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.
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.
Ben, America won’t change until enough white people change. You have the unique benefit of using your celebrity to make a difference. All people of European descent can use our power and privilege, to whatever degree we have them, to make a positive difference.
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.
In honor of Black History Month, here are a few Beacon Press titles that look at slavery and its lasting impact on American society.
Tom DeWolf casts a sympathetic but critical eye on Katherine Stockett's book and the film adapted from it.
On the anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas DeWolf reflects on how his life changed America.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is available in a new, altered version. The author of Inheriting the Trade writes about why he thinks this is a bad idea.
By Thomas Norman DeWolf
Some of the recent controversy over Obama's nomination of Goodwin Liu is linked to remarks he made about reparations for slavery. Tom DeWolf was there, and he wants to set the record straight.
Out Front Colorado named David Plante's The Pure Lover one of its top 10 nonfiction titles of the year: When a writer as profoundly able as Plante pens a lament for his lost companion, the result is a fierce encapsulation...
Thomas N. DeWolf is the author of Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History. Tom speaks regularly at schools, conferences, and other events around the country. For further information go...
Thomas N. DeWolf looks at how the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., provides a teachable moment about race in America.
Thomas N. DeWolf thinks Chris Matthews needs a lesson in the history of slavery in the United States.
Thomas N. DeWolf, author of Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History, shares his thoughts about the Obama inauguration.
Oregon—where I live—held its primary election on May 20. For the first time since I moved here for college in 1972, the primary actually meant something to the presidential contest. Always in the past our primary is so late in the game that the presidential candidates for both parties have already been crowned. This exceedingly white state handed a man of color an 18-point margin of victory over a woman. That same day, far across the country in Kentucky, voters there handed that same woman a 35-point victory over the man of color.
by Thomas N. DeWolf The snow is falling outside the home several of us have rented in Park City, Utah, to attend the Sundance Film Festival in support of our cousin Katrina Browne’s film Traces of the Trade: A Story...
By Thomas Norman DeWolfSlavery was the fuel that drove the entire industrial revolution and gave white people a sense of privilege, place, and entitlement that persists today. When we examine significant social indicators—wealth, infant mortality rates, the likelihood of imprisonment, homicide rates, access to housing, health care, employment, higher education, and so on—we find that blacks fall on the negative side of the dividing line. This is a legacy of slavery, and it is systemic.