A dark-skinned black girl walking into an empty horror museum in the middle of the desert? What could possibly go wrong?
Much like Nish and Clay, “Black Museum” also puts us face to face with past realities like the gynecological experimentation of enslaved Black women, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in the 1930s, and the forced sterilization of Native American women in the 1970s and beyond. It’s horror histories like these that make this episode so daunting.
One can’t help but compare it to our current desensitized culture where Black deaths are widely spread across the internet like a Worldstar fight. Black people dying at the hands of injustice has become so commonplace that our world feels like simulated, too. Troy Anthony Davis. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin. The list is endless.
But whether we’re romanticized for our sexual prowess, idolized for our artistic “eye”, or straight up demonized and locked away, make no mistake—”Black Museum” is an episode about mental incarceration.
In this popular episode, we’re presented with a symbolic reckoning against a system that remains unscathed.
Some were so shaken they couldn’t finish the episode. Alternatively, some made the fundamental errors of either confusing depiction with validation, or insisting that stories about the privations inflicted on black people only belong to black people and therefore dismissed the story as racist.
The Legacy of Lynching is a collaboration between the museum and the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, presenting racial histories we’ve long been asleep to.
A video interview with Anthony Ray Hinton, a man wrongfully convicted of murder after being framed by a racist detective, makes the link between lynching and the death penalty.
Kara Walker, “Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching” (2006) installation view, with performance stills by Dread Scott in the background
Dora Dee Johnson, a woman whose grandfather was lynched in South Carolina in 1916, displays family photos of her grandparents.
“Our silence is creating a burden,” said civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson at the launch of The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America at the Brooklyn Museum. “We’ve got to do something to get closer to freedom, and that means talking about some things we haven’t talked about.” The exhibit, which runs through October 8, is a collaboration between the museum and Stevenson’s nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), and it reckons with racial histories we’ve long been asleep to.
It’s striking to find no explicit photographs — no horror images, for instance, of police handcuffs on lynching victims’ wrists — at The Legacy of Lynching, a choice the curators made to approach the topic respectfully, according to the Brooklyn Museum website. It’s a haunting absence, one that resists the spectacle that has historically conferred lynching with such power. Yet The Legacy of Lynching comes at a time when subtlety barely perks the ears of those who most need to hear and understand. Today, resurgent white nationalists are rehearsing their own unsubtle symbols, from the casually placed noose to the tightly clutched torch. One wonders whether we need stronger historical images as a counterpoint.
“They took off the white robe and put on the black robe,” says Hinton. With EJI’s legal assistance, he was exonerated after 30 years in prison.
Last night on Monday Night Football, one team came out of the tunnel with a racist mascot on their jerseys and helmets, and the other team’s fans were mimicking throwing tomahawks and singing some sort of pathetic war whoop. Both of the teams’ owners seemed fine with it. No one in the broadcast booth said anything. There were no tweets from President Trump about it. And all of the sponsors and advertisers like GMC, Geico, several beer companies and many other mainstream corporations (both foreign and domestic) gladly hawked their wares throughout the entire event.
This all happened less than 24 hours after a white guy shot his fully automatic weapon into a crowd of people, killing at least 59 people and injuring 527 in a horribly evil and incredibly tragic event in Las Vegas. But throughout the day most news organizations referred to this shooting as the deadliest mass shooting in the history of America.
Apparently, the media forgot about the massacre at Wounded Knee, which left 350 dead, or the massacre at Sand Creek which killed nearly 200 men, women, and children from the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes. Or perhaps they only meant massacres for which the U.S. Congress DIDN’T award Congressional Medals of Honor.
Gun violence kills about 90 people every day in the United States, a toll measured in wasted and ruined lives and with an annual economic price tag exceeding $200 billion. For many years, scholars have explored the possible ties between mental illness and violence. They have found that most people with a serious mental illness are not violent, that mental illness is not a strong risk factor for homicide. READ MORE
The Gainesville, Fla., native — who died Monday at 66, a day after going into cardiac arrest — told Rolling Stone in 2015 that he regretted using the flag during shows on his “Southern Accents” tour, contending he was “ignorant” about its true meaning.
Some look at the flag, which was flown by the South during the Civil War, as a symbol of racism.
“The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida. I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo,” he told the music outlet shortly after South Carolina officials opted to remove the flag from their statehouse.
Ava Duvernay secretly filmed a documentary about systematic racism… ‘The 13th’ was selected as the first documentary to ever open the New York Film Festival, and makes Duvernay the first black woman to open the festival. READ HERE
The movie takes its name from the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery but included a loophole that exempted those guilty of crimes from freedom. The 13th, which will debut in theaters and on Netflix on October 7, uses archival images from before emancipation through the Jim Crow era and the civil-rights movement, as well as contemporary footage of police brutality against black men, and is threaded with interviews with scholars, lawmakers, prison-reform activists, and the formerly incarcerated. READ
Finks: I had not heard that word in a million years! Now this!
When news broke that the CIA had colluded with literary magazines to produce cultural propaganda throughout the Cold War, a debate began that has never been resolved. The story continues to unfold, with the reputations of some of America’s best-loved literary figures—including Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, and Richard Wright—tarnished as their work for the intelligence agency has come to light. Finks is a tale of two CIAs, and how they blurred the line between propaganda and literature. One CIA created literary magazines that promoted American and European writers and cultural freedom, while the other toppled governments, using assassination and censorship as political tools. Defenders of the “cultural” CIA argue that it should have been lauded for boosting interest in the arts and freedom of thought, but the two CIAs had the same undercover goals, and shared many of the same methods: deception, subterfuge and intimidation. Finks demonstrates how the good-versus-bad CIA is a false divide, and that the cultural Cold Warriors again and again used anti-Communism as a lever to spy relentlessly on leftists, and indeed writers of all political inclinations, and thereby pushed U.S. democracy a little closer to the Soviet model of the surveillance state.
#93 – Ava DuVernay / Jamal Joseph by The Close-Up on SoundCloud talks about 13th a documentary on mass criminalization and the prison industry. Oct 7th on Netflix.
By Lara Trace
How do we change everything? We can’t; we don’t. We can only change ourselves. If we’re lucky, whatever we learn might be shared with other “like souls” around us.
We create our own world and daily rituals. Create. Smile. Laugh. Invent. Dream. Write. Teach. (even BLOG) (I also recommend put down that g*ddamn cellphone. OMG!)
If you feel joy that joy is like a light and spreads. It’s kinda magical.
There is an amazing writer Donna Carreiro · CBC Newswho is writing in depth about the 60s Scoop. I spoke to her about the anthology Stolen Generations a few weeks ago. Read about her coverage here. If we don’t learn about this child trafficking, we are doomed to repeat it. Horrific history is always a cycle. It’s evident when we see the greed over oil and other resources and those lands (even children) are wanted then taken/stolen. Bear witness to the uprising at the Standing Rock protector camp. Bear Witness to the 60s Scoop and Indian Adoption Projects. Bear witness to the Prison Pipeline, racism and modern day slavery.
Now is the right time for us to be here. We acknowledge we’ve been told lies and deceived too long (see Finks). Humans can demand more honesty, transparency and truth by going to look for it. The world wide web is that place now.
What is real, true, even horrific, is better than a lie. Then I will accept that what happened in the past is still affecting us, including adoptees’ and American Indians lives and journeys. Then I can make my world change.
“When you’re told for 500 years your ways are evil, that damages your self esteem,” says the writer Gyassi Ross at the start of the film. “Showing the beauty of the language is a small dent in reclaiming that self-esteem.” [White Earth was the first tribe to call home its adoptees/Lost Birds in 2007. We are called the Stolen Generations and 60s Scoop for a reason.]
And now the rest of their story where some things never change.
The Indian must, therefore, be taught how to labor; and, that labor may be made necessary to his well-being, he must be taken out of the reservation through the door of the General Allotment Act. And he must be imbued with the exalting egotism of American civilization, so that he will say “I” instead of “We,” and “This is mine, “ instead of “This is ours.” But if he will not learn! If he shall continue to persist in saying, “I am content; let me alone!” Then the Guardian must act for the Ward, and do for him the good service he protests shall not be done—the good service that he denounces as a bad service. The Government [domination] must then, in duty to the public [Americans], compel the Indian to come out of his isolation into the civilized way that he does not desire to enter—into citizenship—into assimilation with the masses of the Republic—into the path of national duty; and in passing along that path he will find not only pleasure in personal independence and delight in individual effort in his own interest, but also the consummation of that patriotic enjoyment which is always to be found in the exercise of the high privilege of contributing to the general welfare.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
John H. Oberly, Commissioner [of Indian Affairs] (1888-89)
To the Secretary of the Interior
[PS… I deleted my author page on Facebook or what I call The FBI-book. I am not happy about surveillance.]
Coming in November, all month: posts by me and other ADOPTION WARRIORS – those who write/blog to change the way the world sees adoption.
“It’s all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it: You can sell a kilo of Heroin once; You can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.”
An estimated $150 billion is made by human traffickers, after the number one crime: drug trafficking…just think about the heroin epidemic happening in your neighborhood and illegal drugs being sold on your street. Trafficking drugs and people are street crimes, highly profitable. And it spreads like a plague: Alaskan Arctic Development concerns
John Trudell calls this trafficking process “mining humans.” The atrocity we are seeing with drugs and human trafficking is a sign we are living in an unhealthy damaged society.
I posted several articles on this topic when this blog focused on human trafficking and modern day slavery, starting back in 2012.
Young men and women must be taught at an early age that women and children are not for sale. These traffickers find new victims every single day and find buyers for them.
In the money game, every human sold becomes a profit machine, so the only way to end this slavery is to stop playing this game and buying sex. Our children need to know that they could be snatched off the street and trafficked, and even killed.
There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human slavery, with 1.5 million in North America.
Since 1999, Dr. Transchel has been researching modern day human trafficking around the world. Her findings, after interviews with dozens of victims, will surprise and shock even those who consider themselves well-informed. Besides for working as a professor of History at CSU Chico, Dr. Transchel provides trainings for various branches of the military as well as the state department, on domestic and international human trafficking and she also serves as an expert witness on human trafficking from Moldova in Federal Asylum hearings.
Sign HERE: Tell U.S. law enforcement to crack down on $150 billion human trafficking epidemic… you are not powerless… thank you!
Now that I am finishing up STOLEN GENERATIONS, I do need some time off from blogging. So I will be gone a few months (it’s necessary). If you need reading material (of course you do): read the fantastic diverse blogs (I follow 225+) (bottom of this blog.) THE MIX too.
I often read Eric Linus Kaplan’s blog [Honest ontology, fantasy and comedy. Writer on “Big Bang Theory” and of “Does Santa Exist: A Philosophical Investigation”] (his post is above)
What Eric writes is profound, mind bending, good. Like The Big Band Theory is profound, mind bending and good.
Make it Obvious Where You Went Wrong? If we stop to consider America’s military secrets, Cointelpro, political secrets, assassinations, plots, first we’d be blown away at the truth (BOOM) – overnight we’d have a new world – but that all depends on if the military ever came clean. All modern wars are wars by and for the private bankers, fought and bled for by third parties unaware of the true reason they are expected to gracefully be killed and crippled for. The process is quite simple. […keep reading]
I am thinking of all the times in my last 59 years where I was wrong. I cannot tell you honestly how many times it happened but it was LOTS.
No, folks, I won’t be blogging it now but I do want you to think about it, too. And in the HEAT of this political campaign, perhaps all the presidential candidates should tell us when they were wrong and admit their mistakes. Then explain it so we all know (so we can understand and learn from their mistake). Humility is sadly lacking in politicians, right?
I often think of the Pres. Clinton-Monica scandal and his almost-impeachment, and how Hillary (HRC) didn’t divorce him when many of us expected she would. (Which made me realize then that not all marriages are based on fidelity but many are money-based and power-driven. Their union was not a mistake. It was intentional. I’ve only watched a few episodes of House of Cards about power-hungry wolves in designer clothes in DC. People in power (men and women) do have extra-marital affairs. I have an ex-husband who would agree since he did (more than once.)
That early marriage of mine was a good learning experience AND a mistake.
Learning is life long. Learning is what we do as humans. And as we learn, we might falter and make mistakes. That’s how we grow up.
I aim to be as honest as I can be with myself. And admit my mistakes.
It’s the best I can do…
There are times to read history and there are times to make history. – David Batstone
I have a question for you: Do you rip out all those drug ads in magazines? I do it every time a magazine arrives. It’s not a mistake. It’s therapy. Do you do it, too?
And I had to share this!
The Human Antenna and What It Can Do
Dr. Robin Kelly has combined science, traditional concepts of healing and his own extraordinary insights to evolve “the Human Antenna,” and here he tells us just what it all means, and how we can literally remake ourselves as healthier, more energetic and, in the end, more deeply conscious and deeply human beings.
Bruce H. Lipton, PhD says this of Dr. Kelly’s quest:
‘On a quest to be a better healer, physician Robin Kelly embarked upon an epic journey that transformed his patients’ lives, his own life, and one that can possibly transform your life as well. Expertly weaving together traditional Western medical science, Eastern medicine’s energy philosophy and a dash of quantum physics, Dr. Robin Kelly concocts a powerful and wise prescription for self-healing and self-empowerment. Filled with astounding scientific insights, wit, wisdom and heart, The Human Antenna is a delight to read.’
After receiving the Oscar for Best Song for “Glory” from Selma, John Legend gave an impassioned speech calling out the present-day state of affairs for African Americans. One line stood out: “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.”
The totals: 1.68 million black men are under correctional control in the US, not counting jails. That’s over three times as many black men as were enslaved in 1850.
Take up the White Man’s burden,
Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile,
to serve your captives’ need; To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.
Rudyard Kipling, 1899
In a major address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2003, President George W Bush described the fight against contemporary slavery and human trafficking in the following terms:
We must show new energy in fighting back an old evil. Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.
Few people noticed it at the time, but this statement contained a basic historical error. It has not been “more than a century” since slavery officially ended. While legal slavery in the Americas ended in the nineteenth century, in many parts of the globe legal abolition took place during the first half of the twentieth century. In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, which is my main focus here, slavery remained legal in Sudan until 1900, Kenya until 1907, Sierra Leone until 1928 and Ethiopia until 1942. This more recent history is important, because it leads to a series of uncomfortable and difficult questions about the motivations behind—and practical effects of—the anti-slavery cause, with the elephant in the room being the close relationship between anti-slavery, imperialism, and European colonialism.
I’m still rethinking the model of adoption! Years ago doing research for my memoir, I spoke with a friend in Austria who told me about SOS VILLAGES. I had never heard of this or such a concept. It’s so good it has spread to the US. READ HERE
We know that in Indian Country, taking children and placing them in adoptive homes was to assimilate them, erase them from tribal rolls, an act of genocide motivated by greed and for the taking of more land. We can’t change the past in North America. It has already taken place. We are the survivors, the adoptees, left to cure ourselves but also to see to it that this doesn’t happen to more children.
In 2015, I will say this: the adoption industry is like a very large building that employs thousands (if not millions) of people — real people who collect a paycheck. They are lawyers, judges and social workers. History shows us that children needed more than an orphange and thus began the system we have today – tiers of bureaucracy, unregulated agencies rife with corruption and kickbacks, the trafficking of children internationally to meet the supply and demand here in the US and even the black-marketing of babies. Read about one evil baby trafficker here.
We have to invent something better here in the US. We can’t change what exists. We have to replace it and make the old adoption system obsolete!
If ONE TRIBE could make this happen and do this SOS VILLAGE concept in 2015, the word would spread and children would be saved. Children would not lose their tribe, culture or language. Isn’t that the purpose and the reason for adoption – saving children’s lives?
If someone wants my help to create this new reality in Indian Country, email me.
*************** READ THIS: The New Abolition: Ending Adoption in Our Time | Daniel Ibn Zayd | August 18th, 2012
I invoke this term fully aware of its weight as concerns the movement to abolish slavery, and to clarify this usage I define adoption as follows:
Adoption is, in and of itself, a violence based in inequality. It is candy-coated, marketed, and packaged to seemingly concern families and children, but it is an economically and politically incentivized crime. It stems culturally and historically from the “peculiar institution” of Anglo-Saxon indentured servitude and not family creation. It is not universal and is not considered valid by most communal cultures. It is a treating of symptoms and not of disease. It is a negation of families and an annihilation of communities not imbued with any notion of humanity due to the adoptive culture’s inscribed bias concerning race, class, and human relevancy.
SOS Children’s Villages – In the SOS model, children do not “age out” of care. Instead, they enter transitional programs that help young adults find housing, academic programs, and employment opportunities. Between eighty-five and one hundred percent of SOS children graduate from high school, as compared to fifty percent of foster children in other types of care. See more at: http://www.sos-usa.org/about-sos/in-the-usa#sthash.CNVeR2IV.dpuf
Trymaine Lee MSNBC September 5, 2014 (photo above)
BOSTON — The city’s bad reputation for race relations has been well-earned. In the mid-1970s, when Massachusetts moved to desegregate its public schools through a busing program, white Bostonians erupted in violent protests and riots. The Boston Red Sox were the last major league baseball team to integrate. And Massachusetts was the first slave-holding colony in New England and played a central role in America’s early slave trade.
But there’s another side to the racial history of this much-maligned city. It played a historic role in the abolition of slavery and helped shape the lives of many of the important historical figures of the time.
Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison founded his Liberator Newspaper in Boston which called for “the immediate and complete emancipation” of all slaves in the United States. Prince Hall, a black abolitionist, stalwart defender of equality and the father of black Freemasonry, was a pillar of Boston’s black community and used the city as a launching pad to feed the national abolitionist movement.
Japan’s wartime sex slavery a ‘terrible’ rights violation – Obama
By: Agence France-Presse April 26, 2014 3:30 AM, InterAksyon.com – The online news portal of TV5
SEOUL – The Japanese wartime system of sex slavery was a “terrible” violation of human rights and its victims need to be heard, US President Barack Obama said Friday in Seoul. Stepping into one of the most contentious issues in Northeast Asia, Obama said there needed to be an accounting of the wrongs perpetrated by Japanese Imperial troops before and during World War II when thousands of women were forced into prostitution.
“This was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that even in the midst of war were shocking,” he said. “And they deserve to be heard, they deserve to be respected. And there should be an accurate and clear account of what happened. I think (Japanese) Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe recognizes this and certainly the Japanese people recognize that the past is something that has to be recognized honestly and fairly.”
Despite formal apologies issued by the Japanese government, South Korea and other nations accuse Tokyo of failing sufficiently to atone for the “comfort women” pressed to service its troops during its brutal war of expansion.
Thaddeus Russell from the May 2014 issue, Reason.com
Her name, like that of nearly all the victims, is unknown. Not older than a teenager, she has large, downturned eyes, long and wavy hair, and pale skin. She wears a demure white dress, suggesting that the life she lived before she found herself in this dungeon was one of innocence. She stares through the bars of her cage and, because she cannot save herself, prays for rescue. Behind her, a man wearing a bowler hat and a lascivious grin gazes upon his captive prey through the smoke of his cigar. He has paid to rape her and she is powerless to stop him. She is a “white slave.”
This girl is a drawing. She existed only in an image that was part of a flood of claims made in the early 20th century, about legions of white American girls and women being held against their will and forced into prostitution. Thousands of newspaper articles, books, sermons, speeches, plays, and films depicted a vast underground economy of kidnappers and pimps holding godlike power over young female sex slaves. Historians now generally agree that those depictions were mostly or entirely fabrications. There is scant verifiable evidence of American women being kidnapped and physically forced into prostitution, or that such a girl in the picture ever existed.
For decades the Ganga-Longoba of Perico have been singing the same chants, a tradition passed down the generations.
But until recently this Afro-Cuban community knew little of the origin of the songs, or of their own ancestors.
Now, thanks to the work of an Australian academic, Cuba’s Ganga believe their roots lie in a remote village in Sierra Leone from where it is thought their relatives were sold into slavery more than 170 years ago.
“When I first filmed the Ganga-Longoba, I believed their ceremonies were a mixture of many different ethnic groups,” says historian Emma Christopher, of Sydney University.
“I had no idea that a large number of Ganga songs would come from just one village. I think that’s extremely unusual,” she says.
The initial breakthrough came when a group in Liberia saw her footage of a Cuban ceremony and recognised part of a local ritual.
Spurred on to seek the songs’ exact origins, the academic spent two years showing the film across the region until she confirmed that the Cubans were singing in the almost extinct language of an ethnic group decimated by the slave trade.
Rutgers professor’s book examines full scope of slavery
By Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer,Philadelphia Inquirer,April 15, 2014
Henry Bibb was just 10 the first time he ran away.
In the antebellum South, Bibb fled slavery many more times, eventually finding his freedom and becoming an author and abolitionist.
“Believe me when I say that no tongue, nor pen ever has or can express the horrors of American Slavery,” he wrote in 1849. “I despair in finding language to express adequately the deep feeling of my soul as I contemplate the past history of my life.”
His story – one of thousands of surviving slave narratives – is part of research by Rutgers-Camden associate professor Keith Green, who uses it to help dissect and expand the meaning of slavery.
The word covers many forms of suffering, he says in a forthcoming book, Bound to Respect: Antebellum Narratives of Imprisonment, Servitude and Captivity, 1816 to 1861.
By Edward E. Baptist and Louis Hyman / Chicago Sun-Times
Last weekend we watched the Oscars and, like most people, were pleased that “Twelve Years a Slave” won Best Picture. No previous film has so accurately captured the reality of enslaved people’s lives. Yet though Twelve Years shows us the labor of slavery, it omits the financial system — asset securitization — that made slavery possible.
Most people can see how slave labor, like the cotton-picking in “Twelve Years A Slave,” was pure exploitation. Few recognize that a financial system nearly as sophisticated as ours today helped Solomon Northup’s enslavers steal him, buy him, and market the cotton he made. The key patterns of that financial history continue to repeat themselves in our history. Again and again, African-American individuals and families have worked hard to produce wealth, but American finance, whether in the antebellum period or today, has snatched black wealth through bonds backed by asset securitization.
Recently, the assets behind these bonds were houses. In the antebellum period, the assets were slaves themselves.
Will 12 Years a Slave help the fight against slavery?
Portraying and documenting slavery on film is wrought with logistical and ethical challenges. Now back in the spotlight, can film improve campaign impact?
Oliver Balch Guardian Professional Tuesday 4 March 2014 11.14 EST
Guddi was trafficked into Mumbai’s sex industry aged 11. The first man she was forced to go with brutalised her so severely that she was hospitalised for three months. A dozen years on, she’s still being forced to work the streets.
Her story is now the subject of a moving documentary. Shot by British journalist Hazel Thompson, the film Taken offers a rare glimpse into the dangerous, day-to-day life of a sex worker.
With Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave winning the Oscar for best film on Sunday, the subject is in the spotlight in Hollywood and anti-slavery groups are increasingly using film to raise awareness.
There is no official count on how many slave cabins are left standing across the country today. You might ask, “Who’s counting?”
Well, the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project is counting and so is the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Archaeologists at James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia set out to locate where slave cabins once stood on its property. And last week, a group of people helped re-build a part of that history.
The 2,700 acres at James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier estate looked like a winter postcard when the 16 of us arrived for log cabin building school.
Our eyes got real big when we approached the worksite, and saw the huge pile of logs. We weren’t here to stack pre-fab, pre-cut pieces of wood to construct a slave cabin.
Bloomberg View | by Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, The Huffington Post 2/24/2014
When the New York City banker James Brown tallied his wealth in 1842, he had to look far below Wall Street to trace its origins. His investments in the American South exceeded $1.5 million, a quarter of which was directly bound up in the ownership of slave plantations.
Brown was among the world’s most powerful dealers in raw cotton, and his family’s firm, Brown Brothers & Co., served as one of the most important sources of capital and foreign exchange to the U.S. economy. Still, no small amount of his time was devoted to managing slaves from the study of his Leonard Street brownstone in Lower Manhattan.
Brown was hardly unusual among the capitalists of the North. Nicholas Biddle’s United States Bank of Philadelphia funded banks in Mississippi to promote the expansion of plantation lands. Biddle recognized that slave-grown cotton was the only thing made in the U.S. that had the capacity to bring gold and silver into the vaults of the nation’s banks. Likewise, the architects of New England’s industrial revolution watched the price of cotton with rapt attention, for their textile mills would have been silent without the labor of slaves on distant plantations.
But as scholars delve deeper into corporate archives and think more critically about coerced labor and capitalism — perhaps informed by the current scale of human trafficking — the importance of slavery to American economic history will become inescapable.
In the end, Oscar voters couldn’t truly avert their gaze from “12 Years a Slave.”
Even though many Oscar voters found filmmaker Steve McQueen’s searing chronicle of enslavement almost too harrowing to watch, “12 Years a Slave” prevailed Sunday to win the best picture trophy in one of the closest contests in modern Academy Awards history.
In a ceremony in which the space thriller “Gravity” collected a leading seven statuettes — including the first directing Oscar won by a Mexican-born filmmaker — the biggest honor went to the true-life account of the kidnapping and auctioning of Solomon Northup, a New York freeman bartered as a Louisiana cotton picker.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” the British director McQueen said in accepting the best picture award at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery.”
Owing to its unflinching representation of whippings, rape and lynchings, “12 Years a Slave” was not intended to be easy viewing. But it was continually buoyed by tremendous critical acclaim… McQueen became the first black director to make a best picture winnner, and “12 Years a Slave” was one of several movies last year that explored the often traumatic history of African Americans, a slate that included “42,” “Fruitvale Station” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
For all of its acclaim, “12 Years a Slave” has done solid but not stunning business. It actually has performed better overseas than it has in domestic theater — grossing nearly $90 million internationally and $50 million in North America.
What the Modern World Owes Slavery (It’s More Than Back Wages)
The Huffington Post
February 24, 2014
By Greg Grandin, Professor of History, NYU
Many in the United States were outraged by the remarks of conservative evangelical preacher Pat Robertson, who blamed Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake on Haitians for selling their souls to Satan. Bodies were still being pulled from the rubble — as many as 300,000 died — when Robertson went on TV and gave his viewing audience a little history lesson: the Haitians had been “under the heel of the French” but they “got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.'”
A supremely callous example of right-wing idiocy? Absolutely. Yet in his own kooky way, Robertson was also onto something. Haitians did, in fact, swear a pact with the devil for their freedom. Only Beelzebub arrived smelling not of sulfur, but of Parisian cologne.
Haitian slaves began to throw off the “heel of the French” in 1791, when they rose up and, after bitter years of fighting, eventually declared themselves free. Their French masters, however, refused to accept Haitian independence. The island, after all, had been an extremely profitable sugar producer, and so Paris offered Haiti a choice: compensate slave owners for lost property — their slaves (that is, themselves) — or face its imperial wrath. The fledgling nation was forced to finance this payout with usurious loans from French banks. As late as 1940, 80% of the government budget was still going to service this debt.
In This State: Historian finds imprecise end to slavery in Vermont
February 23, 2014
Vermonters have long prided themselves on their state’s enlightened stance on race relations. The fact that the first state constitution in 1777 prohibited slavery is often cited as evidence that Vermont led the nation in establishing universal human rights.
But a new book by a University of Vermont history professor makes it clear that Vermont should stop patting itself on the back.
“The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810” by professor Harvey Amani Whitfield challenges one of Vermont’s most firmly held myths: that slavery was ended here in 1777. The book, published by the Vermont Historical Society this month, documents the inescapable truth that racism and even slavery were much a part of this state’s formative years, and lasted well after 1777.
Barbara Amaya and her daughter, Bianca Belteton, at a visit to StoryCorps in Arlington, Va.
It hasn’t been easy for Barbara Amaya to talk about her past. She was abused at home as a child, and when she was 12 she ran away to Washington, D.C. — where she was picked up by sex traffickers and forced into prostitution.
“I fell into the hands of a woman. I was sitting in the park and she just started talking to me,” Barbara tells her daughter, Bianca Belteton, on a visit to StoryCorps in Arlington, Va.
“I was hungry and cold and young, and she took me to an apartment. Before I knew it, they put a wig on me, took me to the corner of 14th and I [streets], and they sold me to a trafficker.”
He took her to New York, Barbara says, where she had to do a set amount of business each night for the next nine years.
“Traffickers drill into your head, ‘Look what you’ve been doing. How would you ever think you could have a family? Nobody’s ever going to love you but me,’ ” Barbara says.
By the time she was 20, Barbara was addicted to heroin and weighed 90 pounds. “I probably wouldn’t have lasted very much longer, but something inside me wanted to live,” she says. “And I left New York. I had a sixth-grade education. I had to go back to school carrying all this shame.”
For decades Barbara told no one about her past, including her daughter — until Bianca ran away. “All I could think about was what happened to me when I ran away,” Barbara tells her. “Once you heard the whole story for the first time, how did you feel?”
“I was proud of you at that point, to know that you’re OK with talking about it,” says Bianca, now 24. “Whenever you’re in a bad situation … and you’ve been in a lot of bad situations — you always find a way to fix it. So I think that you’re really strong for that.”
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.