In the News #BigIsms | Germany's genocide in Namibia | Frederick Douglass Book Prize Tiya Miles
'Our Auschwitz, our Dachau’: Reckoning with Germany's genocide in Namibia.
Hamilton Wende, 6 November 2022, Al Jazeera
Waterberg, Namibia - The lacy shadows of the acacia trees lie over the dry grass. A chilly winter breeze sighs through the branches. In the sparse shade, Jephta Nguherimo, a lifelong activist for restorative justice for the Herero people, holds the rusted remains of some military equipment, it's impossible to tell now what it might have been used for.
The 59-year-old throws it back on the ground. “I’m thinking of all the women and children who died here,” he says.
He is standing on the site of the Battle of Waterberg where, on August 11, 1904, the German colonial army decimated Herero rebels who were fighting the colonists who had imposed their rule on the country and seized much of its land. The killings were part of a German campaign of collective punishment between 1904 and 1908 that is today recognised as the 20th century’s first genocide.
But his ancestors were not mere victims, he tells Al Jazeera: “This war was the first resistance to colonialism.”
How “Education Freedom” Played in the Midterms
Jessica Winter, November 9, 2022, The New Yorker
The 2022 midterm elections offered many snapshots of the contemporary school wars, but one might start with the race for Superintendent of Education in South Carolina, a state that languishes near the bottom of national education rankings and that’s suffering from a major teacher shortage. Lisa Ellis, the Democratic candidate, has twenty-two years of teaching experience and is the founder of a nonprofit organization that focusses on raising teacher pay, lowering classroom sizes, and increasing mental-health resources in schools. Her Republican opponent, Ellen Weaver, who has no teaching experience, is the leader of a conservative think tank that advocates for “education freedom” in the form of more public funding for charter schools, private-school vouchers, homeschooling, and micro-schools. “Choice is truly, as Condi Rice says, the great civil-rights issue of our time,” Weaver stated in a debate with Ellis last week. In the same debate, Ellis argued that South Carolina does not have a teacher shortage, per se; rather, it has an understandable lack of qualified teachers who are willing to work for low pay in overcrowded classrooms, in an increasingly divisive political environment—a dilemma that is depressingly familiar across the country. Ellis also stressed that South Carolina has fallen short of its own public-school-funding formula since 2008, leaving schools billions of dollars in the hole. Weaver countered that the state could easily persuade non-teachers to teach, so long as they had some relevant “subject-matter expertise,” and warned against “throwing money at problems.” The salary floor for a public-school teacher in South Carolina is forty thousand dollars.
Monuments to the Unthinkable
America still can’t figure out how to memorialize the sins of our history. What can we learn from Germany?
Clint Smith, November 14, 2022, The Atlantic
The first memorials to the Holocaust were the bodies in concentration camps.
In January 1945, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz, in southern Poland. As the German forces retreated, officers at Buchenwald, a camp in central Germany, crammed 4,480 prisoners into some 40 railcars in an effort to hide them from the Allies. They sent the train south to yet another camp: Dachau. Only a fifth of the prisoners survived the three-week journey.
When Dachau was liberated in April and American forces came upon the railcars near the camp, they found corpses packed on top of one another. Soldiers turned their heads and covered their noses as the sight and smell of the bodies washed over them. They vomited; they cried.continue
Four States Voted to End Slavery — But Not Louisiana
Mike Ludwig, November 13, 2022, SheerPost
Louisiana’s failed Amendment 7 was far from perfect. It would have abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, but with an exception for lawfully administered criminal punishment. The criminal code in Louisiana allows for a convicted person to be sentenced to prison and hard labor, making Amendment 7 no different than the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlaws slavery except as a punishment for crime, according to Norris Henderson, founder of Voice of the Experienced, a New Orleans organization of formerly incarcerated activists.
“It was clear that it was really just semantics, to be honest; it didn’t really change anything … [forced labor] is still ‘cool’ under the guise of a lawfully convicted crime,” Henderson told Truthout in an interview.
For decades, journalists have documented the testimonies of Black prisoners at the Angola prison farm who say they are forced to pick cotton and other crops under the hot sun and watchful eyes of wardens. Curtis Davis, a lead organizer with Decarcerate Louisiana’s effort to pass Amendment 7, was released from Angola in 2016 and vowed to fight back after being punished for refusing to work in miserable conditions.
“I was like, ‘I know my rights, I’m not a slave,’” Davis recently told The Appeal. “And they say, ‘But yes, you are.’”
"Divisive Concepts" Bans Will Undermine Teaching Some of the Values Conservatives Claim to Uphold
John Marot, November 13, 2022, History News Network
How to teach Black history in K-12 schools has been a contentious issue in recent years, especially because of the cultural impact of the George Floyd protests. Republican politicians are alleging a vast conspiracy, cooked up by radical left-wingers, to corrupt traditional narratives of American history through what they describe as “critical race theory.” Right-wing activists have framed it as an attempt to indoctrinate students across the country into “Marxist” thought, “destroying” the foundations on which the United States was built.
Such talk has provoked state legislatures across the country to ban “critical race theory” from being taught in their schools. Many of these bans, passed and proposed, are ambiguously worded, possibly putting the teaching of Black history in jeopardy. They purport to ban the teaching of any history deemed “divisive” or “controversial” to certain groups.
There is, of course, no reason that teaching Black history will automatically evoke those feelings. Take, for example, the history of the abolitionist movement in the United States, and specifically Frederick Douglass. The movement, with Douglass at the forefront, led the effort to end the institution of slavery in this country, and it met considerable resistance throughout the country, culminating in a deadly and destructive civil war. While studying this era may bring up painful thoughts, figures of inspiration and patriotism also emerge in a careful reading of this time.
Yale Announces 2022 Frederick Douglass Book Prize Winners
Tiya Miles and Jennifer L. Morgan
November 16, 2022
New Haven, Conn.— Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition today has announced the winners for the twenty-fourth annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, one of the most coveted awards for the study of the slavery in world history. The 2022 Prize will be shared by two scholars. The co-winners are: Tiya Miles for “All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake” (Random House) and Jennifer L. Morgan for “Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic” (Duke University Press). Both of the winning books, noted Gilder Lehrman Center Director David Blight, use different scholarly approaches to examine “the complications and persistence of kinship within the commercial and social history of slavery in the Atlantic World.”
Jointly sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the MacMillan Center at Yale University, this annual prize recognizes the best book written in English on slavery, resistance, and/or abolition published in the preceding year. The $25,000 prize, shared by the two winners, will be presented to Miles and Morgan at an award ceremony sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute at Trinity Church in New York City on February 16, 2023.