What Do We Want History to Do to Us?
On Kara Walker.
On Kara Walker.
On the “white gold” that fueled slavery.
Our founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written. For generations, black Americans have fought to make them true.
How Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong struggle with clinical depression was a key to his presidency.
A decrepit building and a shameful family legacy.
A weekend with the United Order of Tents, a semi-covert organization of black women.
“She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.”
A Marxist archaeologist uncovers traces of fugitive slave settlements deep in the Great Dismal Swamp.
Two summers spent teaching and living in the hills of Tennessee.
The story of Ota Benga, captured in the Congo, displayed at the World’s Fair, and brought to the Bronx Zoo in 1906.
For generations, plantation owners strove to keep black laborers on the farm and competing businesses out of town. Today, the towns faring best are the ones whose white residents stayed to reckon with their own history.
A holiday tradition in the Netherlands involving blackface has sparked a debate about race, the legacy of slavery, and the vestiges of colonialism.
A ship captain's stories and unsettling encounters.
"Captain Brewster eyed the schooner, heavy in the water but no room in it for two hundred head of anything, and then he realized what it was. He explained to the man that the war was over and Lincoln’s Proclamation had become a Constitutional Amendment, that slavery was outlawed and slaverunners would hang for pirates. The man’s small eyes grew smaller, his heel tapped faster against the wood. He asked if Captain Brewster might like to buy some slaves for himself, though he used a different word, but Captain Brewster assured him that he wouldn’t, advised him to free his passengers and flee. The man spat the word back at him, passengers, half a question and half an accusation."
In 1981, Mauritania became the last country on Earth to abolish slavery. The law had little effect; at least 140,000 people are still enslaved today. Their best hope for freedom is an abolitoinist named Biram Dah Abeid.
“We are invited to listen, but never to truly join the narrative, for to speak as the slave would, to say that we are as happy for the Civil War as most Americans are for the Revolutionary War, is to rupture the narrative.”
On director Steve McQueen and his film 12 Years a Slave.
Frederick Douglass and the specter of slavery in Talbot County, Maryland.
A middle-class father, seeking to impress his daughter, purchases an unusual status symbol.
"After dinner, strolled grounds with Emmett, who is surgeon, does something two days a week with brain inserts, small electronic devices? Or possibly biotronic? They are very small. Hundreds can fit on head of pin? Or dime? Did not totally follow. He asked about my work, I told. He said, Well, huh, amazing the strange, arcane things our culture requires some of us to do, degrading things, things that offer no tangible benefit to anyone, how do they expect people to continue to even hold their heads up?"
An investigation into slavery in Mauritania:
An estimated 10% to 20% of Mauritania’s 3.4 million people are enslaved — in “real slavery,” according to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian. If that’s not unbelievable enough, consider that Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. That happened in 1981, nearly 120 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. It wasn’t until five years ago, in 2007, that Mauritania passed a law that criminalized the act of owning another person. So far, only one case has been successfully prosecuted.
Like hundreds of other local slaves — [they] had been pressed into service by the Confederates, compelled to build an artillery emplacement amid the dunes across the harbor. They labored beneath the banner of the 115th Virginia Militia, a blue flag bearing a motto in golden letters: “Give me liberty or give me death.”