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USU history professor addresses how slavery affects present-day America

"Why Slavery Still Matters in America: Learning from the Past" seminar given by Dr. Kyle Bulthuis.
Hannah Castro
"Why Slavery Still Matters in America: Learning from the Past" seminar given by Dr. Kyle Bulthuis.

Dr. Kyle Bulthuis, associate professor of History at USU, presented a talk on Thursday, Feb. 22, titled, “Why Slavery Still Matters: Learning from the Past.”

Bulthuis opened by tracing slavery back to the Roman Empire. He said that to understand the situation we are in now, we have to understand where it came from.

He then transitioned to how slavery created racism in various ways that we have seen in our nation’s history and continues today.

“Segregation was baked into the system almost from the very beginning. When we're dealing with race relations today, we are dealing with a position of separation and a position of fear," Bulthuis said. "So that's something that I want you to keep in mind when we talk about the legacy of slavery, you go back to the first plantations, blacks, and whites aren't spending a lot of time together."

Bulthuis also pointed out that many scholars have recognized how the birth of capitalism was assisted by slavery.

“A scholar of the Caribbean suggested that there would be no Industrial Revolution without the widespread importation of African slaves. Now, some scholars disagree with that thesis in general," Bulthuis said. "But at the very least, even those who say, well, capitalism is not necessarily connected to slavery or racism, have to at least acknowledge that the Industrial Revolution occurred much more quickly because of slavery."

Looking forward, Bulthuis said that even though the past has been written, the future hasn’t and there is work to be done. He noted that slavery is still seen today with people in poverty, and who are forced to work for low wages.

“We can look at this at a social level and look out for those who are disadvantaged, to look out for those who may be under the thumb of economic, social, and cultural difficulties because in doing so, we can attempt to break the cycle of slavery that has existed and been part of the human condition, almost from the start,” Bulthuis said.

Hannah Castro is a junior at Utah State University studying Journalism and Public relations. Her parents were born and raised in Ecuador and migrated to the States before she was born. Hannah loves all things music and usually has a concert lined up. She enjoys being active, and recently ran her first half marathon in Salt Lake City. Hannah enjoys writing and can’t wait to further her skills at Utah Public Radio.