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Afro-curator, womanist, media studies student, pop culture enthusiast, aspiring journalist, curious amateur photographer, social media guru.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa
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(since Oct. 21st 2012)
TW: RapePhoto of the statement of Celia to the Justice of the Peace, June 25, 1855
Celia, A Slave.
There is no known history for Celia before she was purchased at a slave auction by Robert Newsom in 1850. Newsom’s wife had died the previous year, and he had seemingly purchased 14 year old Celia as domestic help for his two daughters.
On the way home from the slave auction, Newsom (who was 70) raped her. And, he raped her repeatedly after that.
He made her convenient for his pleasure and put her in a small cabin about sixty feet behind the “big house.” He made countless, probably hundreds of trips to her cabin to use her for his sexual gratification.
As the years passed, Celia became pregnant twice and had two children by Robert Newsom. They also became his property and he never acknowledged them as his children. Arrangements like this were quite common in those days. They were never spoken of and any offspring were not considered children but chattel to add to the master’s wealth.
Celia became pregnant for a 3rd time in 1855. This pregnancy was particularly difficult for Celia and she was sick for at least four months.
According to court testimony, Celia had told Newsom that she would hurt him if he raped her while she was still sick.
Despite her warning, he came into her cabin on the evening of June 23, 1855 to rape her.
Celia had prepared to protect herself and had set a stick in a corner…When Celia heard Newsom approaching, she put more wood on the fire to create more light in the dark cabin.
Robert Newsom entered the cabin and drew close to Celia. He was speaking to her and leaned over her. Celia struck him with the stick. She later said that he never lifted a hand to protect himself but sank down on a stool then threw up his hands. Celia thought Newsom was trying to hit her so she swung the stick again. Both blows hit him in the face. Robert Newsom was dead.
Newsom lay dead on Celia’s floor an hour before she figured out what to do. She decided to burn the body.
After Newsom’s family realized he was to be missing, the trail of investigation eventually led to Celia, who eventually confessed and said that she only meant to harm, not kill Newsom. She was charged with first degree murder.
On the morning of June 25, 1855, the case of State of Missouri v Celia, a Slave began.
At some point during the trial, Celia gave birth to a stillborn baby.
In Missouri, at this time, the law stated that it was unlawful for a man to force sex upon “any woman.” The law also provided that if a woman killed a man who was trying to rape her, that would be considered a legitimate act of self-defense, not a crime. Celia’s lawyer used the law as it was written on the books. He argued that because the law protected “any woman” in this situation, the legislators must have meant to protect slave women too. The judge disagreed. Because Celia was a slave, that statute could not apply to her: she was not included in the phrase “any woman.” A slave woman had no rights over her body and could not legally resist her master’s sexual assaults.
On October 10, 1855, Celia was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang on November 16th.
Four small, white passenger planes sit outside a hangar here under a blazing sun, with no exterior markings save for U.S. registration numbers painted on the tails. A few burly men wearing aviator sunglasses and short haircuts poke silently around the wing flaps and landing gear.
The aircraft are Pilatus PC-12s, turboprops favored by the U.S. Special Operations forces for stealth missions precisely because of their nondescript appearance. There is no hint that they are carrying high-tech sensors and cameras that can film man-size targets from 10 miles away.
To further disguise the mission, the U.S. military has taken another unusual step: It has largely outsourced the spying operation to private contractors. The contractors supply the aircraft as well as the pilots, mechanics and other personnel to help process electronic intelligence collected from the airspace over Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
In October, President Obama sent about 100 elite U.S. troops to central Africa to scour the terrain for Joseph Kony, the messianic and brutal leader of a Ugandan rebel group. But American contractors have been secretly searching for Kony from the skies long before that, at least since 2009, under a project code-named Tusker Sand, according to documents and people familiar with the operation.
The previously unreported practice of hiring private companies to spy on huge expanses of African territory — in this region and in North Africa, where a similar surveillance program is aimed at an al-Qaeda affiliate — has been a cornerstone of the U.S. military’s secret activities on the continent. Unlike uniformed troops, plainclothes contractors are less likely to draw attention.
But because the arms-length arrangement exists outside traditional channels, there is virtually no public scrutiny or oversight. And if something goes wrong, the U.S. government and its partners acknowledge that the contractors are largely on their own.
U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent, declined to discuss specific missions or its reasons for outsourcing the gathering of intelligence.
In response to written questions from The Washington Post, the command stated that contractors would not get special treatment in case of a mishap. Instead, they “would be provided the same assistance that any U.S. citizen would be provided by the U.S. Government should they be in danger.”
Perils of the job
There is precedent for the use of contractors in spying operations. The military hired private firms to conduct airborne surveillance in Latin America in the 1990s and early 2000s, with sometimes-disastrous results.
In 2003, for instance, one American was killed and three others were taken hostage by Colombian insurgents after their plane crashed in the jungle. The contractors, who were working for Northrop Grumman on a Defense Department counter-narcotics program, endured five years of captivity before they were freed in a raid by Colombian police.
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