400 Years Blog #11 – Zora Neale Hurston and the Last “Black cargo”

In 2018 Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was posthumously published. Both the story it tells and the story behind it demonstrate how hard it is to get history right, especially about slavery.  Those who experienced it often had their words ignored, distorted, or lost when they died. In 1927, Hurston saved the words of Oluale Kossola, a […]

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400 Years Blog #10 – Ain’t I a Woman? Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth swept into the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention “with the air of a queen,” a tall, “almost Amazon form,” with “eyes piercing the upper air like one in a dream.” But how much of the account that followed written by activist Matilda Joslyn Gage was accurate? History does not do justice to this […]

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400 Years Blog #9 – Douglass, Property, and Reparations

How can we possibly pay back descendants of Africa treated as property for centuries? This overwhelming question derails discussion of potential reparations, yet we somehow managed to maintain a system of race-based oppression for 400 years. Given the lengths our country went to in order to create and justify such oppression, shouldn’t we at least […]

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400 Years Blog #8 – Douglass on the Influence and Rights of Women

Of all the horrors of slavery, a particularly cruel one was the separation of children from their mothers. Infants were raised by older women called “aunties” so that young mothers could quickly return to fieldwork. This further broke familial bonds that might interfere with obedience to the master.  So it’s not surprising that Frederick Douglass […]

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400 Years Blog #7 – Frederick Douglass’s Persistence and Strength

I am afraid to die.  If Nietzsche was right, if “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” then my sheltered life has made me weak.  I remember as a child mulling over my own unworthiness when hearing Martin Luther King Jr, declare, “If you haven’t found something worth dying for, you’re not fit to live.” […]

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400 Years Blog #6 – Frederick Douglass and White Fragility

As Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam struggles to save his political life, his “white fragility” is on clear display. [For a deeper understanding of “white fragility” explore: https://robindiangelo.com/] His weakness contrasts sharply with the strength of Frederick Douglass whose autobiography I finished re-reading today.   Janell Ross of NBC described how Northam, at his February 2 […]

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400 Years Blog #5 – The Diversity and Resistance of the Enslaved

Enslaved people in pre-Civil War America were as varied as any group. Each had distinct personalities and diverse histories reaching back to different regions of Africa. Going forward, I will try not to refer to them as “slaves” because it minimizes their uniqueness and frames them in relation to a system of oppression.  It’s why I […]

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400 Years Blog #4 – The Creation of Chattel Slavery

For 40 years after the first Africans were forced to the British Colonies, black and white laborers socialized in difficult but rough equality.  Regardless of color, poor indentured servants suffered from long-hours, brutal punishment, harsh weather, and disease.  Minor offences could result in longer terms of service. But most laborers had some legal rights, at least, and could imagine […]

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Fritz Williams, A Remembrance

Recently I saw an article about a study which showed that the best way to teach ideas and have them remembered was with the use of stories. Typically I’d want to see the design of the study before reading further.

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400 Years Blog #3 – Gifts from Africa’s Past

Who can truly explain the African roots of millions of Americans? For centuries manipulative portrayal of these roots was a tool of white supremacy. While arguing that “benevolent” slavery lifted “savages” up out of the “dark continent,” whites ignored, appropriated, and distorted truth. Being white, I write this blog both in acknowledgement of this truth […]

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