Why I Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit
: "Anger shot up my body like a hot thermometer. Face flushed, I walked to the Mammy sphinx. Couples posed in front of it, smiling as others took their photos. So here it was, an artwork about how Black people’s pain was transformed into money was a tourist attraction for them... Something snapped... I yelled that this was our history and that many of us were angry and sad that it was a site of pornographic jokes." [more inside]
posted by flex
on Jul 2, 2014 -
The enigma of Mona Lisa's smile? Who cares? The mystery of Dido Belle is much more intriguing. The double portrait Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, once attributed to Johann Zoffany and now hanging in Scone Palace in Perth, depicts two elegant 18th-century women in silks and pearls at Kenwood House in London. Beyond them, you can just glimpse St Paul's and the rest of the Georgian cityscape. Nothing unusual about any of that, but for one detail – Dido is mixed race.
Belle is about slavery and follows on the heels of Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. An impossible act to follow, you might suppose. Yet the two films could hardly be more different. "I wouldn't want audiences to come to Belle and think they were about to see '12 Years a Slave Mark 2'," Asante says. Based in Britain and rooted in fact, Belle is an extraordinary story, she tells me: Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the daughter of John Lindsay, a British admiral, and an African slave. She grew up in Kenwood House, Hampstead, under the guardianship of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield.
One delicately speculative Guardian article about a painting and its context leads to a fascinating portait of a Ghanaian/British filmmaker and the circumstances that formed her. Asante has always had an "extra eye" and sees herself as an insider and outsider (all directors, she believes, need to be emotionally ambidextrous).
posted by glasseyes
on May 28, 2014 -
"To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte." Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation both de jure
and de facto
--Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Case for Reparations
posted by ilicet
on May 21, 2014 -
The blog US Slave
collects long-form articles on every aspect of the history of slavery, primarily focussing on African slaves in the USA and their descendents. Among the content there is this biography of Ota Benga
, the Congolese Pygmy man who was put on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, and several posts about Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman
, the so-called Hottentot Venus. [more inside]
posted by daisyk
on Mar 15, 2013 -
In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
, Douglass wrote of his early days in New York City after his escape from slavery:
Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. DAVID RUGGLES. [...] Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable Darg case, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in on almost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his enemies. [more inside]
posted by Zed
on Aug 9, 2012 -
The ‘white’ slave children of New Orleans
: Almost immediately after the law came into practice, Northerners and abolitionists set up relief organisations, which battled to establish schools and provide other forms of support – but their resources were limited. They soon discovered it was near-impossible to find sympathy and support in a war-torn and racially-prejudiced county.
posted by nickyskye
on Mar 4, 2012 -
How Slavery Really Ended in America On May 23, 1861, little more than a month into the Civil War, three young black men rowed across the James River in Virginia and claimed asylum in a Union-held citadel.... [T]the laws of the United States were clear: all fugitives must be returned to their masters. The founding fathers enshrined this in the Constitution; Congress reinforced it in 1850 with the Fugitive Slave Act; and it was still the law of the land — including, as far as the federal government was concerned, within the so-called Confederate states. The war had done nothing to change it. Most important, noninterference with slavery was the very cornerstone of the Union’s war policy. President Abraham Lincoln had begun his inaugural address by making this clear, pointedly and repeatedly. “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists,” the president said. “I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” [more inside]
posted by caddis
on Apr 2, 2011 -
The old lady always called me her boy... and she kept me in her room from the time that I was born until her death, then willed me to her son Samuel. When she was dying she called me to her bedside... Taking my hand in hers she told me to be a good boy and stay with Samuel. To Samuel she said, "Keep my boy as long as you live to remember me by." Larry Lapsley
began life as someone else's property, but he managed to break free from his mistress' dying wish by way of a remarkable journey that would lead him to becoming the first black homesteader in Saline County, Kansas: When I came to Salina I was twenty-five years old and was without schooling. I had never gone to school a day in my life and I haven't any education yet but there is one thing I have, a good home and plenty of friends. [more inside]
posted by amyms
on Sep 18, 2010 -
In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, Col. P. H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, asking him to return to work for him. In reply, Jourdon Anderson told Colonel Anderson exactly where he could stick his offer
. This letter was part of The Freedmen's Book (full download in many different formats
) which was distributed to those freed after and during the Civil War, so that they would know stories of other freedmen who had done well, including Touissant L'Ouverture, Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass. The book was put together and published by Lydia Maria Child, abolitionist, women's rights activist, Indian rights campaigner and all around awesome person. She became famous in her own time for her cookbook The Frugal Housewife
, but today her best known work is Over the River and Through the Woods. The Freedmen's Book was part of an effort by abolitionists after the war to educate freed slaves. The American Antiquarian Society has a great website about that movement, Northern Visions of Race, Region and Reform
, which has plenty of primary sources
and images galore.
posted by Kattullus
on Apr 22, 2010 -
"If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away." Audio recordings from interviews with former slaves
, conducted by WPA folklorists and others, including the Lomaxes and Zora Neale Hurston. Only these twenty-six
audio recordings of people formerly enslaved in the antebellum American South have ever been found.
posted by Miko
on Feb 7, 2010 -
Reenacting slavery at Chickamauga National Military Park.
When a reenactor put his knapsack on the ground, the person portraying his slave picked up his knapsack and "moved it before I could say a word. I instantly knew that I had an opportunity to demonstrate the institution's cruelty here, and so I did not acknowledge his act, did not thank him for it, did not make eye contact, did not stop my talk. My own cruelty -- even to make a teaching point to the audience -- made me shudder inside." [more inside]
posted by marxchivist
on Sep 24, 2008 -
] History museums are a repository for public memory, but also a nation's mirrors, reflecting self-image. When our views of history shift, museums that fail to change are likely to fail in general. Today's Washington Post reports on the struggle and decline of the Museum of the Confederacy
, contrasting it with the American Civil War Center
, nearby geographically, worlds away in philosophy.
posted by Miko
on Apr 4, 2007 -
"In slavery times the negroes were sold to the white people."
In their simple and plain language, elementary school students describe the horrors of slavery as related by their grandparents. The Greensboro Historical Museum has an online exhibit
of the interviews. Another quote
: "He said that the white men would whip them and sometimes hung men and women when they were mad with them or if the slaves tried to run away." The handwriting is kind of hard to read on some of these, but worth it.
posted by marxchivist
on Aug 17, 2005 -
"I am an American, so that is why I make films about America.
America is sitting on our world, I am making films that have to do with America (because) 60% of my life is America. So I am in fact an American, but I can't go there to vote, I can't change anything. We are a nation under influence and under a very bad influence… because Mr. Bush is an asshole and doing very idiotic things."
Lars Von Trier introduces his new film
at the Cannes Film Festival
picks up where «Dogville
» left off, with the character originated by Nicole Kidman -- now played by Bryce Dallas Howard -- stumbling
onto a plantation that time forgot, where slavery
still operates in the 1930s. The film (5 MB .pdf file, official pressbook)
ends, as Dogville did, with David Bowie’s Young Americans played over a photomontage of images that range from a Ku Klux Klan meeting to the Rodney King beating, George Bush at prayer and Martin Luther King at his final rest, American soldiers in Vietnam and the Gulf, the Twin Towers. More inside.
posted by matteo
on May 16, 2005 -
Rebecca Protten, born a slave in 1718, gained her freedom and joined a group of proselytizers from the Moravian Church
. She embarked on an itinerant mission, preaching to hundreds of the enslaved Africans of St. Thomas, West Indies. Weathering persecution from hostile planters, Protten and other black preachers created the earliest African Protestant congregation in the Americas. University of Florida historian Jon Sensbach
has written a book
about Protten's life -- the interracial marriage, the trial on charges of blasphemy and inciting of slaves, the travels to Germany and West Africa. Later in her life, after she moved to Germany, Rebecca was ordained as a deaconess: "a former slave now administered Communion and practiced other claims to spiritual authority over white women, including European aristocrats." More inside.
posted by matteo
on May 15, 2005 -
The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record.
'This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public -- in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World. '
posted by plep
on Dec 9, 2003 -
Slavery Ended in the 1960s, not the 1860s
The Civil War made slavery illegal, but that didn't wipe it out completely. White farmer, John Williams, forced his black overseer to murder 11 slaves
in the wake of a 1921 federal investigation. The Dial Brothers
were also convicted by the Justice Department for "African slavery" in the 1940s. In another case, a black genealogist found a 104-year-old man
who claims he and his family were enslaved until the 1960s. It's not necessary to rehash the entire reparations debate
to realize that some of these post-Civil War slavery cases may finally have a day in court.
posted by jonp72
on Dec 5, 2003 -
Giuseppe Garibaldi, who united Italy in the 1860s, was asked by Lincoln
to lead the army during the US Civil War. Garibaldi said he would if Lincoln officially declared that the aim of the war was to end slavery. Lincoln replied that he couldn't at that time, and so Garibaldi moved on to other things
. But what if Giuseppe had gotten involved? The Papacy would clearly have denounced the North
(indeed, the pope was the only world leader to recognize the Confederacy). The French hated him; the English loved him. Had he led the Federal troops, would France have jumped in on the side of the South? Would England have then jumped in on the Union side to counter? A whole different world history, perhaps, hanging on a yes/no question.
posted by ewagoner
on Aug 12, 2003 -