Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #4

In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England’s mainland American colonies. hampton.gov

A few thoughts on the Revolutionary War period in U.S. history.

“The wealthy, educated men who led the revolt against Britain needed to unify the disparate colonists across social class and region. For those leaders, the comparison to slavery constituted a powerful rhetorical tool.” The 1619 Project

George Washington, Brittanica.com

George Washington’s words:

“‘The Crisis has arrived when we must assert our rights or submit to every imposition that can be heap’d upon us; till custom and use, will make us as tame & abject slaves, as the Blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway,” Washington warned in an August 1774 letter to his friend and neighbor Bryan Fairfax.

It is important, even imperative, that we stop Disney-fying our “Founding Fathers” and see their darker sides as well, especially those sides which involve enslaving people. Surely we can all agree that darker sides abound in us all.

Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #3

A blog category examining the difficult truth found in The 1619 Project.

In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England’s mainland American colonies. hampton.gov

Thomas Jefferson and Truth

Mount Rushmore
Thomas Jefferson

“In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson sat at his portable writing desk in a rented room in Philadelphia and penned these famous words. ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

“For the last two and a half centuries, this fierce assertion of the fundamental and natural rights of humankind to freedom and self-governance has defined our global reputation as a land of liberty.”

“As Jefferson composed his inspiring words, however, a teenage boy who would enjoy none of these rights and liberties waited nearby to serve at his master’s beck and call.“

“His name was Robert Hemings, and he was the half-Black brother of Jefferson‘s wife Martha, born to her father and a woman he enslaved. It was common and profitable for white enslavers to keep their half-Black children in slavery.”

“Jefferson, who would later hold in slavery his own children by Heming’s sister Sally, had chosen Robert Hemings, from among about 130 enslaved people who worked on the forced-labor camp he called Monticello, to accompany him to Philadelphia and ensure his every comfort as he drafted the text making the case for a new republican union based on the individual rights of men.” The 1619 Project

************

WHY do so many have such white fragility toward admitting this documented and obvious truth—that slavery built our nation early on? Why can’t we simply come clean and admit it? Allow truth a chance to heal us.

Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #2

A blog category examining the difficult truth found in The 1619 Project.

In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England’s mainland American colonies. hampton.gov

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” James Baldwin

Why do we (white Americans) have such a difficult time acknowledging the difficult truth that our nation was founded on the backs of the enslaved?

From The 1619 Project‘s first chapter:

“The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4, 1776, proclaims that ‘all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.’ But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of Black people in their midst. A right to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness did not include fully one-fifth of the new country.’” p.11

Truth can hurt. But Truth can also lead to change.

Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #1

A new blog category examining the difficult truth found in The 1619 Project.

************

As you may recall (if you follow my blog), HR and I have matching chairs in our study, which often find us reading away.

Robert and I are currently slowly reading through The 1619 Project. Do you know about it? What a brilliant and fascinating work, a collection of essays, imaginative literature, photographs and artwork produced by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine.

In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England’s mainland American colonies. hampton.gov

Why should we read and consider this work? Here are a few introductory excerpts …

As the Howard University historian Ana Lucia Araujo writes in Slavery in the Age of Memory, “despite its ambitions of objectivity,,” public history is molded by the perspectives of the most powerful members of society.

And in the United States, public history has often been “racialized, gendered and interwoven in the fabric of white supremacy.” Yet it is still posed as objective.

“History is the fruit of power,” writes Michel-Rolph Trouillot in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, and “the ultimate mark of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate challenge, the exposition of its roots.”

In exposing our nation’s troubled roots, The 1619 Project challenges us to think about a country whose exceptionalism we treat as the unquestioned truth. It asks us to consider who sets and shapes our shared national memory and what and who gets left out. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David W. Blight writes in Race and Reunion: The Civil Warbin American Memory, our nation’s “glorious remembrance is all but overwhelmed by an even more glorious forgetting.”

White Americans desire to be free of a past they do not want to remember, while black Americans remain bound to a past they can never forget.

As we approach July 4th celebrations, may we pause to consider the full and difficult history behind and far before the firework-y holiday.

My husband HR and the colors of our flag