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MORE! In the News
Op-Ed: Kevin McCarthy loves Frederick Douglass. Do you feel better now?
David W. Blight, February 17, 2021, The Los Angeles Times
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) loves the great African American leader Frederick Douglass. He has a portrait of the former slave in his office at the U.S. Capitol. Does that make you feel any better?
Just now many Americans are weary of, indeed fed up with, Republicans’ venality, hypocrisy and lies. But if we were hoping for at least a weekend off after the second impeachment trial ground to its inevitable end, it was not to be.
Instead, as a spoiler, up stepped McCarthy, the House Republican leader, just in time for Valentine’s Day in a gesture of goodwill for Black History Month, to deliver a tribute to the master orator and writer, Douglass. In a one-minute video, as well as a longer narrative statement, McCarthy and his staff served up a tasteless batch of historical pablum. Lame, inaccurate history can seem merely insipid, but it can also be dangerous.
Mali fails to face up to the persistence of slavery
Marie Rodet, Bakary Camara, and Lotte Pelckmans, February 15, 2021, The Conversation
The internal African slave trade was officially abolished in colonial Mali in 1905. But a form of slavery – called “descent-based slavery” – continues today. This is when “slave status” is ascribed to a person, based on their ancestors having allegedly been enslaved by elite slave-owning families.
The practice is most prevalent among Mali’s nomadic Tuareg and Fulani communities in Central and Northern Mali, but exists in every region of Mali. It is also present in other Sahel countries, including Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Sudan, and Senegal.
In 2020 four activists campaigning against the practice were murdered in Kayes, western Mali, leading to large demonstrations.
How the Schomburg Center Became a Cultural Beacon and Harlem’s Literary Sanctuary
Kevin Young, February 17, 2021, Literary Hub
Born in Harlem, James Baldwin wrote often of his beginnings here, including his reading “every single book” in the transformative space now known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “I went to the 135th Street library at least three or four times a week, and I read everything here. I mean, every single book in that library,” Baldwin wrote. “In some blind and instinctive way, I knew that what was happening in those books was also happening all around me. And I was trying to make a connection between the books and the life I saw and the life I lived.”
The connection Baldwin made between his life and the lives that the future Schomburg Center contained speaks to the power of the books, history, and culture found there, as well as the center’s rich origins.
The Arch of Injustice
Steven Hahn, February 16, 2021
Steven Hahn reviews Walter Johnson's The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States
Asked to identify the city that best captures the long arc and ongoing dynamics of American history, most people would select New York or Philadelphia or Boston. Maybe Chicago. These cities were established early and were politically consequential and economically vital; they were sites of American independence and constitutionalism, national influence, great wealth and power, continental visions, and global reach for two hundred years or more. Walter Johnson suggests otherwise. His powerfully argued, insightful, highly personal, and—yes—immensely dispiriting new book, The Broken Heart of America, focuses instead on a city that is customarily overlooked, though very much at our peril: St. Louis.
The Problem of Fashionable Abolition: Performative Allyship Then and Now
Felicia Gabriele, February 16, 2021, The Rambling
I am filled with the most intense dread when I imagine anyone Googling my name.
Now I know what you’re thinking, but nothing inappropriate or untoward will pop up if you decide to Google me. Instead, you’ll see a few embarrassing attempts at self-construction in the form of old, outdated bios I’ve written describing myself and my work.
In each of these bios, I talk about how my master’s degree work on British abolitionists was foundational for me. My thesis focused on British women as anti-slavery writers, poets, consumers, and activists. Where it gets super cringey is when I refer to these white British women as “exceptional women,” and I credit them for inspiring me to “fight modern slavery in my own day and age.”
How a mass suicide by slaves caused the legend of the flying African to take off
Thomas Hallock, February 18, 2021, The Conversation
In May 1803 a group of enslaved Africans from present-day Nigeria, of Ebo or Igbo descent, leaped from a single-masted ship into Dunbar Creek off St. Simons Island in Georgia. A slave agent concluded that the Africans drowned and died in an apparent mass suicide. But oral traditions would go on to claim that the Eboes either flew or walked over water back to Africa.
For generations, island residents, known as the Gullah-Geechee people, passed down the tale. When folklorists arrived in the 1930s, Igbo Landing and the story of the flying African assumed a mythological place in African American culture.
Though the site carries no bronze plaque and remains unmarked on tourist maps, it has become a symbol of the traumatizing legacy of trans-Atlantic slavery. Poets, artists, filmmakers, jazz musicians, griots, novelists such as Toni Morrison and pop stars like Beyoncé have all told versions of the tale.