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Showing posts from 2019

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a good time to lose our illusions

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Thanksgiving is a good time to lose our illusions about U.S. history Roundup by Nick AlexandrovNick Alexandrov studied U.S. foreign policy and Latin America at George Washington University. He teaches humanities at Holland Hall School.

We keep a myth alive when we celebrate Thanksgiving. That’s how Dr. Tryg Jorgensen explained it at the Philbrook on Nov. 16.
He and Apollonia Piña, another indigenous activist, spoke on a panel organized by Tulsa-based Tri-City Collective. (Full disclosure: I’m a Tri-City member.) The topic was “Thanksgiving as Native Genocide Day.” The talk helped puncture the myth.
We misread the past each November, when we consider our country’s earliest phase. We like to think tolerance, a love of liberty and a democratic impulse motivated English colonists. But history tells a different story.
Instead of starting the story in Massachusetts, or Virginia even, look to Ireland first. England’s takeover of that island, in the 1500s, was a dress re…

Invasion: Canada’s Ongoing Colonization of Its Indigenous People

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Invasion Unistoten Camp (2019) Film Review Invasion is about an incursion into Wet'suwet'en earlier this year by Canadian police armed with assault weapons. This followed an injunction a British Columbia court granting  petroleum companies authority to build a network of oil/gas pipelines across their land. Since none of the Wet'suet'en clans have ceded their land to European settlers, the injunction is illegal. Despite the arrest of 14 clan activists, the standoff continues, as the local clans complete construction of a four-story healing center near one of the proposed pipeline routes. The arrests have triggered support protests by indigenous people and environmentalists across Canada and in the US. stuartbramhall | November 18, 2019 at 7:14 pm | Tags: canada, injunction, pipelines, Wet'suwet'en | Categories: colonialism | URL:

This day in History: Largest public hanging in Canada

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Cuthand: Public hanging led to years of repression for First Nations Nov. 27 was the anniversary of the largest public hanging in Canada, which was done purely out of spite to instill fear and control over First Nations people, writes Doug Cuthand Doug Cuthand, Saskatoon StarPhoenix Updated: December 1, 2018 Fort Battleford, Sask. historic site SASwp


Nov. 27 was the anniversary of the largest public hanging in Canada. This act of infamy took place in Battleford and was done purely out of spite to instil fear and control in our people.
The speed of the course of justice was astounding. The so-called siege of Battleford took place in late March of 1885 and the Canadian militia’s attack on Chief Poundmaker’s camp was May 2. Six months later, all the trials had concluded and the sentencing was complete.
The court proceedings were conducted in English, with no translation or legal representation allowed for the warriors. It was a kangaroo court in every aspect.
B…

Joseph Opala on the Black Seminoles

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Monday, November 18, 2019 Thomas Thurston talks with Joseph Opala on his work with the Black Seminoles Joseph Opala is an American historian noted for establishing the “Gullah Connection,” the historical links between the indigenous people of the West African nation of Sierra Leone and the Gullah people of the Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia in the United States. Opala’s historical research began with a study of Bunce Island, the British slave castle in Sierra Leone that was a departure point for many African slaves shipped to South Carolina and Georgia in the mid- and late 18th century Middle Passage. He was the first scholar to recognize that Bunce Island has greater importance for the Gullah than any other West African slave castle. He ranks it as “the most important historic site in Africa for the United States.” Opala has traveled between Sierra Leone and the South Carolina and Georgia Low Country for 25 years, producing documentary films, museum exhibi…

IN THE NEWS #bigisms

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In the News
Wadsworth's Collection Of Black Art Illuminates Experiences, Cultures And Traditions (audio)
Ryan Lindsay, November 14, 2019, On Point, WNPR



With more than 100 works of art, from sculptures and quilts to paintings and photographs, the Wadsworth Atheneum’s newest installation, Afrocosmologies: American Reflections, stands out as more than just an exhibit.

It’s an invitation to something curator Frank Mitchell calls a celebration.

“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the work of Black artists who imagined a world that tilts toward the Africana,” Mitchell said, “so a spiritual world focused on and celebrating Black spirituality.”

The show is broken up into four sections: Nature, Gods & Humanity, Origins, and Ritual.

“Nature is the foundation of everything,” Mitchell said. “The captives who were brought here to the Americas believed that the spirit lived in everything -- in the grass, in the water, in the heavens, so in this section we celebrate that unders…

The Myth of the First Thanksgiving

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The Myth of the First Thanksgiving is a Buttress of White Nationalism and Needs to Goby David J. Silverman
David J. Silverman is a professor at George Washington University, where he specializes in Native American, Colonial American, and American racial history. He is the author of ThundersticksRed BrethrenNinigret, and Faith and Boundaries. His essays have won major awards from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the New York State Historical Association. He lives in Philadelphia.

Most Americans assume that the Thanksgiving holiday has always been associated with the Pilgrims, Indians, and their famous feast. Yet that connection is barely 150 years old and is the result of white Protestant New Englanders asserting their cultural authority over an increasingly diverse country. Since then, the Thanksgiving myth has served to reinforce white Christian dominance in the United States. It is well past time to dispense with the myth and its whi…

Appropriation of American Indian Identities

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Gwen Sharp, PhD on June 15, 2008
Here is a video of the famous “crying Indian” anti-littering PSA from the early 1970s:



The actor, Iron Eyes Cody, was not actually Native American, he was Italian American. You can read more about him at snopes.com.

In case you didn’t know, the famous “Chief Seattle” speech about the need to honor the earth and care for the environment was written by a white guy, also in the early 1970s.

These could be interesting for discussions of environmentalism and American Indians. Why do environmental messages somehow have more authority if they supposedly come from an Indian? Would the “Chief Seattle” speech be less meaningful if we knew a white guy wrote it? Why?
They could also be used in discussions about the appropriation of Native American culture and the use of non-Indian actors to play Indian roles. It’s also interesting as an example of how American Indians are often depicted as historic throwbacks who are still living in the …

Missing Bones

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The bones of a former slave and black leader were missing — until a historian asked in the right place
Erin Cox, November 1, 2019, The Washington Post



Janice Hayes-Williams was just starting out as an amateur local historian two decades ago when she found out a prominent black man had been deeply disrespected.

The grave holding the remains of Smith Price, founder of the first free black community in Maryland’s state capital, had been dug up during an urban renewal project in the 1980s.

And for years, no one she talked to knew where the bones had gone.

“How do you dig up people and take them away?” Hayes-Williams said in an interview earlier this week.

On Friday, she stood in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis and ran her hand along a pair of custom wooden caskets. “At last,” she said, “they’re home.”

The bones presumed to belong to Price and his young son were again being laid to rest, after a solemn ceremony attended by 125 people in the church that Price helped found more tha…

We Still Live Here: Black Indians of Wampanoag and African Heritage

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Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water

IN THE NEWS #bigisms

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In the News

Frederick Douglass’s Vision for a Reborn America
David Blight, December 2019, The Atlantic

“We are a country of all extremes, ends and opposites; the most conspicuous example of composite nationality in the world … In races we range all the way from black to white, with intermediate shades which, as in the apocalyptic vision, no man can name or number.”
— Frederick Douglass, 1869

In the late 1860s, Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave turned prose poet of American democracy, toured the country spreading his most sanguine vision of a pluralist future of human equality in the recently re-United States. It is a vision worth revisiting at a time when the country seems once again to be a house divided over ethnicity and race, and over how to interpret our foundational creeds.

The Thirteenth Amendment (ending slavery) had been ratified, Congress had approved the Fourteenth Amendment (introducing birthright citizenship and the equal-protection clause), and Douglass was…

The World We Used To Live In

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Antigua Demands Harvard Pay Reparations for Benefiting From Slavery

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Antigua Demands Harvard Pay Reparations for Benefiting From SlaveryThe labor of enslaved people paid for the founding of Harvard Law School, Antigua’s prime minister reminded the college’s president.

READ: Antigua Demands Harvard Pay Reparations for Benefiting From Slavery

What W. E. B. Du Bois Conveyed in His Captivating Infographics

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In 1893, Ida B. Wells published a pamphlet titled “The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition.” The expo, which lasted for six months, was held in Chicago and was meant to chart the trajectory of the Americas in the four hundred years since Columbus had arrived.  Though a handful of African-Americans had individual exhibits at the fair, there was none specifically dedicated to the history or the accomplishments of African-Americans as a people. Wells secured contributions for the pamphlet from Frederick Douglass, the educator and journalist Irvine Garland Penn, and the lawyer and activist Ferdinand Lee Barnett. Together with Wells, they wrote about the ways in which black life could enrich the fair’s official version of American history, which, as Wells noted in the pamphlet’s introduction, had rendered invisible the contributions of black people to the American might that the fair was intended to celebrate.
GREAT READ: What W. E. B. Du Bois Conveye…

British university appoints history professor to examine its links to transatlantic slave trade

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British university appoints history professor to examine its links to transatlantic slave trade
Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN, October 30, 2019



A British university has appointed the country's first black female professor of history to lead research into the transatlantic slave trade.

Olivette Otele will take up her new role as the University of Bristol's first Professor of the History of Slavery on January 1, the institution said in a press release.

Her first task will be a two-year research project on the university's and the city of Bristol's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

Bristol's wealth in the 17th century was largely built on the slave trade, with more than 2,000 slaving vessels setting out from the city's port between 1698 and 1807, when Parliament abolished the slave trade, according to Bristol Museums.

During that period, slave ships carried more than 500,000 people from Africa to the Americas.
One slave trader, Edward Colston, tran…

The Last Lynching Victim in South Carolina

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The Last Lynching Victim in South Carolina
Brent M. S. Campney reviews William B. Gravely’s They Stole Him Out of Jail: Willie Earle, South Carolina’s Last Lynching Victim.
October 31, 2019, Black Perspectives



In They Stole Him Out of Jail: Willie Earle, South Carolina’s Last Lynching Victim, William B. Gravely, professor emeritus at the University of Denver, explores the 1947 lynching of Willie Earle in South Carolina, the criminal investigations and trials that followed, and the memory and legacy of those events. The product of some forty years of research, the book builds upon an impressive evidentiary base, including newspaper coverage by the Black and white presses, interviews with participants and witnesses, and letters and a notebook regarding the trial proceedings written by the British novelist Rebecca West, who was in attendance. Unfortunately, he notes, “no library, private holdings, attorney files, court records, or archive has a transcript of the trial” (168)…

Hundreds of People to Reenact One of the Largest Slave Rebellions in U.S. History

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Chantal da Silva, October 28, 2019, Newsweek



It was just over two centuries ago that as many as 500 enslaved people in Louisiana started to march nearly 26 miles to New Orleans, chanting the battle cry: "Freedom or Death."

For many, the effort would end in the latter, with dozens of people believed to have been brutally killed. Surviving organizers were forced to face a tribunal, which saw some sentenced to death by firing squad.

The "German Coast Uprising of 1811" would go on to be known as one of the largest slave rebellions in history–yet, as The Smithsonian noted, it is "oft-overlooked."

One artist, Dread Scott, is looking to change that, however, organizing a reenactment of the uprising that will see hundreds of people march 26 miles over the span of two days on November 8 and 9 to ensure that an important moment in U.S. history is never forgotten.

"The position of black people in American society is a big question, including the agency…

The Electoral College must be eliminated

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The Electoral College: How the Founders Cheated You of Your Voteby Harlow Giles UngerWeeks of debate by America’s Founders failed to set any rules at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia—a failure that led to “cheating” at the Electoral College ever since. The aging Benjamin Franklin agreed that failure to permit the people to choose the chief magistrate was “contrary to republican principles. In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” read 

$27 Million for Reparations Over Slave Ties Pledged by Seminary

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$27 Million for Reparations Over Slave Ties Pledged by Seminary
Ed Shanahan,  October 21, 2019, The New York Times



A New Jersey seminary has pledged to spend $27 million on scholarships and other initiatives to address its historical ties to slavery, in what appears to be the biggest effort of its kind.

The announcement, by the Princeton Theological Seminary on Friday, came about a year after an internal report detailed the findings of a two-year investigation that showed slavery’s deep roots in the school’s past.

The move put the seminary at the heart of a national discussion about what those who reaped the benefits of slavery — and the United States as a whole — owe to the descendants of slaves.

In a sign of that discussion’s complicated nature, Nicholas Young, the leader of a black student group at the seminary, said that the steps outlined by officials amounted to “a good start” but that they fell short of what the group had sought. About 10 percent of the seminary’s 36…

Mormons in Mexico: A brief history of polygamy, cartel violence and faith

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Mormons in Mexico: A brief history of polygamy, cartel violence and faithby Rebecca JanzenAlong with the Romneys – relatives of Sen. Mitt Romney, whose father was born in Mexico – the LeBarons are among the most storied families in Mormon history. Members of Utah’s Latter-Day Saints community emigrated to Mexico in the 1880s to follow their religious beliefs by living in polygamous families, which was illegal in the United States. +Members of this community report enduring beatings, underage marriage and other abuse, as the escapee Anna LeBaron recounts in her 2017 memoir “The Polygamist’s Daughter.” 
Legal definition of polygamy: Theoffense of willfullyandknowinglyhavingmorethanonewife or husband at thesametime.Theoffense of willfullyandknowinglyenteringinto asecondmarriagewhilevalidlymarried to anotherindividual is bigamy.

Anti-polygamylaws in theUnitedStatesalsosprangfromreligiousconflict. In themid-1800s,widespreadpublichostilityarosetowardthepractice of polygamy by members of theCh…

White Fragility

Little Man Little Man