Posts Tagged: slavery
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad won the National Book Award on Wednesday night. In his acceptance speech he told us, “We’re happy in here; outside is the blasted hellhole wasteland of Trumpland. Be kind to everybody. Make art and fight the power.”
Not only was this apt for the evening, but it also describes the landscape of his novel, which presents us with several different Americas, including the diverse, literary America he was referring to....more
The Underground Railroad has always fascinated Americans, and recently it has exploded in popularity, with books, TV shows, and even representation on United States currency. But does the mythologized version of the Underground Railroad live up to actual history? In a recent New Yorker article, Kathryn Schulz examines recent media incarnations of the Railroad:
But, as more recent work has made clear, they should also incite our curiosity and skepticism: about how the Underground Railroad really worked, why stories about it so consistently work on us, and what they teach us—or spare us from learning—about ourselves and our nation.
In a Q & A with debut novelist Yaa Gyasi on the ZYZZYVA blog, Ismail Muhammad asks Gyasi to expound on narrative structure and the far-reaching effects of the international slave trade:
I realized that I was interested in tracking how slavery, colonialism, and institutionalized racism work over a very long period of time—not just the beginning and end, but the movement from the beginning to the end.
“The first impulse is to go, oh man, are you supposed to be writing about that, as a white American?” he said. “We tend to think of racism and slavery as something that’s appropriate only for black artists to engage with, and there’s something troubling and perverse about that.”
In a new novel, white author Ben H....more
Race is an important and central issue in the United States, but what about abroad?
It appears that both the United States and the United Kingdom are witnessing one of those moments when we confront what Toni Morrison said in an early interview about Beloved (1987), ‘something that the characters don’t want to remember, I don’t want to remember, black people don’t want to remember, white people don’t want to remember.
In an interview with NPR, novelist and funnyman Paul Beatty discusses his novel The Sellout, and what’s on his mind when creating a world where plantation culture is reborn in California. The novel focuses on Bonbon, an African American man who reacts to the accidental shooting of his father by the LAPD by re-segregating his hometown and taking on a personal slave—an elderly man famous for his role in Little Rascals....more
Salon has published an excerpt from Edward E. Baptist’s new book about the relationship between slavery and the development of capitalism in America. In it, he identifies the ways in which the American master narrative has written slavery out of our nation’s history and denied the system of mass murder and suffering on whose back the land of the free was conceived:
It would have to avoid the old platitudes, such as the easy temptation to tell the story as a collection of topics—here a chapter on slave resistance, there one on women and slavery, and so on.
Njong Emmanuel Tohnain, imprisoned in a Chinese factory that produced shopping bags for Saks Fifth Avenue, wrote notes (some in English and others in French) inside five bags pleading for help from the wealthy consumers on the other side of the world....more
Azie Dungey started her acting career as “the time-traveling black girl”: she played “every black woman of note that ever lived” in regional theaters and at historic sites around Washington, DC.
One of those roles—as a slave at George Washington’s Mount Vernon—ended up being more emotionally complex than she expected....more
I am alive today because of that truck driver. He saved my life trafficking me, taking my money, selling me to another master. There is no help given for free. I was a transaction.
Those are the words of a Sudanese man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the ’80s—not the 1780s, not the 1880s, but the 1980s....more