A retrospective
November 5, 2008 3:51 PM   Subscribe

We're all anticipating the future right now, but don't forget to remember the past, as well.

Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington (1901). The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (1903). The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson (1912). Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass (1845). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (1861).

Segregation signs. An interview with Rosa Parks (text, with video clips). Photo gallery of the Little Rock Nine.
posted by greenie2600 (9 comments total)
O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes
posted by ardgedee at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2008

I sincerely doubt anyone is ever going to forget that America had institutionalized slavery.

Now that it has been demonstrated that black people can "even become President," perhaps it's time to heal. Keeping old grievances alive does no one a favour.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:54 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

five fresh fish, the point of this stuff is not to wallow in its awfulness. The point is to admire the courage and resolve of these people, to appreciate the example of those who responded to hardship with the noblest traits that humanity has to offer, to reflect on the fact that one person, however humble their social station, can change things if they have enough spirit behind them.

The past I'm asking you to remember is not the dry, textbook fact that "America had institutionalized slavery". We all know that. I'm asking you to remember what that means, not as some abstract idea, but as it actually affected specific, individual lives. These are remarkable stories, and they reveal a lot about our shared humanity. Aside from the "segregation signs" link, they are all stories of triumph and progress—tales of struggle and suffering, too, but ultimately of triumph.

So, y'know, make sure you understand what you're shitting on before you shit in the thread.
posted by greenie2600 at 6:13 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wonderful post - thanks.
posted by twsf at 6:42 PM on November 5, 2008

Add the American Slave Narratives to the list, then. They were written during the WPA project during the depression years. I had my library bring it in on an inter-library loan, but I suspect that because it was publically funded, it's probably also available on the web.

Your FPP struck me as pissing on the Obama party, which is why I responded as I did.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:47 PM on November 5, 2008

Ah, just a misunderstanding then. No worries.

American Slave Narratives: one; two. Looks like good reading—thanks for the recommendation!
posted by greenie2600 at 7:04 PM on November 5, 2008

All of the slave-owners are dead. All of the slaves are dead. Sixty-three million Americans just voted a black into the White House.

Can we stop flagellating ourselves for, like, a day or two?
posted by codswallop at 10:22 AM on November 6, 2008

flagellating ourselves

Sheesh, fine, never mind. I was never flagellating myself in the first place, nor asking anyone else to. I concede that this was kind of a weak post, but the point was to recognize how far we've come, not to indulge in a masochistic orgy of liberal guilt. If that was your reaction to it, maybe that's your own problem.
posted by greenie2600 at 12:06 PM on November 6, 2008

An example of how far the US has come is that a woman in LA, the child of a slave (and 114 years old) was able to vote for Obama.

It always startles me that the US Civil war was so very recent. But I suppose, too, that blacks were finally granted the right to vote in my lifetime. Which just boggles my mind. WTF, post-Civil War America?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:07 PM on November 6, 2008

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