Controversial talking head Barrington Martin II has found himself in a social media dust-up after posting on Twitter comments about “good slave masters.”
He queried out loud why no one ever talks about the planters and slavers who treated their enslaved Africans with “kindness” and worried about the physical and mental health of their unpaid laborers forced to work on their properties— or risked being sold to another person.
On the morning of Sunday, Feb. 26, Martin tweeted, “We hear about all of the horrors of slavery, automatically assuming that all slave owners were hateful, vengeful, and sought to inflict their slaves with fear, but it’s funny we never hear about those other slave owners who led with kindness and wanted their slaves to be in the best shape mentally as well as physically. Why do you think that is?”
The tweet was inspired by some reading Martin, a Black Georgia politician and educator had been doing. He ran in the 2020 special election in Georgia’s 5th District to fill John Lewis’ seat in the House of Representatives but fell short.
He shared with his more than 64,100 followers on social media a 20th-century slavery narrative from a person born into enslavement in 1851 named Charles Coles.
In the narrative, Coles says he was “reared on a large farm owned by a man by the name of Silas Dorsey, a fine Christian gentleman and a member of the Catholic Church.”
According to the narrative, dated Nov. 15, 1937, the person who was a young teen was an early teen when emancipated, said, “Mr. Dorsey was a man of excellent reputation and character, was loved by all who knew him, Black and white, especially his slaves. He was never known to be harsh or cruel to any of his slaves, of which he had more than 75.”
In Coles’ account, enslaved people were only called to work 11-hour days (7 am to 6 pm) and had holidays off. While the man, then about 85, says he doesn’t remember if they worked on Saturday, he also remembered no one ever talking about runaways.
According to Coles, Dorsey, the good master, also afforded his servants “good heavy clothes and shoes” in the winter and “fine clothes” in the summer. He also said in this account, “There were no jails nor was any whipping done on the[Dorsey] farm.”
Twitter erupted with Martin’s posts, calling him a coon and submitting thoughts of how poorly developed his thoughts are pertaining to the subject.
One Twitter user named Chad Boogie said, “This may be the most coonified statement I’ve ever read on the app. You win the trophy, Barrington.”
Former President & Director-Counsel of LDF (NAACP Legal Defense Fund), Sherrilyn Ifill tweeted, “It’s like some portal of insanity opened this weekend.”
“Here is a FACT about the kindest, most caring, generous, thoughtful and lenient of slave owners: they were slave owners,” Andy Reaser wrote.
He also tweeted he was always taught as a child in Virginia schools that “enslaved people” were “happy” and their masters were “benevolent.”
“So let me get this straight, of the 3.2Million slaves that were owned you found what maybe 200 who were treated like human beings, and that justifies your post to question,” Chef Apple wrote. “That’s like saying well the British ended slavery, they started the fire and then acted like the firemen.”
The more people challenged Martin, the more he defended his position and posted additional resources to justify his point. In one exchange, a person named Franklin Leonard asked him, “Did you read the threads you posted?”
Adding, “They still include enslaved people talking about being whipped when the situation was appropriate, them & their parents being bought and sold, being OWNED by other people, their not understanding what freedom even was? Is that not horror?”
Martin responded, “They accepted it. Are you not curious as to why did they accept this as human beings? That’s horror TO YOU, in present-day terms. They spoke about being slaves matter of factly, and some even had positive things to say about it.”
Some people believed Martin’s question was valid and co-signed his post, blasting those who missed the points.
“It looks like you ruffled a lot of feathers by simply acknowledging that we don’t hear other sides of the story,” Tammy AbiKhalil, whose bio says she is Canadian and had an uncle who served as the 17th Prime Minister of New Zealand, tweeted, “People take what they ‘feel’ and believe it to be the ‘holy’ truth. It’s astounding the amount of individuals who are so confined to one narrative.”
Martin says while he has received death threats and is being harassed over the tweet, he also feels like his point about “kind masters” is appropriate because he is placing them in the context of the antebellum South.