“Nobody Ever Says There Are Too Many Holocaust Stories”: Alfre Woodard Responds To “12 Years A Slave” Criticism

November 11, 2013  |  

 

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?

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