After living through four years of an endless horror franchise, Joseph Biden gets sworn in today as commander in chief. Kamala Harris, in a historic moment for the US, gets sworn in as the first woman of color Vice President. And they have so much wreckage laying before them. No easy reset button will fix it or spirit it away. The pressure is on their administration to do right by a country reeling from a traumatic relationship with a white supremacist tyrant, and rightfully so. We reached out to our authors to ask what they want Biden and Harris to know, understand, or be aware of. On Inauguration Day, we share their responses with you.
New Year, New Attempted Coup. Just as we were celebrating the triumphant results of the Georgia runoff election, the insurrection at the Capitol began. And we looked on with anger and weariness. Not disbelief, though. Less than a month before his Twitter account was suspended, the tyrant in chief rallied a mob of low-bar Civil War cosplayers for the “big protest” on January 6. It would be foolhardy to claim we did not see this coming a mile away after four years of a president inciting violence and race-baited backlash in white nationalists and scores of his other supporters. Here’s what our authors had to say about it.
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.
By Sharon Leslie Morgan | Debates are erupting across America over statues, flags, markers, symbols, buildings, and street names that honor people, landscapes, and events of historic import. Often, the person or event being commemorated is offensive. Especially repugnant are those that celebrate “heroes” who committed extreme acts of inhumanity. Some demand that these icons be removed. Others demonstrate a willingness to fight for their retention. Which ones should stay? Which ones should go? Is there a middle ground? Who decides?
Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, we honor his legacy. We reached out to some of our authors and staff members to reflect on the impact of his global vision for social justice and his tireless work in the civil rights movement. We share their commemorative responses with you 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.
Last year on Inauguration Day, our authors voiced to Donald Trump what they wanted him to know, understand, and beware of as commander-in-chief. Since then, the myriad doubts, concerns, and fears about what he and his administration would do during his term have persisted and/or increased. Some of our authors have returned with follow-up responses for him in the wake of his State of the Union address. We share them with you below.
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 Morgan | As 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!
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...
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.