresenting any facts presented by Zinn, and to not disrupt the flow of the writing.

  1. The Interesting Narrative Of The Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Written By Himself.

This was an incredible autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, c. 1745-1797, an African man who survived and escaped from slavery. He wrote his autobiography specifically to advocate for the abolition of slavery in Britian, and he recounts his journey across various parts of the world and his experience as an African slave.

  1. American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund S. Morgan

I mainly checked the date the book was published to provide more context to Zinn’s quotation from the book.