Time Essay: Living with the 'Peculiar Institution'

In his novel Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy imagines the Lord leading white people to North America and bestowing that Eden on them with only one strange injunction: There are some people in a place called Africa. Be careful that you don't enslave them. Otherwise ... But one day in 1619, a Dutch frigate landed at Jamestown, Va., and traded 20 black Africans for food and supplies. That was the beginning.

If slavery was America's original sin. Roots, for all its soap opera, sex and violence, seems to have had a certain expiatory effect....

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!