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.
On the 175th anniversary of The Amistad's capture, historian Marcus Rediker takes us back to a time when the idea of “black pirates” would ignite the imagination of early America and take these 53 Africans on a journey from the holds of a slave ship to the halls of the Supreme Court and beyond.
Historian Marcus Rediker—author of the new book 'Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail—discusses the surreal and evocative paintings of Haitian artist Frantz Zéphirin, whose intricate work combines vodou, politics, and history.