In the News #bigisms #monuments | America, This Is Your Chance
Michelle Alexander, June 8, 2020, The New York Times
Our democracy hangs in the balance. This is not an overstatement.
As protests, riots, and police violence roiled the nation last week, the president vowed to send the military to quell persistent rebellions and looting, whether governors wanted a military occupation or not. John Allen, a retired four-star Marine general, wrote that we may be witnessing the “beginning of the end of the American experiment” because of President Trump’s catastrophic failures.
Trump’s leadership has been disastrous. But it would be a mistake to place the blame on him alone. In part, we find ourselves here for the same reasons a civil war tore our nation apart more than 100 years ago: Too many citizens prefer to cling to brutal and unjust systems than to give up political power, the perceived benefits of white supremacy and an exploitative economic system. If we do not learn the lessons of history and choose a radically different path forward, we may lose our last chance at creating a truly inclusive, egalitarian democracy.
The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously said that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Today, the same can be said of our criminal injustice system, which is a mirror reflecting back to us who we really are, as opposed to what we tell ourselves.
Richmond’s Confederate Monuments Were Used to Sell a Segregated Neighborhood
Kevin M. Levin, June 11, 2020, The Atlantic
On May 29, 1890, roughly 150,000 people gathered for the dedication of the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond. It was an opportunity to celebrate a man who many believed embodied the virtues of the old South, the “Christian Warrior” who bravely fought to the bitter end for the Confederacy’s Lost Cause. The Richmond industrialist and former Confederate staff officer Archer Anderson predicted that the monument would continue to teach “generations yet unborn,” and that it would “stand as the embodiment of a brave and virtuous people’s ideal leader!”
It was also an opportunity to showcase a new real-estate development that included wide boulevards and Monument Avenue itself—a divided boulevard, 140 feet wide, featuring parallel rows of trees along its center and another row lining the housefronts. The neighborhood was developed exclusively for white residents. Eventually, the avenue would feature monuments to Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, and J. E. B. Stuart; to Confederate President Jefferson Davis; and to the Confederate official Matthew Fontaine Maury.
The Confederate monuments dedicated throughout the South from 1880 to 1930 were never intended to be passive commemorations of a dead past; rather, they helped do the work of justifying segregation and relegating African Americans to second-class status. Monument Avenue was unique in this regard. While most monuments were added to public spaces such as courthouse squares, parks, and intersections, Monument Avenue was conceived as part of the initial plans for the development of the city’s West End neighborhood—a neighborhood that explicitly barred black Richmonders.
Ex-JPMorgan banker is the scourge of historic slave-owning families
Sarah Butcher, 13 June 2020, eFinancialCareers
If you were to assemble a backstory for an archetypal individual most likely to cause apprehension in some of Britain's oldest and wealthiest families, you probably wouldn't choose a Cambridge-educated former investment banker who rose to become the European co-head of M&A at JPMorgan. Sometimes, however, people do unlikely things.
As Britain's slave trading past rises to the surface and as awareness of the enormous sums paid by the British Treasury to compensate slave owners percolates, a database assembled by a former JPMorgan banker is receiving renewed attention.
Nick Draper spent 21 years at JPMorgan and was co-head of European M&A at the U.S. bank until 2000, when he became chairman of M&A in Europe. Two years later he became a part time senior advisor to the bank's European executive committee while studying for a masters. Draper then left banking altogether and embarked upon a PhD based on analysis of the Slave Compensation records. From 2009, he and a team of academics digitalized those records as the 'Legacies of British Slave Owning' database. The database allows users to search for family names and displays the associated amounts paid by the British government in 1835 to compensate individuals for slaves who were freed.
The Struggle to Abolish the Police Is Not New
Garrett Felber, June 9, 2020, The Boston Review
As protesters demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, calls for police and prison abolition have gained unprecedented traction. A majority of the Minneapolis city council pledged to disband a police department it said “cannot be reformed,” the public school system in Portland canceled its $1.6 million contract for “school resource officers,” and Los Angeles has reallocated $150 million from the police budget to communities of color.
Both critics of abolition and recent converts often frame it as a radical new concept. This can have the effect, intended or not, of making it seem idealistic, naïve, or undertheorized. But while the mainstream prominence of abolition may be new, the premise is not. Indeed, the struggle against mass criminalization—sometimes characterized as the “civil rights movement of our time” to combat a system described by some as the “new Jim Crow”—was a crucial feature of the movement to end the original Jim Crow. Struggles for black freedom have always had to contend with prisons and police as the enforcement arm of the racial capitalist state.
Black Women’s 200 Year Fight for the Vote
Martha S. Jones, June 3, 2020, American Experience
The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment is a chance to recover less well-known histories of women and the vote. If we take away little else, the suffrage centennial can teach us how the Black women leaders of 2020 – from Stacey Abrams and Ayanna Pressley to Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris – have emerged out of a centuries-long struggle for political power, in movements led by Black women themselves.
The 1913 women’s parade marked a critical turn in the road to the 19th Amendment. Alice Paul and the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) set aside older models of women’s politics that relied upon persuasion, partisanship and patronage. In their place, parade organizers placed confrontation front and center. The women seized the national stage – on the eve of a presidential inauguration no less – and put their bodies on the line in what turned out to be a raucous scene: Suffragists clashed with their critics and the curious for all the nation to see. Behind the scenes, Alice Paul and her collaborators in Washington had inherited the anti-Black racism that had always run through suffrage associations. When given her opportunity to remedy how white supremacy threatened to taint her parade, Paul faltered. She evidenced neither clarity nor conviction and the message to Black suffragists was clear. On March 3, they would not be excluded. Nor however would they be welcomed. A pointed awkwardness ran through the day’s events as a few dozen Black women took their places among thousands of marchers. The women stepped into a new phase of the suffrage movement, but they failed to leave racism behind.
Boot the Wellington: The growing resistance to Glasgow's colonial monuments
Christine Whyte, June 9, 2020, Counterfire
On the streets of Glasgow, statues of men who condoned enslavement, perpetrated imperial violence, and profited from empire loom over pedestrians. One of them is a tourist icon, the permanently traffic-coned Duke of Wellington. The statue and its location are a ‘perfect storm’ of noxious slavery and imperial legacies. It is situated in Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square, where contracts on commodities were exchanged in the 19th century. These included valuable deals on slave-grown cotton, or in Scottish linen-bound to make clothing for enslaved people.
When the statue was erected in 1844, the building behind it had not long been converted from the first Glasgow branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland to the Royal Exchange. Before that though, it had been the mansion of enslaver and plantation owner William Cunninghame. Literally the master’s house.
In many ways, Glasgow has been ahead of most UK cities in reckoning with its slavery past. There is a long-standing campaign to establish a Museum of Slavery, Empire and Migration led by a local anti-racist organisation (the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights), popular SNP City Councillor Graham Campbell has been vocal on the topic for many years, and both the university and the City Council have commissioned research by historian of Atlantic slavery, Dr. Stephen Mullen. In addition to these formal programmes, various creative interventions have highlighted Scotland’s links to slavery, performances, and artwork by Tawona Sithole and Gameli Tordzro in 2007 to The Empire Café. In 2014, a street-based play ‘Emancipation Acts’ culminated in a finale in front of Cunninghame’s mansion, now the city’s Gallery of Modern Art.
Local teacher to publish article on Fitchburg’s anti-slavery pageants
Daniel Monahan, June 7, 2020, Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG — Local author Darren Barry will soon be publishing an article in a history journal which examines how the city’s “normal schools” used anti-slavery pageants to educate students nearly a century ago about the Civil War.
The article, which will be in the Summer 2020 issue of the Historical Journal of Massachusetts, examines Fitchburg normal school’s anti-slavery pageants from 1911 to 1932.
Barry, a social studies teacher at Montachusett Regional High School, said he stumbled on the idea for the article while conducting research at the Fitchburg Historical Society.
He chose to write about these pageants because they are a part of an under-studied moment in history and deserve examination.
“The teaching of slavery as part of American history was not something that was done in public schools,” Barry said. “What was happening in Fitchburg at that time was really a diversion of what was happening in most schools.”
Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate
Thalia Anthony and Stephen Gray, 12 Jun 2020, The Guardian
Scott Morrison asserted in a radio interview on Thursday morning that “there was no slavery in Australia”.
This is a common misunderstanding which often obscures our nation’s history of exploitation of First Nations people and Pacific Islanders.
The prime minister followed up with: “I’ve always said we’ve got to be honest about our history.” Unfortunately his statement is at odds with the historical record.
This history was widely and publicly documented, among other sources, in the 2006 Australian Senate report Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages.