In The News #YaleSlavery #BigIsms #HostagePhotograph #Renty #CRT

 In the News

Yale publicly confronts historical involvement in slavery
Kevin Dennehy and Susan Gonzalez, October 31, 2021, Yale News
In a publicly accessible academic conference held Oct. 28 to Oct. 30, Yale researchers and other experts shared and grappled with initial discoveries about the university’s entanglements with slavery, part of a rigorous, ongoing effort by Yale to reckon with its role in a tragic and painful fact of United States history.

Also, President Peter Salovey outlined initial actions Yale will take in response to what it has learned about its past and its responsibilities in the present. These will include the creation of permanent memorialization of the enslaved and indigenous people who played vital roles in the community but whose stories have been forgotten; a meaningful increase in the university’s direct financial support for its home city of New Haven; and collaborations with the nation’s Historically Black and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

“Today, we are acknowledging that slavery and the slave trade are part of Yale’s history — our history,” Salovey said in a speech early in the conference, “Yale & Slavery in Historical Perspective.” “We do this because moving forward requires an honest reckoning with our past. And because the purpose of our university — to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge — calls us to do so.”

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“If Black Women Were Free”: An Oral History of the Combahee River Collective
Marian Jones, October 29, 2021 The Nation


Last year, fierce protests erupted across the US out of rage against austerity, a botched Covid-19 response, and the brutal murder of George Floyd. Demonstrators blocked traffic, occupied public spaces, and destroyed police property. At the same time, there was an upswell in mutual aid, rent strikes, and labor organizing.

This surge of activism and organizing built upon the history and analysis of radical Black feminism, especially the Boston-based Combahee River Collective, who in 1977 authored the landmark Combahee River Collective Statement. The collective recognized the necessity of working across race, gender, sexual orientation, and class while emphasizing the contributions of queer Black feminists to Black liberation and feminism.

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Legal Precedents or Reparations? Lawsuit Against Harvard May Decide Who Owns Images of Enslaved People
Valentina Di Liscia, October 27, 2021, Hyperallergic


A fallen statue of Louis Agassiz, the Harvard Professor who commissioned the daguerreotypes of Tamara Lanier’s enslaved ancestors in 1850. The statue, at Stanford University, famously fell and landed upside down during the 1906 earthquake.

In 1850, Harvard University professor Louis Agassiz commissioned Joseph T. Zealy to produce daguerreotypes of enslaved men and women for his studies of polygenism — the discredited theory that each race has a separate origin, usually invoked to support White biological superiority and scientific racism. Nearly two centuries later, with a greater sensitivity to the circumstances of their creation and enduring racial inequities, the images are difficult to characterize. The word “portraits,” with its connotation of honorable remembrance, feels ill-fitting. Calling the figures “sitters” implies a granting of consent that was absent from the photographs; “subjects” at least nods to the violent dynamics of subordination. But the term Agassiz preferred when referring to Alfred, Delia, Drana, Fassena, Jack, Jem, and Renty, who were enslaved in South Carolina when they were forced to strip naked and pose for Zealy’s pictures in the service of white supremacy, was “specimens.” When he saw the daguerreotype of Renty, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates likened it to a “hostage photograph.”

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Nigerian museums must tell stories of slavery with more complexity and nuance
Faye Sayer, October 26, 2021, The Conversation


In many parts of the world, museums are considering how to present history through different lenses, rather than just representing colonial and imperialistic views of certain events, countries or whole continents.

The current museum presentations of exhibits and information about slavery – especially the transatlantic slave trade – are a stark example of colonisation that’s been spun through a white, eurocentric lens. Hence, it’s become a key part of the decolonisation debate.

Museums all over the world have struggled to move beyond presenting more than emotionally removed snapshots of the slave trade. Most of these halls are continuing a long tradition of disconnecting themselves and the public from personal and local stories of slavery. This makes them disconnected from community and public memories.

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Critical race theory roils school board race in Guilford, a town long open to a study of slavery
Mark Pazniokas, October 24, 2021, The CT Mirror


GUILFORD — Across from the village green on Whitfield Street, an easy-to-miss plaque lays flush with a sidewalk used by parishioners of St. George Catholic Church on their way to Sunday Mass.

The marker bears a name, Jouachim, and a legend, “ENSLAVED HERE, 1794.” 

The bronze 4-by-4-inch square was installed on Nov. 15, 2018, one of the “witness stones” that dot Guilford, testimony to an overlooked history of slavery in New England and a contemporary willingness to confront it.

Now, the same town that embraced the heralded and imitated Witness Stones Project is an unlikely outpost in a culture war over the terms of America’s racial reckoning and its place in public education.

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A poet and a protester, Gil Scott-Heron captured his time — and ours
David Dennis, Jr., October 28, 2021, The Undefeated


This summer, billionaire Richard Branson took a plane to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere and Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, followed him into space a few days later. With the world in the throes of a pandemic and the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us growing wider, it was fitting that the phrase “Whitey on the Moon” was trending on social media.

Gil Scott-Heron, who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Sunday with the Early Influence Award, wrote the poem Whitey on the Moon, which he performed on his breakout album Pieces of a Man, on the night of the moon landing in 1969. The song featured lines such as, “I can’t pay no doctor bill/ (but Whitey’s on the moon)/ Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still/ (while Whitey’s on the moon).”

The poem captured the precise political moment of the time while also speaking directly to inequality plaguing the country in 2021. The continued relevance of Whitey on the Moon underscores the continued relevance of his music, message and social commentary. And his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction is an acknowledgment that one man influenced social justice movements five decades apart while also helping birth one of the most popular music genres in the world — hip-hop.

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Science and Slavery in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko
Ena Alvarado, October 26, 2021, JSTOR Daily


In the dedication to her 1688 novel, Oroonoko, Aphra Behn wrote that a “Poet is a Painter in his way; he draws to the Life.” Not surprisingly, Behn’s work has been read as an early precursor to literary realism. A closer look at her fiction, however, suggests that it aspires to much more than a truthful or neutral depiction of reality. According to literature professor Adam Sills, Behn sought to challenge readers’ optimistic views of the scientific machinery that propped up the Atlantic slave trade.

This critique comes into effect at the very start of the novel, when Behn first refers to navigational instruments. Oroonoko, a West African prince from what is now Ghana, “is introduced to the science and practice of navigation by the commander of an English slave ship,” Sills explains. As we learn from the narrator, every day he is entertained “with globes and maps, and mathematical discourses and instruments.” For Oroonoko, the knowledge imparted by his new European “friend” is a rich source of enlightenment and pleasure. Fatefully, his deep fascination with navigation also leads him to board the ship.

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“Politicians, Priests, and psychiatrists often face the same problem: how to find the most rapid and permanent means of changing a man’s belief…The problem of the doctor and his nervously ill patient, and that of the religious leader who sets out to gain and hold new converts, has now become the problem of whole groups of nations, who wish not only to confirm certain political beliefs within their boundaries, but to proselytize the outside world.” – William Sargant “Battle of the Mind”

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