Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who is Ms. Verene Shepherd? The "Black Pete Debate" in Perspective

Before I continue my posts on Black Pete, I have to post something else: Some months ago I had never heard of Ms. Verene Shepherd, until she manifested herself as the principal signer of a letter from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. That letter was dated January 17, 2013, and was concerned with "Black Pete" within the feast of Saint Nicholas in the Netherlands. (That is the subject of this blog, the history and ancestry of "Black Pete.")
Ms. Verene Shepherd, however, already played judge, jury, and executioner and has condemned the Saint Nicholas and Black Pete celebration. According to her the figure of Black Pete is racist and fuels intolerance. We "the Dutch" should satisfy ourselves with the celebration of Christmas ... talking about racism and intolerance. (And ignorance on her part [and the commission] as well, as Christmas with Santa Claus is based in part on the Saint Nicholas feast.) Ms. Shepherd was invited to observe the entry of Saint Nicholas in Groningen, but she declined, giving no reason (De Telegraaf 2013a, 2013b). This is really interesting. The Work Group has a field mission statement which includes visits to any region in the world, with a very specific intention. I quote:

"Field missions are useful in facilitating the Working Group's in-depth understanding of the situation of people of African descent in various regions of the world and in enabling it to familiarize himself with the actual situation in a particular country through access to first-hand information and discussions with the parties concerned, whether the Government or civil society. Such missions are in no case designed to be inquisitorial; rather, they can enable the measures taken by a Government to for the elimination of racial discrimination against people of African descent to be better known." (UNHR n.d.)

But apparently in the case of Black Pete this was not useful nor necessary. (Now that I know the definition of what a field mission constitutes according to the UNHR, I feel quite insulted, disrespected, and violated in my right to defend myself in regard to the portrayal of facts by this organization which are far beyond their true character. Only based on research one can form an opinion, and that research should include a field mission ...)* On November 21st, 2013, again the United Nations send a letter to the Dutch government "encouraging" a respectful national debate (UNHR 2013a). Apparently they were asleep at the UN office, again, as a respectful debate has been going all for a long time (No, you say. Hm. Ever researched the origin of politically correct "Rainbow Pete"? Ever researched the portrayal of Black Pete in the recent yearly televised Saint Nicholas movies? Do, you will be amazed). During the last couple of days I have asked myself a simple question: Who is Ms. Verene Shepherd, and actually, what does she do? Here follows the answer:

Verene A. Shepherd was born on April 16, 1951. She received her doctorate from the University of Cambridge. She is professor of Social History and University Director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) at the University of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica). She is the second woman to hold a professorship in the History Department. She was the editor of "Working Slavery, Pricing Freedom: Perspectives from the Caribbean, Africa and the African diaspora" (2002, Palgrave Macmillan) and "Slavery without Sugar: Diversity in Caribbean Economy and Society Since the 17th Century" (2002, University Press of Florida). In 2007 she published "I Want to Disturb my Neighbour: Lectures on Slavery, Emancipation and Postcolonial Jamaica" (Ian Randle Publishers) and in 2009 "Livestock, Sugar and Slavery: Contested Terrain in Colonial Jamaica" (Ian Randle Publishers). In 2007 she was appointed Chair of the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee.

Ms. Shepherd was appointed in 2010 to the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group of Experts on people of African descent, to represent the Caribbean and Latin America; she replaced the late Professor Nettleford for the remainder of his two year term. Her appointment took effect on April 12, 2010. The appointment was made during the Council’s thirteenth session and followed consultations by the Consultative Group and the President of the Council and regional coordinators. (UwiNotebook 2010) During the tenth session of the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (March 28 to April 1, 2011, Geneva, Switzerland) Ms. Shepherd shared her thoughts in a presentation entitled "Obstacles to the Creation of Afrocentric Societies in the Commonwealth Caribbean". In this presentation she discussed "the reasons behind the resistance to the African culture and tradition in the West and the consequences for the people of the Caribbean." (UWI Newsroom 2013)

Since of short Ms. Shepherd is the chairwoman of the Jamaican National Reparations Committee. At the 34th regular meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on July 6, 2013, the member states created the National Reparations Committees, with Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago providing political oversight. The Jamaican National Reparations Committee, together with other national reparations committees within the CARICOM, seeks monetary compensation for the enslavement of their ancestors. They specifically and only target three western countries: France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands.
A specific amount (in any denomination) for reparation payment has not been suggested, but Mr. Gonsalves (Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and Ms. Shepherd (as chairwoman of the Jamaican National Reparations Committee) said in an interview to the Associated Press that "Britain at the time of emancipation in 1834 paid 20 million pounds to British planters in the Caribbean, the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today." (Edmonds 2013; compare The Gleaner 2013)

From September 15-17, 2013, the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines hosted the conference "Dialogue, Consensus and Restitution." According to Thomas (2013), "(t)he conference, [...], promises to be a tribune of conversation, friendship, solidarity and education." He continues with that "(t)he expectation is for there to be short political speeches from Chairman of CARICOM Leaders Reparations Committee, Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and hosting PM Ralph Gonsalves. The keynote address will be delivered by sister professor Veren[e] Shep[herd]. Professor Shep[herd], a lecturer at the UWI, Mona Campus, is a long time reparationist. She is also the head of the Jamaican National Reparations Committee." This conference centered on those "who experienced so much during the trans-Atlantic slave trade," Thomas added. That Ms. Shepherd is indeed a reparationist can be seen in a 2011 document available online from the United Nations website, in which she writes:

"We use this high-level meeting to call on states that sanctioned this crime [of trans-Atlantic slavery] against humanity to take immediate steps, first to apologize unreservedly and not resort to linguistic obfuscation that mimics apologies; and secondly to negociate with representatives of victims, a respectful reparation package, based on the contributions of their ancestors to European development." (Shepherd 2011; note between square brackets added by me)

Well, this is very clear. According to Shepherd only European nations are to blame for the crime against humanity named trans-Atlantic slavery; they should apologize and they should recompense ("a respectful reparation package"). In other words: Trans-Atlantic slavery - blame the Europeans. And do not forgive.**

OK, let me stop here.

So Ms. Verene A. Shepherd is a long time reparationist, since of recent she is the chairwoman of the Jamaican National Reparations Committee which seeks monetary compensation from (only) France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, some of her recent academic work involves slavery and slave trade, and she is a member of the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group of Experts on people of African descent, to represent the Caribbean and Latin America.

And she signs a letter against the Saint Nicholas and Black Pete feast in the Netherlands? I identify a clear bias in her "opinion" on the Dutch feast that includes the character of Black Pete. (Note that there is no conflict of interest; both are in the same line, being a reparationist and condemning Black Pete as racist. What is interesting is that she uses the United Nations as a platform of her mission. Does the current Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon know this?) She is clearly biased and intolerant (she acts as judge, jury, and executioner ...) as Ms. Verene A. Shepherd is the CHAIRWOMAN of the Jamaican National Reparations Committee who seeks MONETARY COMPENSATION from (only) France, Great Britain, and THE NETHERLANDS. (My apologies for shouting ...)

Ms. Shepherd is extremely intolerant, disrespectful, xenophobic, exclusivist, and racist as the committees (of one of which she is the chairwoman) only target three countries involved in the "trans-Atlantic slave trade" (Thomas 2013). More importantly, from an ethic-historical and holistic perspective, the "trans-Atlantic slave trade" is only the middle section of a vast and horrendous circum-Atlantic slave trade system that involved native Atlantic African nations ("chiefdoms," kingdoms, states, &c.; the genesis of which was that Africans traded Africans, a slave [taken in war or a slave raid] was a product that produced wealth, long before the first European nation ever entered West Africa; this means the history on slave trade is much more complicated and that there are many more parties involved, many native to the African continent itself; the fact that this part is not even mentioned underwrites the racism and intolerance on part of Ms. Shepherd, the Jamaican committee, and all those involved in a possible upcoming court case, including Leigh Day & Co., the British human rights law firm that will handle the case [Edmonds 2013]), European nations, colonies founded by European nations, former colonies independent of their European origins, slave traders within the independent nations and colonial systems of the Americas, the colonization of Africa, post-abolition slave-trading in Africa and beyond, &c., all within a conservative time-frame of circa AD 700-1950 (I chose AD 700 as a conservative beginning point, as in the 8th century a Middle Eastern/Islamic influence on the trans-Saharan slave trade started to emerge). This circum-Atlantic slave trade system was part of a world wide system which ultimately, I have to stress, still exists today, albeit often hidden from plain sight (ah, ... the UN investigates slavery-like cases in Ghana ... November 22-29, 2013; UNHR 2013b).

And the same thing applies to the whole Black Pete debate: If you do not know what it is all about, if you do not have any historic circum-European perspective and only focus on one element (Black Pete) who "resembles" a black slave ... well, shut up. Especially if you Ms. Shepherd are invited, decline the invitation to observe (the entry of Saint Nicholas and Black Pete in Groningen, the Netherlands), and thus obstruct your own field mission statement available online at the UNHR website.

And, for something completely different (or quite the same), should I as a native Dutchman sue any foreign nation for compensation for any still lasting grave harm ever done (including, and not exclusive to, conquest and oppression) in my past? Should I sue the Germans, from whom my parents, grand-parents, &c., suffered during World War II (what they did pay was not enough and never reached my family ...), or the Germans again, during the Great War (one of my grand-parents came from Prussia; and I have German family ... ah, they did pay ... and, that was possibly a cause for the rise of ... hm ... [compare the work of Keynes, Mantoux, Marks, Evans, and Ferguson] ... what, they actually paid until 2010?), or before that during the French-German war? Or should I sue the French for the occupation by Napoleonic France? The British (for any naval battle and the taking of Dutch possessions and enclaves ...)? The Spaniards (the 80 Year War)? The Habsburg Empire? The Huns in central Europe? (As a Caucasian I had the "Mongolian spot" until the age of circa 25; is there an Asian "bloodline" [rape?] somewhere in my past or is it just within a normal percentage [5-10% among Caucasians; my father and grand-father have/had it as well]?) Romans? (I live in Rijswijk, known for 2nd-4th century AD Roman occupation, marked for example by several locally found engraved mile stones.) Or shall I just blame Africa for everything (for evolution to give us Homo sapiens, a species with all its inconsistencies and commonly with a blatant disregard for anything that even remotely resembles the ability of progressive and inclusive learning; of course only within the cosmovision to which I adhere)? I wish I had the money to have my DNA investigated and see what the genes tell me on my connections to past generations and locations around the globe. (And don't get me started on the introduction of Christianity ... how dare you, Ms. Shepherd, force Christmas and Christianity on me, that is [again!] blatant discrimination and religious intolerance ... as this is all so obvious I even have the feeling that you present it this way intentionally ... you want confrontation; I prefer words ...)

I rather learn from the past and look towards the future so that we all can live better lives. I have a dream (rather than a nightmare). We are all unique. And our uniqueness is not based on those things that we share, but on the things that separate us ("... dis-cri-mi-nate ...", which should not lead to abuse and/or oppression): Place of Birth, Gender/Sexual orientation, Language, Religion, Clothing, Customs, Traditions, History, &c, ... I still have a dream. Celebrate your differences, contemplate your past and learn, forge your future: Together. Ultimately one could arrive at nature's unity-in-diversity (Rosen 2008).

What I write here is not only for Ms. Verene Shepherd, who is the chair (United Nations GA resolution 67/155, op.80) of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGPAD), but also for the other members of this group (or the whole UN for that matter): the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed; the Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms. Rita Izsák; and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere. Do research before you open your mouth and/or write a letter with at the top "United Nations Human Rights Council." Every story has more than one side. One-sidedness is the definition of intolerance, racism, abuse, and oppression.

human being

*See a short column in The Washington Post by Erik Voeten, nota bene of Dutch origin, who is Associate Professor (to wit, Peter F. Krogh Associate Professor of Geopolitics and Justice in World Affairs at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government). Without any visible and obvious research he calls Black Pete "blatantly racist" (Voeten 2013). And that in The Washington Post. Great, I thought professors should know better ... but this is the second professor who prefers to shout before to think, so it actually does not surprise me anymore. Luckily many of the 345 people (by 2013-11-24) who wrote comments to his column did provide better (European) context.
**As I hope to make clear in the main text, the perspective on the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Ms. Shepherd is completely wrong. However, I may have a sense of the fact why she plays the blame game and can not (or will not) forgive. In the introduction to his book "Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust" Clarke (2000: 21) writes that after reading certain books we "might understand why most of us, both African Americans and Indigenous Americans lack the capacity to 'forgive' or forget the monumental crimes committed against our people." (These certain books are "The Disruption of the Indies" and "The Tears of the Indians" by fray Bartolomé de las Casas and "From Columbus to Castro" and "Documents on West Indian History" by Eric Williams.) Apparently again an author thinks that only Africans and indigenous (native) Americans have suffered horrendously in the past. They have, but they are not the only ones. But unfortunately some of the intellectuals (particularly those who have a voice through publications and other media) among them never can not and will not "forgive" and forget. Never forget, but note that you are not living in the past, you are living now. Where do you want to go? To yesterday, or to tomorrow? Alone? There are more people on this earth than African Americans and indigenous Americans. So probably together. Give it a try, it might surprise you.

Clarke, John Henrik
2000 Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust. Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism. A&B Publishers Group, Brooklyn, NY.

De Telegraaf
2013a VN-onderzoeker Shepherd niet bij intocht Sint. November 1, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24),
2013b Shepherd zegt af voor intocht Sinterklaas. November 8, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24), http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/22041846/__Shepherd_zegt_af__.html

Edmonds, Kevin
2013 The Other Side of Paradise: CARICOM Moves Forward with Reparations Committee. NACLA.org, August 8, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24), http://nacla.org/blog/2013/8/8/caricom-moves-forward-reparations-committee

Rosen, Steven M.
2008 The Self-Evolving Cosmos: A Phenomenological Approach to Nature's Unity-in-Diversity. World Scientific Publishing Co., New Jersey.

Shepherd, Verene
2011 Opening Remarks at the Roundtable II "Victims of Racism: Recognition, Justice, Development", September 22, 2011, the United Nations, New York, USA. United Nations website (accessed 2013-11-25),

The Gleaner
2013 CARICOM members sue former colonisers. The Gleaner, October 12, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24),
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131012/lead/lead1.html (also check out the comments posted to this news item; interesting divergency in opinion, within two extremes)

Thomas, Jomo
2013 Plain Talk: Dialogue, Consensus and Restitution. The Vincentian, (no date), (accessed 2013-11-24),

2013a Black Pete & Sinterklaas: UN experts encourage respectful national debate on Dutch tradition. November 21, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24). http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14013&LangID=E
(Here one can find links to a variety of other documents as well.)
2013b UN expert on contemporary forms of slavery launches first mission to Ghana. November 20, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24).
n.d. Country visits. (No date), (accessed 2013-11-25), http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/CountryVisits.aspx

UWI Newsroom
2013 Professor Shepherd Speaks at 10th UN Human Rights Council Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. March 29, 2011 (accessed 2013-11-24),

2010 Professor Verene Shepherd Appointed to UN Human Rights Council. (No date; accessed 2013-11-24), http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/marcom/uwinotebook/entry/3788#.UpIpsVPpwmQ

Voeten, Erik
2013 The Monkey Cage: Black Pete and the United Nations. The Washington Post, October 22, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-24), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2013/10/22/black-pete-and-the-united-nations/

My library includes the following books on slavery (the list is not exhaustive), covering most recent research on the subject and from different perspectives which form the base on which I based my very short summary of the circum-Atlantic slave trade system (my denomination) (the added texts are from a variety of sources, including reviews and the prefaces to the books):

The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southeastern Nigeria, 1885-1950 (Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora)
A. E. Afigbo
The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southeastern Nigeria, 1885-1950, is a history of the campaign waged by Great Britain in colonial Nigeria from approximately 1885 on, to abolish the internal slave trade in the Bight of Biafra and its hinterland, a region also known as Eastern Nigeria, Southeastern Nigeria, the Eastern Provinces, or the trans-Niger Provinces. It treats the internal slave trade and the war against it in this region and period as themes separate from the institution of slavery in the same area and the campaign to root it out generally known as emancipation. For this reason, and because slavery and the effort at emancipation have received more attention from scholars, this work concentrates entirely on that aspect of the slave trade and its fortunes under British colonial rule commonly known as abolition. In reconstructing the story of this important and protracted campaign, Adiele Afigbo sheds light on a dark corner of social history that has largely been neglected by historians. Adiele Afigbo is professor in the Department of History and International Relations at Ebonyi State University, Nigeria.

African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame
Anne C. Bailey
It's an awful story. It's an awful story. Why do you want to bring this up now?--Chief Awusa of Atorkor.
For centuries, the story of the Atlantic slave trade has been filtered through the eyes and records of white Europeans. In this watershed book, historian Anne C. Bailey focuses on memories of the trade from the African perspective. African chiefs and other elders in an area of southeastern Ghana-once famously called "the Old Slave Coast"-share stories that reveal that Africans were traders as well as victims of the trade. Bailey argues that, like victims of trauma, many African societies now experience a fragmented view of their past that partially explains the blanket of silence and shame around the slave trade. Capturing scores of oral histories that were handed down through generations, Bailey finds that, although Africans were not equal partners with Europeans, even their partial involvement in the slave trade had devastating consequences on their history and identity. In this unprecedented and revelatory book, Bailey explores the delicate and fragmented nature of historical memory.

The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader
Stephen Behrendt, A. J. H. Latham, and David Northrup
In his diary, Antera Duke (ca.1735-ca.1809) wrote the only surviving eyewitness account of the slave trade by an African merchant. A leader in late eighteenth-century Old Calabar, a cluster of Efik-speaking communities in the Cross River region, he resided in Duke Town, forty-five miles from the Atlantic Ocean in what is now southeast Nigeria. His diary, written in trade English from 1785 to 1788, is a candid account of daily life in an African community at the height of Calabar's overseas commerce. It provides valuable information on Old Calabar's economic activity both with other African businessmen and with European ship captains who arrived to trade for slaves, produce, and provisions. This new edition of Antera's diary, the first in fifty years, draws on the latest scholarship to place the diary in its historical context. Introductory essays set the stage for the Old Calabar of Antera Duke's lifetime, explore the range of trades, from slaves to produce, in which he rose to prominence, and follow Antera on trading missions across an extensive commercial hinterland. The essays trace the settlement and development of the towns that comprised Old Calabar and survey the community's social and political structure, rivalries among families, sacrifices of slaves, and witchcraft ordeals. This edition reproduces Antera's original trade-English diary with a translation into standard English on facing pages, along with extensive annotation. The editors draw on Antera's first language, Efik, to illuminate his diary. The Diary of Antera Duke furnishes a uniquely valuable source for the history of precolonial Nigeria and the Atlantic slave trade, and this new edition enriches our understanding of it.'

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
David Brion Davis
David Brion Davis has long been recognized as the leading authority on slavery in the Western World. His books have won every major history award--including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award--and he has been universally praised for his prodigious research, his brilliant analytical skill, and his rich and powerful prose. Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a lifetime of insight in what Stanley L. Engerman calls "a monumental and magisterial book, the essential work on New World slavery for several decades to come." Davis begins with the dramatic Amistad case, which vividly highlights the international character of the Atlantic slave trade and the roles of the American judiciary, the presidency, the media, and of both black and white abolitionists. The heart of the book looks at slavery in the American South, describing black slaveholding planters, the rise of the Cotton Kingdom, the daily life of ordinary slaves, the highly destructive internal, long-distance slave trade, the sexual exploitation of slaves, the emergence of an African-American culture, and much more. But though centered on the United States, the book offers a global perspective spanning four continents. It is the only study of American slavery that reaches back to ancient foundations (discussing the classical and biblical justifications for chattel bondage) and also traces the long evolution of anti-black racism (as in the writings of David Hume and Immanuel Kant, among many others). Equally important, it combines the subjects of slavery and abolitionism as very few books do, and it illuminates the meaning of nineteenth-century slave conspiracies and revolts, with a detailed comparison with 3 major revolts in the British Caribbean. It connects the actual life of slaves with the crucial place of slavery in American politics and stresses that slavery was integral to America's success as a nation--not a marginal enterprise. A definitive history by a writer deeply immersed in the subject, Inhuman Bondage offers a compelling narrative that links together the profits of slavery, the pain of the enslaved, and the legacy of racism. It is the ultimate portrait of the dark side of the American dream. Yet it offers an inspiring example as well--the story of how abolitionists, barely a fringe group in the 1770s, successfully fought, in the space of a hundred years, to defeat one of human history's greatest evils.

Writings on Empire and Slavery
Alexis de Tocqueville
After completing his research for Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville turned to the French consolidation of its empire in North Africa, which he believed deserving of similar attention. Tocqueville began studying Algerian history and culture, making two trips to Algeria in 1841 and 1846. He quickly became one of France's foremost experts on the country and wrote essays, articles, official letters, and parliamentary reports on such diverse topics as France's military and administrative policies in North Africa, the people of the Maghrib, his own travels in Algeria, and the practice of Islam. Throughout, Tocqueville consistently defended the French imperial project, a position that stands in tension with his admiration for the benefits of democracy he witnessed in America. Although Tocqueville never published a book-length study of French North Africa, his various writings on the subject provide as invaluable a portrait of French imperialism as Democracy in America does of the Early Republic period in American history. In Writings on Empire and Slavery, Jennifer Pitts has selected and translated nine of his most important dispatches on Algeria, which offer startling new insights into both Tocqueville's political thought and French liberalism's attitudes toward the political, military, and moral aspects of France's colonial expansion. The volume also includes six articles Tocqueville wrote during the same period calling for the emancipation of slaves in France's Caribbean colonies.

The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas
David Eltis
Exploring the paradox of the concurrent development of slavery and freedom in the European domains, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas provides a fresh interpretation of the development of the English Atlantic slave system. The book outlines a major African role in the evolution of the Atlantic societies before the nineteenth century and argues that the transatlantic slave trade was a result of African strength rather than African weakness. It also addresses changing patterns of group identity to account for the racial basis of slavery in the early modern Atlantic World.

The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717
Allan Gallay
This absorbing book is the first ever to focus on the traffic in Indian slaves during the early years of the American South. The Indian slave trade was of central importance from the Carolina coast to the Mississippi Valley for nearly fifty years, linking southern lives and creating a whirlwind of violence and profit-making, argues Alan Gallay. He documents in vivid detail how the trade operated, the processes by which Europeans and Native Americans became participants, and the profound consequences for the South and its peoples. The author places Native Americans at the center of the story of European colonization and the evolution of plantation slavery in America. He explores the impact of such contemporary forces as the African slave trade, the unification of England and Scotland, and the competition among European empires as well as political and religious divisions in England and in South Carolina. Gallay also analyzes how Native American societies approached warfare, diplomacy, and decisions about allying and trading with Europeans. His wide-ranging research not only illuminates a crucial crossroad of European and Native American history but also establishes a new context for understanding racism, colonialism, and the meaning of ethnicity in early America.

The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589 (African Studies)
Toby Green
The region between the river Senegal and Sierra Leone saw the first trans-Atlantic slave trade in the sixteenth century. Drawing on many new sources, Toby Green challenges current quantitative approaches to the history of the slave trade. New data on slave origins can show how and why Western African societies responded to Atlantic pressures. Green argues that answering these questions requires a cultural framework and uses the idea of creolization - the formation of mixed cultural communities in the era of plantation societies - to argue that preceding social patterns in both Africa and Europe were crucial. Major impacts of the sixteenth-century slave trade included political fragmentation, changes in identity, and the reorganization of ritual and social patterns. The book shows which peoples were enslaved, why they were vulnerable, and the consequences in Africa and beyond.

The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom
Steven Hahn
Pulitzer Prize–winner Steven Hahn’s provocative new book challenges deep-rooted views in the writing of American and African-American history. Moving from slave emancipations of the eighteenth century through slave activity during the Civil War and on to the black power movements of the twentieth century, he asks us to rethink African-American history and politics in bolder, more dynamic terms. Historians have offered important new perspectives and evidence concerning the geographical expanse of slavery in the United States and the protracted process of abolishing it. They have also uncovered a wealth of new material on the political currents running through black communities from enslavement to the present day. Yet their scholarship has failed to dislodge familiar interpretive frameworks that may no longer make much sense of the past. Based on the Nathan I. Huggins Lectures at Harvard University, The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom asks why this may be so and offers sweeping reassessments. It defines new chronological and spatial boundaries for American and African-American politics during the first half of the nineteenth century. It suggests, with historical comparisons, that we may have missed a massive slave rebellion during the Civil War. And it takes a serious look at the development and appeal of Garveyism and the hidden history of black politics it may help to reveal. Throughout, it presents African Americans as central actors in the arenas of American politics, while emphasizing traditions of self-determination, self-governance, and self-defense among them.

The Deepest South: The United States, Brazil, and the African Slave Trade
Gerald Horne
During its heyday in the nineteenth century, the African slave trade was fueled by the close relationship of the United States and Brazil. The Deepest South tells the disturbing story of how U.S. nationals - before and after Emancipation -- continued to actively participate in this odious commerce by creating diplomatic, social, and political ties with Brazil, which today has the largest population of African origin outside of Africa itself.
Proslavery Americans began to accelerate their presence in Brazil in the 1830s, creating alliances there—sometimes friendly, often contentious—with Portuguese, Spanish, British, and other foreign slave traders to buy, sell, and transport African slaves, particularly from the eastern shores of that beleaguered continent. Spokesmen of the Slave South drew up ambitious plans to seize the Amazon and develop this region by deporting the enslaved African-Americans there to toil. When the South seceded from the Union, it received significant support from Brazil, which correctly assumed that a Confederate defeat would be a mortal blow to slavery south of the border. After the Civil War, many Confederates, with slaves in tow, sought refuge as well as the survival of their peculiar institution in Brazil.
Based on extensive research from archives on five continents, Gerald Horne breaks startling new ground in the history of slavery, uncovering its global dimensions and the degrees to which its defenders went to maintain it.

The Chattel Principle: Internal Slave Trades in the Americas
Walter Johnson
This wide-ranging book presents the first comprehensive and comparative account of the slave trade within the nations and colonial systems of the Americas. While most scholarly attention to slavery in the Americas has concentrated on international transatlantic trade, the essays in this volume focus on the slave trades within Brazil, the West Indies, and the Southern states of the United States after the closing of the Atlantic slave trade. The contributors cast new light upon questions that have framed the study of slavery in the Americas for decades. The book investigates such topics as the illegal slave trade in Cuba, the Creole slave revolt in the U.S., and the debate between pro- and antislavery factions over the interstate slave trade in the South. Together, the authors offer fresh and provocative insights into the interrelations of capitalism, sovereignty, and slavery. Walter Johnson is associate professor of American Studies and History, New York University. He is the author of Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market.

From Slave Trade to 'Legitimate' Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth-Century West Africa (African Studies)
Robin Law
This edited collection, written by leading specialists, deals with nineteenth-century commercial transition in West Africa: the ending of the Atlantic slave trade and development of alternative forms of "legitimate" trade. Approaching the subject from an African perspective, the case studies consider the effects of transition on the African societies involved, and provide new insights into the history of precolonial Africa and the slave trade, origins of European imperialism, and longer term issues of economic development in Africa.

Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry
Bernard Lewis
From before the days of Moses up through the 1960s, slavery was a fact of life in the Middle East. Pagans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims bought and sold at the slave markets for millennia, trading the human plunder of wars and slave raids that reached from the Russian steppes to the African jungles. But if the Middle East was one of the last regions to renounce slavery, how do we account for its--and especially Islam's--image of racial harmony? How did these long years of slavery affect racial relations? In Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Bernard Lewis explores these questions and others, examining the history of slavery in law, social thought, and practice over the last two millenia.
With 24 rare and intriguing full-color illustrations, this fascinating study describes the Middle East's culture of slavery and the evolution of racial prejudice. Lewis demonstrates how nineteenth century Europeans mythologized the region as a racial utopia in debating American slavery. Islam, in fact, clearly teaches non-discrimination, but Lewis shows that prejudice often won out over pious sentiments, as he examines how Africans were treated, depicted, and thought of from antiquity to the twentieth century.
"If my color were pink, women would love me. But the Lord has marred me with blackness," lamented a black slave poet in Arabia over a millennium ago--and Lewis deftly draws from these lines and others the nuances of racial relations over time. Islam, he finds, restricted enslavement and greatly improved the lot of slaves--who included, until the early twentieth century, some whites--while blacks occasionally rose to power and renown. But abuses ring throughout the written and visual record, from the horrors of capture to the castration and high mortality which, along with other causes, have left few blacks in many Middle Eastern lands, despite centuries of importing African slaves.
Race and Slavery in the Middle East illuminates the legacy of slavery in the region where it lasted longest, from the days of warrior slaves and palace eunuchs and concubines to the final drive for abolition. Illustrated with outstanding reproductions of striking artwork, it casts a new light on this critical part of the world, and on the nature and interrelation of slavery and racial prejudice.

Slavery and emancipation in Islamic East Africa: from honor to respectability
Elisabeth McMahon
Examining the process of abolition on the island of Pemba off the East African coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this book demonstrates the links between emancipation and the redefinition of honour among all classes of people on the island. By examining the social vulnerability of ex-slaves and the former slave-owning elite caused by the abolition order of 1897, this study argues that moments of resistance on Pemba reflected an effort to mitigate vulnerability rather than resist the hegemonic power of elites or the colonial state. As the meaning of the Swahili word heshima shifted from honour to respectability, individuals' reputations came under scrutiny and the Islamic kadhi and colonial courts became an integral location for interrogating reputations in the community. This study illustrates the ways in which former slaves used piety, reputation, gossip, education, kinship and witchcraft to negotiate the gap between emancipation and local notions of belonging.
• This is the first monograph on Pemba Island to be published in 99 years
• Has rich detail in stories of many ex-slaves that have not been written about before
• The last chapter examines a form of witchcraft that differs from most of the forms found in mainland Africa.

The Slave Trade and Culture in the Bight of Biafra: An African Society in the Atlantic World
G. Ugo Nwokeji
The Slave Trade and Culture in the Bight of Biafra dissects and explains the structure, dramatic expansion, and manifold effects of the slave trade in the Bight of Biafra. By showing that the rise of the Aro merchant group was the key factor in trade expansion, G. Ugo Nwokeji reinterprets why and how such large-scale commerce developed in the absence of large-scale centralized states. The result is the first study to link the structure and trajectory of the slave trade in a major exporting region to the expansion of a specific African merchant group - among other fresh insights into Atlantic Africa's involvement in the trade - and the most comprehensive treatment of Atlantic slave trade in the Bight of Biafra. The fundamental role of culture in the organization of trade is highlighted, transcending the usual economic explanations in a way that complicates traditional generalizations about work, domestic slavery, and gender in pre-colonial Africa.

Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study
Orlando Patterson
This is the first full-scale comparative study of the nature of slavery. In a work of prodigious scholarship and enormous breadth, which draws on the tribal, ancient, premodern, and modern worlds, Orlando Patterson discusses the internal dynamics of slavery in sixty-six societies over time. These include Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, China, Korea, the Islamic kingdoms, Africa, the Caribbean islands, and the American South. Slavery is shown to be a parasitic relationship between master and slave, invariably entailing the violent domination of a natally alienated, or socially dead, person. The phenomenon of slavery as an institution, the author argues, is a single process of recruitment, incorporation on the margin of society, and eventual manumission or death. Distinctions abound in this work. Beyond the reconceptualization of the basic master-slave relationship and the redefinition of slavery as an institution with universal attributes, Patterson rejects the legalistic Roman concept that places the "slave as property" at the core of the system. Rather, he emphasizes the centrality of sociological, symbolic, and ideological factors interwoven within the slavery system. Along the whole continuum of slavery, the cultural milieu is stressed, as well as political and psychological elements. Materialistic and racial factors are deemphasized. The author is thus able, for example, to deal with "elite" slaves, or even eunuchs, in the same framework of understanding as fieldhands.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A History, Revised Edition
James A. Rawley, with Stephen D. Behrendt
The transatlantic slave trade played a major role in the development of the modern world. It both gave birth to and resulted from the shift from feudalism into the European Commercial Revolution. James A. Rawley fills a scholarly gap in the historical discussion of the slave trade from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century by providing one volume covering the economics, demography, epidemiology, and politics of the trade. This revised edition of Rawley’s classic, produced with the assistance of Stephen D. Behrendt, includes emended text to reflect the major changes in historiography

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Walter Rodney
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is the textual account of the economic depreciation of Africa. The work commences with a definition of the term underdevelopment. Rodney’s refinement of the term is essential to comprehending the strategy of devaluation. Rodney also does not descend into the 'blame game' by charging one single party. Slavery commenced as a purely economic enterprise…devoid of racial implications. Yet, when one party is constantly placed in the position of power and another party is constantly in a position of subjugation … perceptions evolve and the roles become psychologically entrenched, forever.

Debating the Slave Trade (Ashgate Series in Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Studies)
Srividhya Swaminathan
How did the arguments developed in the debate to abolish the slave trade help to construct a British national identity and character in the late eighteenth century? Srividhya Swaminathan examines books, pamphlets, and literary works to trace the changes in rhetorical strategies utilized by both sides of the abolitionist debate. Framing them as competing narratives engaged in defining the nature of the Briton, Swaminathan reads the arguments of pro- and anti-abolitionists as a series of dialogs among diverse groups at the center and peripheries of the empire. Arguing that neither side emerged triumphant, Swaminathan suggests that the Briton who emerged from these debates represented a synthesis of arguments, and that the debates to abolish the slave trade are marked by rhetorical transformations defining the image of the Briton as one that led naturally to nineteenth-century imperialism and a sense of global superiority. Because the slave-trade debates were waged openly in print rather than behind the closed doors of Parliament, they exerted a singular influence on the British public. At their height, between 1788 and 1793, publications numbered in the hundreds, spanned every genre, and circulated throughout the empire. Among the voices represented are writers from both sides of the Atlantic in dialog with one another, such as key African authors like Ignatius Sancho, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano.

Capitalism and Slavery
Eric Williams
1944 (archive.org)
1994 (with new introduction by Palmer)
Slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected with the slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide. Eric Williams advanced these powerful ideas in Capitalism and Slavery, published in 1944. Years ahead of its time, his profound critique became the foundation for studies of imperialism and economic development. Binding an economic view of history with strong moral argument, Williams's study of the role of slavery in financing the Industrial Revolution refuted traditional ideas of economic and moral progress and firmly established the centrality of the African slave trade in European economic development. He also showed that mature industrial capitalism in turn helped destroy the slave system. Establishing the exploitation of commercial capitalism and its link to racial attitudes, Williams employed a historicist vision that set the tone for future studies. In a new introduction, Colin Palmer assesses the lasting impact of Williams' groundbreaking work and analyzes the heated scholarly debates it generated when it first appeared.

Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, 1: Islam and the Ideology of Enslavement
Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, 2: The Servile State
John Ralph Willis
1985 (reprint, 2005)
Slavery in Islamic Africahas been a fascinating subject to which many scholars have referred, but of which no detailed monograph has emerged. If the subject of Islamic slavery in Africa has failed to arouse the interest which has attended the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the New World, it must be said that it compares with the latter in scale and scope, and outdistances the more popular subject in its length of duration. Indeed, so pervasive is the subject of slavery in African societies, that one cannot appreciate fully the social, economic orpolitical dimensions of the African past and present without some reference to it. Moreover, slaves of African origin formed a vital thread in the living lines of economic production in the Near and Middle East and formed the cord of economic activity in Islamic Africa itself. Slaves sustained the salt pits and date palms of desert societies; they worked the spice plantations of the East African littoral—became the porters and placemen in the trans-Saharan trade; and they constituted the entourage—the veritable wealth and currency—of the notables of Islamic societies. (from the Preface)

The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade
John Wright
This compelling text sheds light on the important but under studied trans-Saharan slave trade. The author uncovers and surveys this, the least-noticed of the slave trades out of Africa, which from the seventh to the twentieth centuries quielty delievered almost as many black Africans into foreign servitude as did the far busier, but much briefer Atlantic and East African trades.
Illuminating for the first time a significant, but ignored subject, the book supports and widens current scholarly examination of Africans' essential role in the enslavement of fellow-Africans and their delivery to internal, Atlantic or trans-Saharan markets.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


For Verene Shepherd and the United Nations and those who want to know about the nature and origin of Black Pete within the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in the Netherlands (and beyond). This is a research blog written and edited by a Dutch cultural anthropologist (Ph.D.; my specialism includes sociopolitical organization, mythology, epigraphy, iconography, with close to 30 years experience within the area of ancient Mesoamerica). This blog will address the who, what, where, when, and why of Black Pete and the feast of Sinterklaas, not just from the perspective of the Netherlands, but from a pan-European perspective, ultimately covering nearly some 2000 years of history (and perhaps even more).
Blog Entry 1 (2013-10-26):
Dear Verene Shepherd

A couple of days ago the Dutch news was taken over by an affair, an affair involving Black Pete. With great amazement I have followed the discussions on TV, the petition ("Piet-ition") on Facebook (2 million likes within two days in favor of the Black Pete tradition, October 22-24, 2013), the news articles in papers and weekly journals, not just in Holland, but world wide.

It is to you and the international organization named United Nations that I dedicate this blog. Based on what I have read, I understand that you do not know what Black Pete is all about. You even played judge, jury, and executioner to "order" the Sinterklaasfeest (the feast of Saint Nicholas) and Black Pete to be abolished.

This blog will be my Sinterklaas gift to you. This blog will carry all information I can find on Black Pete, his origins and his current prominence in the Sinterklaas feast. My research starts with a simple question: Who is Black Pete? I am Dutch, and the Sinterklaas feest is part of my cultural heritage. Now I want to know all what is to know about Saint Nicholas and Black Pete.

Why this gift, or present if you will. If a person is over a certain age, the gift is not received from Saint Nicholas and Pete (note that "Black" is not always the adjective that preceeds the name Pete), but the gift she or he receives is accompanied by a poem and presented through family and/or friends. (The "poem" part of this tradition will be explored as well.) The assistant to the assistant to the assistant of the Rhyme Pete send me the following poem (also part of Dutch tradition). First in Dutch, after that in the English translation:

"Pas sinds kort denken Sint en Piet
over een kado, voor Verene Shepherd.
Zij, waarvan de naam in het Grote Boek staat,
spreekt woorden
over intolerantie en slavernij,
en gaat helemaal voorbij
aan wat ons feest eigenlijk betekent,
voor jonge kinderen, jong volwassenen, en zelfs ouderen.
Een traditie van vele, vele eeuwen,
die wil zij bij het afval zetten.
Nou, dat moet ze toch maar eens op dit blog gaan letten.
Want dat wordt haar kado,
een educatie over
Sint en Piet, ons feest, toen, nu, en voor altijd.
Educatieve woorden, daar zijn wij altijd toe bereid.
Een verhaal over Odin, Wodan, Vader Tijd,
over de Duivel, Zwarte Raven, Sinterklaas,
en een Spaanse Moor.
Wie weet vinden zij nu eindelijk bij haar gehoor."

Probably not the best rhyme he ever produced, but it covers all what this blog is about. In English:

"Since a couple of days do Saint Nicholas and Pete
think about a gift for Verene Shepherd.
She, whose name is found in the Big Book, speak words
of intolerance and slavery,
but completely ignors
what our feast is about and means
for young children, adults, and even the elderly.
A tradition of many, many centuries,
that is what she wants to eradicate.
Well, she may now pay some attention to this blog,
because that will be our gift,
on Saint and Pete this blog will educate,
on our feast, then, now, and for eternity.
Educational words, those we are always prepared to provide.
A story about Odin, Wodan, Father Time,
about the Devil, Black Ravens, a Saint, and a Spanish Moor.
Maybe now by her they will be heard."

And so this blog begins. This blog will be a long and in-depth journey into the history of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and Black Pete (Zwarte Piet).

As the word slavery has been used in so many of the recent TV debats and news articles, I do want to present the following. Recently Jovejoy (2011, in Gad Heuman and Trevor Burnard, editors, "The Routledge history of slavery") defined slavery in Africa and elsewhere in the following way: "Slavery is a form of exploitation, whether in Africa or elsewhere, historically or in contemporary times. Its definition derives from the idea that slaves are property, and that slaves are outsiders who are alien by origin or who could be denied their heritage through judicial or other sanctions. With slaves, coercion could be used at will, and their labor power was at the complete disposal of the master. They did not have the right to their own sexuality or, by extension, to their own reproductive capacities and gender options. Enslaved women separated from their children and eunuchs are examples of this complete subordination. Slave status was inherited unless provision was made to ameliorate that status. Slavery was fundamentally a means of denying outsiders the rights and privileges of a particular society so that they could be exploited for economic, political, and/or social purposes."
He adds:
"Historically, slavery has to be viewed as a common theme in the history of not only Africa, but virtually everywhere, always in historical context and never as a generalized and timeless concept applied to different historical situations. This approach is essential in examining the history of slavery in Africa and the dispersal of enslaved Africans within Africa, as well as to the Mediterranean via the Sahara, to Asia by caravans or across the Indian Ocean, and to the Americas and the “Middle Passage” of the Atlantic. The enslavement of people was intimately associated with the trade in slaves. Africa “produced” slaves, traded them and consumed its own people. The academic discussion of this theme in history has now become a major area of research, transcending older scholarship that ignored the issue, or treated slavery as an anachronism, or was dismissed by a colonial perspective that considered “African slavery” benign. Moreover, scholars have been encouraged to treat African slavery within wider contexts. It is now widely recognized, for example, that to study slavery in Africa is a way of showing that African history is not only the history of the continent, but also that of the regions where enslaved Africans were taken."
Much in the whole Black Pete debate is based on poor research, speculation, and playing the blame game. As a colleague recently wrote (on a completely different subject), and I can not put it in better words, "the danger in speculating, rather than letting the facts remain pregnant with tacit possibility, is that ideas enter the public consciousness, and over a period of time their speculative origin is forgotten and they are taken as fact." How to the point is that in this case.

Through this blog I hope to introduce and discuss all the myths surrounding the Saint Nicholas and Black Pete feast. The characters that will pass by include Black Pete, Rainbow Pete, Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, Schmutzli, Père Fouettard, Devils, the Black Ravens Huginn and Muninn, Yule Lads, Hoesecker, and Elves. Also, and of no less importance, Odin, Wodan, Father Time, Saint Nicholas, Sankt Nicolaus, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus. And when space and time are willing also Saturn, Chronos, Cronus, Thor, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, the Grim Reaper, the Yule Goat, and Tomten.

But back to the Netherlands and the origin of Black Pete. A source that has been mentioned many times in recent years on the origin of Black Pete is a small booklet published in (most probably) 1850, a booklet which many take as the beginning of the Sinterklaas and Black Pete tradition. Is that really the case? Only that booklet can tell us.

Blog Entry 2 (2013-10-26):
St. Nikolaas en zijn knecht - "Saint Nicholas and his Servant"

Author: Jan Schenkman, G. Theod. Bom, Amsterdam. Published without a date indication, reconstructed as 1850.
Online edition (not all pages are reproduced): http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/sche039stni01_01/

This booklet contains pairings of short poems and drawings. It seems to be, at present, the first publication in which Black Pete can be found. However, this name occurs nowhere in this booklet. The drawings and the rhymes do provide tentalizing details. The second poem and drawing (poem in original Dutch, followed by my translation into English [which is as literal as possible, and does not seek to imitate the original 19th century Dutch rhyme format]):

Dutch: Plegtige intogt van Sint Nikolaas.
 Daar rijdt hij de stad door,
 Op 't prachtigst gekleed;
 Zijn knecht draagt de geldkist
 O, zie hoe hij zweet.
 Het regent er bloemen,
 Elk jubelt en juicht,
 Terwijl zich Sint Niklaas
 Op 't vriendelijkst buigt.
 Één echter verschuilt zich,
 En tracht hem te ontvliên,
 't Is Willem, een domoor,
 Maar 't wordt ras gezien.

Translation: Solemn Entry of Saint Nicholas.
 "There he rides through town,
 Dressed at his most splendid;
 His servant carries the money box
 Oh, see how he sweats.
 It rains flowers,
 All jubilate and cheer,
 While Saint Nicholas
 Bows in his most friendly manner.
 One however hides,
 And tries to escape,
 It is William, the fool,
 But it has been seen."

Comments: The illustrations shows Sinterklaas, a bearded old man and dressed in his best fineries, riding his horse. He is accompanied by a "knecht"; this knecht is not given a name in this poem, he just is referred to as "knecht."
The Dutch word "knecht" can be found in Old Dutch as kneght ‘krijger (warrior), soldaat (soldier)’ (ca. 1100). In Middle Dutch (ca. 1200-1500) knegt (mostly written as knecht) can be defined as ‘dienaar (servant); horige (serf), leenman (vassal); slaaf (slave)’.
The word knecht can be connected to Old Saxonian kneht; Old High German kneht (New High German Knecht); East Frisian kniucht, knecht; Old English (pre-1000) cniht, cnieht (New English knight); all mean 'jongeman (young man), dienaar (servant), leerling (pupil)’, in Old English/New English the word also means ‘soldaat (soldier), ridder (knight)’.
(All entries after Nicoline van der Sijs, compiler, 2010, Etymologiebank, at http://etymologiebank.nl/, entry knecht.)

One entry for knegt contains the definition "slave". This definition of knecht as "slave" occurs only (as far as the presently available sources show) within Middle Dutch (ca. 1200-1500), spoken during the Late or High Middle Ages when the sociopolitical landscape in (most of) Europe and the Netherlands was still defined by the feodal system. As the word knecht is not defined as "slave" after this period, the word knecht can thus be defined as "dienaar (servant)."

Within the poem also note that the servant (knecht) is said to carry the money box, a phrase followed by the expression "Oh see how he sweats." I would call this a clear case of empathy by the writer for the servant, not one of disdain for a supposed slave.

The next poem reads:

Dutch: St. Nikolaas houdt Boek.
 Sint Niklaas, de Bisschop,
 Schrijft hier in zijn boek,
 Al wat hij gehoord heeft
 Bij 't jaarlijksch bezoek.
 Wie zoet was of stout was,
 Hij voegt het er bij;
 Wat zou hij wel schrijven
 Van u en van mij? -
 O, vraag het zijn knecht eens,
 Die maakt toch dit jaar,
 Voor al, wie niet stout was,
 De zakjes weèr klaar.

Translation: Saint Nicholas keeps His Book.
 Saint Nicholas, the Bishop,
 Writes here in his boek,
 All that he has heard
 At his yearly visit.
 Who was good or was bad,
 He includes it all;
 What would he be writing
 About you or me? -
 Oh, ask this his servant,
 Who certainly this year,
 For all, who have not been bad,
 Prepares the small bags.

Comments: Again, the poem only refers to the servant as "knecht". He is introduced in line 9, he is the one who can be asked what would have been written in the book. One could ask a very simple question: Ask a slave? Or perhaps, at the same time, ask a servant? One of the next poems in the booklet provides even more pertinent detail on the servant.

Dutch: St. Nikolaas op Strooiavond.
 Het leeft in den schoorsteen,
 Hoor, hoor dat geraas!
 Hoe rollen hier de app'len,
 't Is vast Sint Niklaas!
 Maar neen... 't Is zijn knechtje,
 Dat zwart is van kleur;
 Want ginds staat de Bisschop,
 Voor de opene deur.
 Zing spoedig een liedje,
 Zie, zie, hoe hij gooit!
 Hoe harder wij zingen,
 Hoe ruimer hij strooit.

Translation: Saint Nicholas on "Scatter-Around" Evening
 The chimney is alive,
 Hear, hear that noise!
 How do the apples roll,
 It must be Saint Nicholas!
 But no ... It is his little servant,
 Who's black of color;
 Because overthere is the Bishop,
 In front of the opened door.
 Sing a song soon,
 See, see how he throws!
 The louder we song,
 The more he scatters.

Comments: The first line reads "The chimney is alive", and all think it is Saint Nicholas. Lines 5 and 6 make it clear that it his servant. The servant is referred to as knechtje; this is the diminutive form of knecht. Does this mean that he is of small stature? Being of small stature would be a (logical?) prerequisite to make those rolling sounds in the chimney. Even more, the first line "The chimney is alive" thus connects to "But no ... It is his little servant, Who's black of color." The chimney, the little servant, and the color black seem to be in direct association. Would it thus be possible to (preliminarily and tentatively) conclude that the little servant, because he is of small stature, does fit into the chimney, which gives him the black color?

More on these poems at a time in the near future (I will be in Belgium for the period October 27 - November 3, 2013)

Blog Entry 3:
Saint Nicholas and his companion in 1828

[To be added]

Blog Entry 4:
Het Sinterklaasfeest (Saint Nicholas feast), painting by Jan Steen (ca. 1665-1668)

[To be added]

To be continued.