In the News #BigIsms #2022 #Rituals #WhiteSupremacy
Tracing the Origins of a Black American New Year’s Ritual
Kayla Stewart, December 24, 2021, The New York Times
On New Year’s Day, Black American families around the country will sit down to eat a variation on green vegetables and cowpeas, joining in an enduring tradition meant to usher in opportunity in the year ahead.
“I don’t let a New Year’s Day go by without having some form of greens, pork and black-eyed peas,” the food historian Jessica B. Harris said.
The choice of greens, usually cooked with pork for flavor, comes from the perception among Black Americans that folded collard greens look like paper money, said Adrian Miller, an author and food scholar. Eating greens on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day is believed to bring about greater financial prosperity. The peas promise good luck, health and abundance.
Dutch scholar claims to have found date slavery started in New Amsterdam
Lincoln Anderson, December 31, 2021, The Village Sun
It’s an ignominious and dark date, but a Dutch scholar says he has established the exact day and year when the first enslaved Africans arrived at Manhattan Island.
Dr. Jaap Jacobs, a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a specialist in the history of the Dutch Republic and its colonies, has reached the conclusion as part of his research for a book he is penning about Petrus Stuyvesant a.k.a. Peter Stuyvesant.
Jacobs has been periodically sharing some of his findings with St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, beneath which Stuyvesant is buried. The East Village church has been engaged in a reckoning over its early congregants’ ownership of slaves.
According to Jacobs, 22 Africans were first brought to New Amsterdam, at the southern end of present-day Manhattan, 394 years ago on Aug. 29, 1627. They were aboard a fairly small ship called the Bruinvis (“the porpoise”), which had sailed from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Jonkonnu: The holiday when Black revelers could mock their enslavers
Gillian Brockell, December 26, 2021, The Washington Post
Edward Warren was a young doctor in the early 1850s when he first witnessed it. Later in life, he described what he saw at Christmastime among the enslaved population at Somerset Place, one of the largest plantations in North Carolina.
On Christmas Day, he wrote, one of the enslaved men dressed up in a costume made of rags, cowbells, “two great oxhorns” affixed to his head and a mask of raccoon skin over his face. Another wore his Sunday best. Others beat drums and played banjos while the two men “entered upon a dance of the most extraordinary character.”
“I was convinced from the first that it was of foreign origin,” he wrote, “based on some festive ceremony which the negroes had inherited from their African ancestors.”
The Historical Legacy of Watch Night
December 30, 2020, The National Museum of African American History and Culture
On the night of December 31, 1862, enslaved and free African Americans gathered, many in secret, to ring in the new year and await news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. Just a few months earlier, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the executive order that declared enslaved people in the rebelling Confederate States legally free. However, the decree would not take effect until the clock struck midnight at the start of the new year. The occasion, known as Watch Night or “Freedom's Eve,” marks when African Americans across the country watched and waited for the news of freedom. Today, Watch Night is an annual New Year’s Eve tradition that includes the memory of slavery and freedom, reflections on faith, and celebration of community and strength.
The Fight to Remember the Black Rebellion at Igbo Landing
Ramenda Cyrus, January/February 2022, Mother Jones
Dunbar creek is a narrow, unassuming strip of water that winds through the north side of Georgia’s St. Simons Island. People drive over it daily via a narrow causeway, some on their way to the lavish Sea Island Resort. In the daytime, the water is so murky that the depth is impossible to gauge. At night, the water is indistinguishable from the land. In that darkness, some residents claim, they have heard chains rattling—the last remnant of a people who flew.
In 1803, 75 West Africans, many of them Igbo people from what is now Nigeria, were sold for $100 each to John Couper and Thomas Spalding. They were packed like cargo onto the slave ship the Morovia (or the York; accounts vary). Their fate was excruciatingly obvious, and the only answer was a rebellion. The Igbo overpowered the ship’s captain and killed some of his crew, and the ship ran aground in Dunbar Creek.
The Igbo made a conscious decision. They knew that a life of agony and horror awaited them, so they decided to walk into the water. In most oral retellings of what happened, they sang, “By the water spirits we came and by the water spirits we will be taken home,” as they walked into the creek, still chained to each other. “You cannot be an enemy of the land you are a part of.” It’s unknown how many people drowned and how many were recaptured; the bodies of 10 to 12 Igbos and three white captors were reportedly recovered from Dunbar Creek, according to contemporaneous documents held by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.
How ‘free state’ California wrote slavery and white supremacy into its law books
Bob Egelko, December 27, 2021, The San Francisco Chronicle
California joined the Union as a free state in 1850, with a state Constitution that expressly outlawed slavery. But two years later, the Legislature enacted its own version of the Fugitive Slave Act, which required law enforcement officers and ordinary white citizens to help slaveholders recapture escaped slaves and return them to the South.
Six months later, in October 1852, the California Supreme Court wrote white supremacy into the casebooks.
The Fugitive Slave Act was passed “for the protection of the State from this obnoxious class of population,” Chief Justice Hugh Murray wrote in a ruling ordering the state to return three freed Black men to their former owner in Mississippi. Quoting an unnamed “distinguished jurist,” Murray said Black people were “festering sores upon the body politic.”