A Discussion with Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan | I absolutely feel like there should be reparations. But I feel they do not have to take the form that people immediately think about, which is, “Write me a check.” Because if you write a check, you’re absconding. You’re not really engaging the process. I think that it takes many forms. The best form would be investing money in repairing the damage, not as much to individuals as to people on a societal level.
It’s a clear-cut case of PTSD: Post-Traumatic Societal Disorder. The centuries-long trauma wrought by our nation’s history of slavery requires intensive therapy, because everybody is affected. Even our author, Daina Berry, said, “We are still living in the aftermath of slavery. It’s the stain on our flag and the sin of our country. Once we recognize this, face it, study it, and acknowledge the impact it has on all Americans, then we will be in a position to determine how we can move forward.” One of the ways to come to terms with it and move forward is to take in the full history, unabridged—free of sugar-coating, mythmaking, and claims of “American exceptionalism.”
1619, a year to go down in infamy like 1492. 400 years ago this month, a ship reached a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia, carrying more than twenty enslaved Africans. Stolen from their homes, these men and women were sold to the colonists in what would become known as the United States. The Atlantic Slave trade would feed this vicious cycle of reducing Africans to commodities through the brutal bondage of forced labor and sexual coercion, the repercussions of which we live with centuries later. How do we as a country reckon with and heal from this history? We asked some of our authors to reflect on this and share their remarks below.
Black History Month is the time that connections need to be made between the ancestors of Black heritage and the living inheritors. As educator Christopher Emdin wrote on our blog, the stories of past battles should never be told as if they are over or conquered. The stories are alive and playing out today. The connections are more powerful when they’re grounded in the context of history. In the spirit of Emdin’s observations, we’re offering a list of recommending reading to bridge the past with the present.
By Sharon Leslie Morgan: When Dr. Carter G. Woodson created “National Negro Week” in February, 1926, my oldest uncle was a newly conceived embryo. Louis Nicholson would emerge into the world in October of that year, born into a society in which African Americans were a mere six decades into freedom from 264 years of enslavement. “Jim Crow” was the law of the land. Black people were being segregated, terrorized, and lynched—even in his hometown of Chicago. Woodson chose February as the celebration date for “Negro History Week” because it coincided with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln.
By Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolfDeep, authentic relationships with people we’ve been raised to see as “other” are key to understanding and reversing the impacts of racism and other forms of intolerance and inequity, and the misuse of power, and privilege. For the two of us, there is solace in knowing that someone shares our beliefs and commitment to social justice. We have built a friendship over the years that helps sustain us. We can talk with and lean on each other in times of madness and sadness, as we did on election night and surely in days to come.
By Sharon Leslie MorganOn January 23, 1977, more than 100 million people across America tuned their television sets to ABC to watch one of the first and still few programs to truthfully tell the story of American slavery. The historic miniseries, based on the novel by Alex Haley, recounted the genealogical saga of one of the first black people in America to successfully trace his ancestry backwards from the tobacco fields of Virginia, through the Middle Passage, to the West African Gambia village of Juffure. Revolutionary in its content, it was a story that embodied extreme examples of both horror and hope, along with the emotionally wrenching roller coaster of events that tied those reactions together.
By Sharon Leslie MorganAs a genealogist, DNA has intrigued me ever since its first promotion as a consumer product in 2003. That was the year Dr. Rick Kittles launched African Ancestry, a company that specializes in uncovering the genetic origins of people of African descent. It marked twenty-eight years into my personal research into a family tree that winds from the backwoods of Mississippi and Alabama through a Great Migration terminus in Chicago. All along the way, one thing I longed to know more than anything else was the root of my continental African origins. This was in spite of the tangled morass of genes that include a copious assortment of Europeans that resulted in me looking more white than many white people I know.
2015 has been, to say the least, rather momentous, and continues to be as it draws to a close. We at Beacon Press are so grateful to our brilliant authors who have offered their time and insights to analyze and comment on this year's events. Their posts—with topics ranging from race to cultural or class dynamics and to the environment—have been, if you will, a true beacon for the Broadside. Before we bid farewell to 2015, we would like to share a collection of some our most-read posts. This list is by no means exhaustive. Make sure to peruse our archives. You can expect to see more thought-provoking essays and commentary from our contributors in 2016. Happy New Year!
George Orwell’s 1984 taught us that language—and who uses it—truly does matter. In the case of educating Texan youth about American history, language matters a great deal. McGraw-Hill Education’s current geography textbook, approved for Texas high schools, refers to African slaves as “workers” in a chapter on immigration patterns. Other linguistic sleights of hand include using the passive voice to obscure slave owner’s brutal treatment of slaves. It appears we have a Ministry of Truth at work after all, just like the one where Orwell’s ill-fated hero Winston Smith worked, rewriting history. The fact is especially disconcerting, as Texas is the largest consumer of textbooks.
By Sharon Leslie Morgan In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer “testified” before the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The highlight of her remarks was when she exclaimed “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” In...
By Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf This post originally appeared in Yes! Magazine. We embarked upon a journey to test whether two people could come to grips with deep, traumatic, historic wounds and find healing. We had no...
Thomas Norman DeWolf, co-author of GATHER AT THE TABLE: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade, reacts to the grand jury's decision in the Eric Garner case.
Sharon Leslie Morgan, co-author of GATHER AT THE TABLE: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade, reacts to the grand jury's decision in the Eric Garner case.
The 30 Days of Love Campaign is an interfaith project sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association that aims to "harness love’s power to stop oppression" through a combination of community activism and outreach.
Browse our African American titles: General Interest | African American History | Fiction and Poetry | Black Women Writers All month long, Beacon Press is offering 20% off and free shipping on all African American Studies titles purchased at Beacon.org....
The authors of Gather at the Table embark on their West Coast tour.
Thanksgiving recipes from the Beacon Press family to add to your holiday feast!
Two people—a black woman and a white man—confront the legacy of slavery and racism head-on.
The words of Frederick Douglass on the meaning of Independence Day continues to hold meaning for many who find it hard to embrace the holiday.