In the News #BigIsms #Rio #SlavePort
More enslaved Africans came to the Americas through this port than anywhere else. Why have so few heard of it?
Terrence McCoy, January 17, 2022, The Washington Post
RIO DE JANEIRO — When tour guide Pedro Andres arrived at the site
historians call the most important physical evidence of the arrival of
enslaved Africans to the Americas, the scene he found was familiar. The
Valongo Wharf was empty.
Addressing a family of Paraguayan tourists, Andres described its historical significance. At the height of the transatlantic slave trade, nearly 1 million enslaved Africans arrived on its cobblestones, more than landed anywhere else, and twice as many as were trafficked to all of the United States. UNESCO has called the wharf, discovered in 2011 during an urban renovation project, a “unique and exceptional” place that “carries enormous historical as well as spiritual importance to African Americans.”
But Andres, who brings tourists to the wharf of his own volition and not because it’s recommended by his tour agency, saw little indication of that remarkable history. There are no memorials. Only a single sign above a large puddle far removed from the street. The wharf has been unearthed but is still ignored. Even people who live nearby, whose ancestry leads back to this point, don’t know of its existence.
A reckoning with our past: Yale examines its historical ties with slavery.
Jan/Feb 2022, Yale Alumni Magazine
Along with dozens of other schools, Yale has opened a long-closed door to a part of its past that had been hidden. In the following pages, you’ll learn about that past, and you’ll read some painful history.
As a start, however, we offer this contemporary artwork: But Enough About You, by Titus Kaphar ’06MFA. It’s a powerful rejoinder to a much older painting, and to the many who caused terrible suffering.
Del Rio and the Call for Migrant Justice
Alicia Schmidt Camacho, January 19, 2022, The New Yorker
The violent removal of Haitian asylum seekers from their encampments in Del Rio, Texas, in September, opened a critical window for reckoning with the centrality of racism—and anti-Black racism in particular—to the conduct and character of U.S. border policing. Photographs taken at the scene showed uniformed white agents in chaps and full riding gear as they drove Haitians away from U.S. territory. In one shot, captured by the photojournalist Paul Ratje, an agent lunges forward to grab a young man’s shirt; the man, who has since been identified as Mirard Joseph, is carrying nothing more threatening than food for his wife and daughter.
The spectacle of heavily armed border guards abusing vulnerable migrants reminds us that the U.S.-Mexico border is not a neutral entity. Since it was established, following the U.S.-Mexican War, it has been an instrument of power and control. The images of the mounted border agents drew comparisons to slave patrols, which emerged in the early eighteenth century in the U.S. to enforce slave codes, catch escapees, and prevent Black revolt. These groups evolved into militias such as the Texas Rangers, which prosecuted war against the Karankawa, Cherokee, and Comanche tribal nations, pursued fugitive slaves into Mexico, and established control over ethnic Mexican communities. By 1835, when they were formally constituted as a law-enforcement agency, the Rangers had created a culture of policing in the service of white supremacy. (Working with the descendants of affected communities, Monica Muñoz Martinez and others have recovered the record of Ranger atrocities, including the 1918 Porvenir Massacre, in which Rangers and local ranchers executed fifteen unarmed Tejanos.) Founded in 1924, the Border Patrol recruited directly from the Texas Rangers and incorporated the habits of using border security to enforce white racial primacy. During this early period, many agents were active in borderland chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.
Roma Slavery: From Recognition to Reconciliation
Delia Grigore, 19 January 2022, Transitions
In the 1990s, when I joined the Roma movement with the desire to write a PhD thesis on traditional Roma culture and the aspiration to support the reconstruction of ethnic identity from the perspective of a fledgling activist, I knew almost nothing about slavery.
I had only heard, from stories told by Roma elders, that “we worked for the landlords” or, from Roma folklore, that “my mother and father were no longer slaves.” However, I had no clear idea what slavery represented in the history of the Roma in Romania, and in the history of this country in general, how many hundreds of years it lasted, let alone its consequences on a legal, socio-economic, and especially on a spiritual level.
Wild: Bird of Paradise” Envisions a World Without Prisons or Police
Celina Fang, January 14, 2022, The Marshall Project
Early in Jeremy McQueen’s dance film, Wild: Bird of Paradise, a young Black man played by lead dancer Khayr Muhammad, is lying in a field in Yonkers, New York, as a song plays in the background: "What if there were no police, and no jail, and no bail, give me chances to fail and not get buried?" Then the young man hears the voice of a police officer shouting, “Show me your hands!” followed by the sound of a gunshot. Muhammad passes out, entering a dream state where he is joined by five other young Black men dancing in bright sunlight on the green grass.
With this scene, McQueen was imagining a space where young Black men could express themselves without fear of police violence. “There’s a level of trauma that comes with being a Black man in America, of constantly feeling like you never know, when you leave your house, if you’re going to make it home alive,” said McQueen, a Bronx-based choreographer and dancer.
Portrait of a Man
Brian Piper, December 28, 2021, Perspectives on History
In an age when most photographs we take never physically exist, it is easy to forget that photography originated as a visual and tactile medium. It is exactly this material nature that makes Portrait of a Man (ca. 1852) one of my favorite photographs in the New Orleans Museum of Art’s collection. Touched by the hands of both the photographer, Felix Moissenet, and the unidentified Black man who sat for it, this daguerreotype invites us to explore the important history of how people of African descent participated in New Orleans’s early photography scene.