All Articles Tagged "slavery"
Update 2: Sarah Palin was on Fox & Friends this morning (of course) praising the “media standard” that deemed Martin Bashir’s comments unacceptable, but says she’s used to being the target of “attacks.” And because this is Fox & Friends, they had to be a little extra with the blame for this.
“One of the things about his attack is it was scripted. The people at NBC had a chance to review it and said – they obviously, or apparently, all agreed,” said host Steve Doocey. All of that last sentence is an assumption.
If you really want to hear more, click through to Mediaite.
Update: Martin Bashir has resigned from MSNBC over his comments in response to Sarah Palin’s comparison between US debt to China and slavery. After apologizing, Bashir writes in an email, he took Thanksgiving to think about his reaction even further.
“Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the President of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation. It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments,” Bashir wrote in an email, now posted on Mediaite.
In a statement, MSNBC president Phil Griffin said: “Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague – we wish him only the best.”
Bashir was always known for over-the-top statements, but in this case, it looks like he went too far. I do wonder whether this is somehow related to a recent incident involving Alec Baldwin. In that case, Baldwin, new to MSNBC with his show Up Late with Alec Baldwin, was forced out (the official word is that it was a “mutual” parting of the ways) after seemingly using a gay slur when addressing an aggressive photographer who was trying to snap a pic of his family. He later apologized for any offense caused, but still angered GLAAD and other critics. He was given a two-week suspension and ultimately, his show was yanked. At that time, Baldwin actually called out Bashir. “Martin Bashir’s on the air, and he made his comment on the air! I dispute half the comment I made…” he told Gothamist in an interview.
Do you think Bashir needed to go?
Updates by Tonya Garcia
MSNBC political commentator Martin Bashir is apologizing for his commentary about the oft-politically incorrect Sarah Palin after she compared the United States’ indebtedness to China to America’s enslavement of blacks, The Wrap reports.
“Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our children and borrowing from China. When that money comes due and – this isn’t racist, so try it, try it anyway, this isn’t racist – but it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due. Right? We are going to be beholden to a foreign master,” Palin said during a speech on November 9.
Bashir was so jolted by Palin’s comments, he reserved a segment on his self-titled show to bash the former Alaskan governor for her off-the-wall analogy. He called Palin “America’s resident dunce” who attempted to “sound intelligent about the national debt.” Ouch! But Bashir doesn’t stop there, in fact, he was just getting started.
“Given her well-established reputation as a world class idiot, it’s not surprising that she chose to mention slavery in a way that is abominable to anyone that knows anything about its barbaric history,” Bashir began. The British journalist then offers a primary source that describes the torturous days of slavery — the diary of Thomas Thistlewood, a plantation overseer who kept notes for over 39 years.
“In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby was ‘[caught] eating kanes. Had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s**t in his mouth… ‘This became known as ‘Darby’s Dose’, invented by Thistlewood, that spoke only of his savagery and inhumanity,” he revealed.
“When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery,” Bashir added, “she just doesn’t prove her rank ignorance, she confirms that if anyone truly qualifies for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.”
A few days later, Bashir apologized for his caustic insults and offered a two-minute speech of sincere regret for his comments on Palin:
“I wanted to take this opportunity to say sorry to Mrs. Palin and to also offer an ‘unreserved apology’ to her friends and family, her supporters, our viewers and anyone who may have heard what I said,” he said. “Upon reflection, I so wish that I had been more thoughtful, considerate, and compassionate, but I was not…I deeply regret what I said.”
However, few seemed fazed by Bashir’s biting words towards Palin.
“Bashir’s mistake was thinking Palin ‘needed’ someone to s**t in her mouth. She’s fully capable of producing fecal material with her mouth and needs no assistance,” a reader noted under The Wrap’s article.
Your thoughts? You can watch the apology and the offensive criticism after the jump.
When it comes to being black in America, even the simple act of playing with dolls can have political and social connotations.
To understand what I mean, check out this fantastic essay by Whitney Teal entitled, “I Secretly Hated My “Addy” American Girl Doll.” Here’s an excerpt:
“Soon, though, I began to hate my Addy doll.
First off, she was a slave. Slavery scared me when I was a kid. Hell, to be honest, learning about it still scares me, hence why I refuse to see 12 Years a Slave. Addy’s books, as wonderfully written as they are, were sad and cold and dangerous. They weren’t filled with happy people suffering temporarily like Molly’s, or people with lives of comfort struggling with societal pressures that I only vaguely understood like Samantha’s.
Secondly, her clothes. Like, really? All of the miniature accessories that you’ll undeniably lose the next day are 85 percent of the reason any kid even wants an American Girl doll and I just couldn’t get with Addy’s. All the colors were muted, all the patterns were ugly. There was no sass or pomp or shine. There was no fun.
In short, she was depressing as hell. Putting Addy in an America where she was effectively denied the privilege of being a child made it impossible for her to embody all of the qualities for which early American Girls were known—free-spiritedness, a defiant personality and the courage to defy expectations. The penalty for girls with a strong personality in any of the other books may have been a stern look or a menial punishment. For Addy, historically and in the books, if she had been any of those things the penalty would have been far greater.”
Teal went on to explain how she dressed her Addy doll in mostly contemporary clothing (with exception of Addy’s signature gold hoop earrings) to disconnect her from her historic roots but yet how traitorous she still feels to this day for “bashing Addy’s right to exist.” She writes:
“My discomfort with Addy probably has less to do with her, her books and her clothes and more to do with the possibly unavoidable discomfort of being a black girl in a country that still doesn’t really know what to do with me. I am strong, too, because I have to be. There were aspects of little-girldom that were denied to me because, in some ways, I had to grow up faster and know more things than white girls to thrive in this country, just like Addy. I am brave, like Addy, because the act of living in a hostile environment requires that. But, most of the time, I wish I didn’t have to be so strong and so brave and maybe Addy just reminds me of that.”
Blackness-related exhaustion is real, folks. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard over the last few weeks, a person ask with the same annoyance ‘why do we have to keep talking about slavery?’ As if we really talk about slavery? I don’t know about the rest of y’all’s secondary educational experience but the only academic discussions around slavery we had centered around the politics of it, most particularly how the government eventually did black folks a solid and made it illegal. And in the last 20 years, I can only think about three or four films on the subject, and those films just so happened to have been produced in the last couple of years (including 12 Years A Slave and Django Unchained). In fact, the only time I hear black folks nowadays make any sort of slavery-reference is when we are demeaning each other with so called slave-archetypes like Mammy or Uncle Tom or Negro Bed Wench. So the idea that the national conversation is saturated with proper introspection and reflection of how our great nation used actual human beings as chattel and then denied those same human beings justice and equality for years thereafter, just kind of rings hollow to me. Or at the very least, insecure.
If it was just slavery, black folks might not be so uncomfortable about contemporary conversations around the personalization of the institution however a discussion of slavery ultimately brings about a discussion about the generations of black folks after enslavement, who had to suffer, struggle through and ultimately bare the humiliation of second-class citizenship. And that, in turn, may bring about feelings of insecurity and inferiority, especially in the face of a reality of our history. Or as Jerry Large writes in this archived article entitled About Slavery: No Need for Embarrassment from the 1996 Seattle Times:
“As a psychologist might say, there was no closure. The wound is still open. Most people throughout history have had the luxury of creating a romantic myth of how they got to be who they are. Jews, Aztecs, Romans, white Americans, Zulus. But not black Americans. White America protects its myths as true history and rejects the incipient myths of black Americans as revisionist pap. Afrocentrism is bad, Eurocentrism is good. (How much Chinese or Japanese literature did you read in school?). Black Americans are not all descended from kings and queens, but neither are white Americans. Bad luck brought us both here, some running, others dragged.”
However, in the midst of all this wanting to forget the bad stuff, are much richer and complex stories – not just stories of survival in the face of dire circumstances but of camaraderie. Take for instance the actual background narrative to the Addy doll. According to the American Girl Wiki page, outside of hard labor as an enslaved nine-year old black child (and eventually a free child in the North), Addy Walker is also described as a proponent of fairness and a questioner of the status quo. Moreover:
“Addy tends to leap before she looks; so far, this has yet to get her in any trouble. She is also curious and wants to surge ahead. She does feel she can trust people before she meets them more often than not. Watching anything – people or animals – suffer bothers her. In her heart, she is an optimist and thinks good of people. However, due to her young age, she is easily influenced and upset by other people, especially her classmate Harriet. Addy is also very upset and sometimes ashamed of her poverty status, especially in comparison to Harriet, who has the kind of life Addy expected in freedom. Addy has a lot of pride at times. She wishes her family did not have to work so hard to make a life for themselves in freedom.”
The irony, of course, is that Teal and the Addy doll have lots more in common than she likes to believe.
I will say that as a kid, who took pride in her collection of 32 Barbies and Ken dolls of all varying hues and made up backgrounds, one thing that I most look forward to was the ability to conceptualize my dolls in all new identities, particularly when it came to restyling their hair. And by styling, I mean making uneven and raggedy bobs with kindergarden scissors. I could be rough in play with my Barbies in a way I couldn’t with my more cultural dolls without it feeling like abuse. There is a delicate balance of educating kids about a history, which often gets neglected and whitewashed over in school and just letting kids be free to explore their creativity on their own, which many of us haven’t master. And a slavery themed toy doll is pretty damn heavy no matter how you try to dress it up.
“Nobody Ever Says There Are Too Many Holocaust Stories”: Alfre Woodard Responds To “12 Years A Slave” Criticism
Most of us fell in love with Alfre Woodard during her role as Carolyn Carmichael. Known for not taking nonsense from her five boisterous children and laid back musician husband in the Spike Lee classic, Crooklyn, Carolyn Carmichael became one of our favorite mothers in the black film canon. Recently, Woodard added another layer to the black woman’s 19th century identity by becoming a privilege slaved on a New Orleans plantation in the critically acclaimed fall movie, 12 Years A Slave.
As you know, this movie has received as much criticism as it has praise, and in a recent interview with Uptown Magazine, Woodard shut down all of the negativity as she discusses how Django Unchained compares to 12 Years a Slave, post-racialism, and modern-day slavery. Here are her insights as she shared them with Uptown when prompted on the various topics:
Slave narratives.. “are vital for us to have our feet on balanced ground in the future. I think it’s a chunk of our history that we are in denial about and that we don’t accept. And it is the root, I would say, of our contemporary domestic problems.”
Nobody ever says… “There are too many Holocaust stories,” or “There are too many gangster movies.” But we tell three stories [about slavery] and they want us to be done.
Today… “there are more slaves held around the world, sexual and domestic, than even in the mid-1800s. But that’s all in the shadows, and it’s right in our suburbs and everywhere around us.”
If you’re a racist… “or not is absolutely off the point that the manifestation of 300 years of a slave economy is present in everyday [life]. If you’re going to deny that, you’re going to be constantly wondering why you’re anxious and off the tracks.”
Post-racialism… “brought the boil up. And now we just have to lance the boil, clean it out and heal the wound. People [mistakenly] thought, Now I don’t have to feel like I’m carrying the weight of something [that] happened when I wasn’t even alive. We are now forced into conversations. If we don’t have them, we’re going to be really sick.
Django Unchained is… “to 12 Years A Slave [what] the Atlantic Ocean is to the Pacific Ocean. We need a lot of oceans. One does not negate the other, and one occupies a different territory. And [they are] fed by different rivers. They’re absolutely different genres; they’re absolutely different filmmakers. And they’re different stories.”
Pictures like 12 Years a slave… “give us a common language, a common emotional experience, whether you’re British, West African, West Indian or American.”
Read more of Woodard’s wise thoughts, here. What do you think about what she said?
Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin popped up at an event in Iowa and compared the federal debt to slavery.
“Our free stuff today is being paid for by taking money from our children and borrowing from China,” she said at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s fall fundraiser at the State Fairgrounds Saturday night. “When that money comes due – and this isn’t racist, but it’ll be like slavery when that note is due. We are going to beholden to the foreign master.”
Palin drew an audience of about 750, smaller than the 1,500 she attracted in 2010 for a Republican Party of Iowa dinner.
She told the Iowans, who have the ear of presidential candidates, that they reflect what’s good about America. “You’re unpretentious, hardworking, humble, very candid. You tell it like it is and you’ll tell a politician exactly what it is that you’re thinking,” she said.
Conservatism, she said, is partly about “moving the poor and the underemployed out of poverty and out from the shackles of dependency on government.”
“We’re not wards of the state but free men and women who can live good and productive lives without D.C.’s appointed best and brightest telling us what to do,” she said.
Palin got extra applause when talking about how moderate Republicans have failed grassroots conservatives.
“Remember their promise that they would do everything in their power to fight against socialized medicine, against Obamacare?” she said, as the crowd jumped, cheering, to its feet. “When it came time to stand and defund it, they waived the white flag of surrender and they threw under the bus the good guys who did stand up and fight.”
Read more at EurWeb.com
From The Grio
A Nevada assemblyman came under fire Monday after a YouTube video surfaced in which he told a Republican gathering he would vote to allow slavery if that is what his constituents wanted him to do.
“If that’s what they wanted, I’d have to hold my nose … they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah,” Assemblyman Jim Wheeler told members of the Storey County Republican Party at a meeting in August.
His comments were swiftly denounced by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Assemblyman Wheeler’s comments are deeply offensive and have no place in our society,” Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “He should retract his remarks and apologize.”
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., called Wheeler’s comments “insensitive and wrong,” while the Assembly Democratic caucus said they were “reprehensible and disgusting.”
Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, on Twitter said Wheeler’s comments are “outrageous, they are embarrassing and they are just plain sad.”
“It’s time for Jim Wheeler to find a new line of work,” Roberson said.
Wheeler, a freshman lawmaker representing District 39, said his remarks were taken out of context and that he was trying to make a point that he was elected to represent his constituents.
Read more at TheGrio.com
12 Years A Slave is a British-American drama that adapted the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup. Northup, a freed black man was kidnapped in Washington D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. Northup’s slave narrative differs from others because he was a middle-class black man who lived in Upstate New York. Chiwetel Ejiofor who uncovered who Solomon Northup was in his role in 12 Years A Slave spoke with Fader Magazine on how he conceptualized Northup’s character, if blacks have progressed since slavery and if we can find the silver lining in given freedom.
Solomon Northup As A Man
He had this depth of spirit and passion, a kind of instinct for life, an absence of hatred. He was able to get rid of anything that wasn’t useful to him, and to only keep things that were gonna keep him alive and keep his mind intact. Hatred was just not gonna be useful. It would only eat him; he didn’t have any place for it.
How He Prepared For This Role
It was stuff that I got from the screenplay, and stuff that I got from the book. But there were some things that you discover as you move through the process. You’re making all these decisions about how you’re gonna respond to people, how you’re going to interact, and how those things make you feel. And things come up—like this lack of hatred—which you don’t even necessarily acknowledge fully at the time. You’re inside the experience. You’re playing Solomon as you feel him, and it’s maybe only after that you really reflect on all the different aspects of the character.
On Northup’s memoir 12 Years A Slave
I consider Solomon Northrop’s book a gift to the modern world. It’s expressing something in the past but it’s also full of elements we can relate to in our time. It allows us to understand the past in a slightly different way, teasing us into the future in a different way. The experience I had reading the book was the experience that I wanted people to have whilst watching the film—you start off watching the film or reading the book and you’re quite objective—you’re just looking at it—and then at a certain point it becomes quite immersive and you are feeling it as well. And I thought that with the book. So that’s the quality that you have to bring to the film.
Reenacting Northup’s life events
The process is multi-layered. Obviously, when you’re playing Solomon, you’re always aware that he is very alive to the sense that he shouldn’t be in that place. That’s the foundation of playing a character like that. Everything he witnesses is a reflection of that primary fact: that he knows a completely different life to this life. He becomes a conduit for the audience, who probably are experiencing what he’s experiencing in a similar way, whereas every other person in that environment is either accustomed to it or believes that it’s justified. So he’s closer to us, with a similar experience to the audience than anybody else in the film.
Slave Narratives In 21st Century Flim
I think it gives us a completely three-dimensional picture of slavery, because it comes from really deep inside the slave’s experience. The things that we consider to be amorphous blobs of slavery, like the plantation system, were actually very specific. You had the sugar cane, and the cotton picking, and timber, and all of these created very different plantations. Also, the relationships between people were so specific, like the bizarre friendship that came up between Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, Master Ford, and Solomon, who became, kind of, strange friends. They recognized something in each other. The system had them both in a bond: Master Ford for financial reasons; Solomon, obviously, in slavery. So it’s a very complex system, and I think it’s very informative as to how these systems that compromise human dignity can come up through people who are, sort of, understandable. And I think that’s something that any era should really look at: those questions of human dignity and respect and what human beings are capable of.
The effect slavery had on Black people
In a way, it wasn’t my job to try and play it in a contemporary reflection of the story. I was gonna just tell the story—Solomon Northup’s story. I think once you look and reflect on Solomon Northrup and on the system of slavery, I think it has wide implications for society. How could it not? The events of this film were only 150 years ago, or something. It’s so recent. Of course it’s going to have a major impact on the way society is today. These things are going to take a lot longer to deal with. And the ways that they express themselves in society are varied. Some of them express themselves externally, some of them internally—not only the poverty, but there’s also mental health issues and education. There’s a lot of different things we can all find the roots of in that period. There was a devastated community and families and I think there are allegories there, for sure. But that’s not the way that I was approaching the material as an actor. That’s a reflection after.
The difference between Amistad and 12 Years A Slave
It’s a very different kind of project. Amistad began with a slightly more familiar idea of looking at slavery from a slight distance, and looking at those events with a panoramic view, from the president to the slaves themselves to the lawyers that represented them. I think this is different in that it’s from the slave’s point of view, and I don’t think that we’ve seen that before.
Steve McQueen As A Director
To me, there are different kinds of Hollywood movies. I know what you’re talking about, but even without meeting the sort of generalities of the quintessential Hollywood movie, this film is not necessarily un-Hollywood. Certainly in terms of its cast, in its production value, all the people involved and who’s doing music—it’s people who are familiar with Hollywood. What Steve brings is he comes at it from a slight angle—a beautiful angle. He’s so exceptionally detailed. He has a very heightened and achieved sensibility for all the different aspects of filmmaking. To me it doesn’t make it art-house. It still obtains a kind of narrative that is quite recognizable to people.
His Thoughts on 12 years a slave’s ending
I think his return was, obviously, wonderful. It’s an amazing experience to be able to reclaim himself and his family, and so that’s deeply satisfying, and obviously my heart leapt when I first read that in the book. I think that you can be frustrated by the other things that he wasn’t able to achieve—like bringing justice to the people that had done this to him—and also saddened by the fact that we don’t know much more about him and his life. But I certainly feel like it’s an incredibly joyous moment.
Have you seen ’12 Years A Slave’ yet?
From Black Voices
By now, everybody knows Columbus Day is pretty offensive. But if you need some quick talking points to show your friends how politically correct and knowledgeable you are while getting drunk on the Sunday night before enjoying your nice day off, look no further.
Most of us know that Christopher Columbus probably wasn’t the first person to”discover” the world was round, or even find land in America. And anyone who’s studied history past the first grade has a sense of how tyrannical and murderous he was to the natives he encountered. Some might even be willing to excuse Columbus and his atrocities, arguing that the man was just a product of a time when brutality and disrespect for human life were institutionalized. That’s a total copout. For one, he was deemed to be such a villainous cabrón that even his peers shipped him back to Spain in chains and stripped him of his governorship of Hispaniola. For two, if we’re really excusing the bad stuff, then what’s the good stuff Columbus did to deserve his own holiday, exactly? Apart from the whole introducing the New World to the whole ruthless Western colonialism thing, of course. If he got a holiday named after him, maybe we all should get one.
Here are some reasons why you deserve your own holiday more than Christopher Columbus.
1. Because you never ran a sex-slave ring that included pre-teen girls.
It was common practice for Columbus to reward men with sex slaves, and apparently pre-teen girls were especially sought after. Writing in 1500, “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.” Beyond the sex-slave atrocities, in Columbus’ second voyage alone, he sent 500 slaves back to Spain where nearly half died on the trip.
Read more at BlackVoices.com
Folks complained to Hollywood about the lack of black actors/actresses getting roles in film and television and Hollywood has responded with enough slavery-themed projects to keep the brothers and sisters employed for quite a while. Well, at least they are getting a paycheck – unlike their ancestors.
Blame it on the first black president, whose election has inspired a renewed interest in race. Or, as speculated by the black film website Shadow & Act, Hollywood’s decision to revisit the nation’s dark past might have something to do with marking the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War this year. But definitely, I think we can all agree that the success of Django Unchained has brought about a renewed – or even new – interest in the slave narrative.
As reported by Shadow & Act, there are a number of other slavery-themed films planned for the near future. Brace yourself, the list is long:
Starting the season is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard, among others, and it’s the true story about a free-born black man named Solomon Northup, who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Georgia. Also on tap is Savannah, which also stars Eijofor, and is loosely based on the book Ducks, Dogs and Friends, which tells the real-life tale of a white hunter who spends his days shooting fowl by the river with his best friend, a freed slave named Christmas Moultrie. Cuba Gooding Jr. attempts to free his family from a tobacco plantation in the upcoming flick, Something Whispered, while Former NFL linebacker Jeremiah Trotter will play escaped slave Big Ben Jones in The North Star. Not to leave our mulatto half-brothers and sisters out, there’s also the tale of Belle, about the trials and tribulations of a mixed-race girl living in the 18th century. Rounding out the Year of the Enslaved is the Civil War drama The Keeping Room; a fugitive slave hunting drama The Retrieval; and Tula: The Revolt, which stars Danny Glover and is based on a true story about a slave uprising on the island of Curacao.
And if you haven’t quite had your fill of upcoming black oppression on the big screen, don’t fret. Hollywood is also working on bringing the chattel to the small screen by way of two slavery-themed miniseries, including ABC’s miniseries based off of Paul Jennings, a black man who was a slave for President James Madison. The other series, which is said to still be in talks, hopes to bring the unlikely duo of Martin Scorsese and Harry Belafonte together for the purpose of telling the notorious true story of Belgian King Leopold II. His deadly colonization over what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was responsible for the biggest genocide of people in world history.
Now I know folks might be wondering why we can’t we move past…well, the past already, but I’m actually not all that bothered by slave narratives. And in actuality, some of the films listed I am actually looking forward to seeing, like 12 Years A Slave. Tula: The Revolt sounds promising. And if it ever gets made, the King Leopold miniseries sounds like a good one. We shouldn’t shy away from the slave narrative, after all, it is part of our legacy. And in some respects, a few of these stories might actually be beneficial, particularly in educating and reminding folks about what the legacy of slavery has meant for our community. But I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some of the slavery-themed content we have seen as of late has been problematic–including the ill-conceived Harriet Tubman sex tape skit.
Not to mention the clichés. Who isn’t sick of the white savior angle dressed in a historical slavery depiction, where all the white folks learn valuable lessons about themselves at the expense of black bodies? Or the benevolent servant, who gets tortured and sexually assaulted for 90 minutes – only to be rescued and freed with the help of the aforementioned individual? Quite frankly, I’m just not interested in watching that. Matter of fact, if I want to sit and watch black suffering brought on by the hands of institutionalized white supremacy, I’ll just open my front door and take a walk around my neighborhood. And instead of just exploring slavery stories that speak about plantation life, the sometimes congenial relationship between master and slave, and the general horrors of the peculiar institution, I want to see more about the stories of those who said “forget this crap!” and took their freedom. I’m not just talking about those who ran from the plantation, but also the ones who burned, pillaged and fought back against the institution itself. Those folks are national heroes too.
And it’s not like there isn’t enough source material, including these three examples:
- Nat Turner’s Insurrection: After many moons of speculation about the story coming to life on-screen and being a “must-make” movie for quite a few respectable lack folks, the fact that this story has not been turned into a feature-length film is deplorable.
- The Maroons of Jamaica, Surinam, and the Americas too: Not everybody stayed. In fact, slaves ran away by the tens of thousands during the antebellum period. From North America to South America, and also through the Caribbeans and through Central America, these runaways, or maroons, took to the jungles, the mountains, and the marshy swamps in order to avoid being chattel. They started free black communities of their own and in many instances, created hybrid settlements with other threatened ingenious people. To maintain their freedom, they took up arms and fought often times triumphantly against colonizers. In fact, some of the maroon tribes still exist and fight to maintain their autonomy. This is not to say that we should rewrite history to fashion a much more heroic past. However, in addition to learning about the ones who literally slaved in quiet dignity, we should also get to know more about the Black Seminoles of Florida, Cimarrons of Panama, the Quilombos in Brazil, among many other maroon settlements too.
- Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth: Come on. This is a no-brainer. Tubman personally lead more than 300 enslaved blacks to the promise land with a shotgun, and Truth was a fierce abolitionist and champion of women’s rights, including authoring the ever-poignant speech, Ain’t I A Woman? So why has Hollywood slept on any real attempt to breathe cinematic life into our most treasured icons outside of being a tasteless joke or the sidekick to a vampire hunting, slave-freeing president?
Unfortunately, this is Hollywood, and black Hollywood too. We can cite line and verse all the reasons why we are unlikely to see these narratives make it to either the big or small screen. But these stories are no less an important part of the fabric of this country, and they have an audience too.
Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade, reports Al Jazeera America.
The Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves remarked at the United Nations General Assembly that the European nations must pay for their past deeds.
“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”
The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, a regional organization that focuses mostly on issues such as economic integration, has filed the lawsuit. It will be brought to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. No word yet when the court proceedings will begin. The lawsuit focuses on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America.
The Caribbean countries have retained the British law firm of Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.
The first step of the lawsuit will be to seek a negotiated settlement with the governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands along the lines of the British agreement in June to issue a statement of regret and award compensation of about $21.5 million to the surviving Kenyans, according to Martyn Day, a lawyer from the firm.
Caribbean officials have not specified a monetary figure for the lawsuits, but at the time of emancipation in 1834, Britain paid 20 million pounds – the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today – to British planters in the Caribbean.
Slavery reparations have long been debated in America also.
When the Civil War ended, about 400,000 acres of land along the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts was taken from former slave owners and set aside for freed slaves, who would each be given a 40-acre plot of land to farm and make a living. “It was the first attempt in the U.S. at reparations, and was reversed by President Andrew Johnson after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865,” reports Al Jazeera America.
And in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama caused an uproar when said he did not support reparations for the descendants of slaves. This put him at odds with the NAACP, The Urban League, the SCLC and about two dozen members of Congress who sponsored legislation to create a commission on slavery.
The House, however, did issue an apology for slavery in July 2008, and the Senate did the same in 2009. Neither mentioned reparations.
Ida Finley, who is just weeks from her 102nd birthday and lives in a nursing home, is in a battle to retain her land in the area of Dirgin in East TX. The Luminant Mining Co. has tried for three years to purchase her 9.1-acre plot, which is now owned by her relatives who are spread across the country. “The company owns more than 75 percent of the parcel but can’t mine it because of a complex inheritance arrangement and the refusal of some family members to let go or accept Luminant’s offer,” reports the AP (via Black America Web).
According to Luminant, it has negotiated fairly with the owners and has offered them more than the land’s appraised value, plus full compensation to Ida Finley and her granddaughter for the homes on the land. These homes, Luminant claims, are not legally owned by the Finley family. So now, Luminant has sued some of the heirs, asking a court to equitably divide the land or force a settlement.
But the Finleys aren’t backing down.
“I don’t want to sell my family’s land. If I were to sell it, they would have to offer me a huge amount of money,” said Kay Moore, a Fairfield, Calif., woman who says Luminant offered her $3,000 for her piece of property.
Ida Finley’s granddaughter, Jacquelin Finley, is the driving a force behind the fight against Luminant. She still lives on the property in a decaying trailer, says the Associated Press. Ida Finley, called Big Momma by her family, raised her children and grandchildren and buried her husband there.
In the early 1800s, Dirgin, as did most of East Texas, featured large cotton plantations worked by slaves. When the Civil War ended in 1865, the slaves were freed, and some masters sold or gave them land. Ida Finley says “Old Man Martin” the master, gave her husband’s parents more than 100 acres. Luminant, however, says its records prove the family bought the land from two Confederate Army veterans. No matter how the Finleys came into possession of the land, sometime in the late 1880s it was theirs. When the Finleys who bought the land — Dick and Puss — died, they had no will, and the parcel was evenly divided among their five children, which included Ida’s husband, Adolphus.
In the 1970s, Tatum, Luminant’s predecessor, opened shop into the area to mine. “Ida Finley remembers the pressure applied on her husband, who finally sold 9.5 acres for $1,000 — the equivalent today of just over $4,300,” the article says.
About three years ago, Luminant claimed that since Ida’s husband died without a will, their children owned the land, and they sold it to Luminant. The company is also saying that it has made a number of offers to settle the situation to no avail. Now we wait to see that the courts will say.