October 11, 1998 |
Oprah Winfrey could remember singing the hymn at the Baptist Church in Kosciusko, Miss., where she was raised. And before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave And go home to the Lord and be free. But it wasn't until the producer and star of Beloved was in character as Sethe, the runaway slave who will stop at nothing to prevent her children from being returned to the plantation, that she understood. Understood in her very marrow that, having tasted the honey of freedom, no how, no way could she have swallowed the curdled milk of oppression again.
February 4, 2000 |
In the antebellum South, the land of the free was also the home of the enslaved. During the greater part of the 19th century, African Americans had no identity, no rights, and very few, if any, ways to express their cultural and creative selves. For the vast number of African American cabinetmakers, potters, quilters, basket makers and blacksmiths, work became the outlet for such expression. Not only did the skills of those slave artisans help to build a nation, but their contributions to American craft also created a historical and artistic legacy that is just starting to get recognition.
February 19, 1997 |
The memory still irks Carl Galmon, a straight-talking, no-nonsense veteran of the civil rights movement. A group of black boys and girls - the McDonogh 35 High School marching band - strutted along St. Charles Avenue, styling and profiling in the Mardi Gras parade. As they high-stepped and moved to the music, their colors and uniforms paid proud tribute to their school - named for one of the largest slave owners in Louisiana history. "As they were passing, these people standing near me, I guess they were tourists, said, 'Is this school named after John McDonogh?
October 16, 1998 |
It wasn't the kind of thing you'd leave lying around the house, this iron collar with the ugly curved hooks. But as assistant to the propmaster for the movie Beloved, Kia Steave-Dickerson had been asked to find and forge the slave artifact - and, after filming, she kept the fabricated prop as a memento. Perhaps the fact that such devices were a century-plus removed from use had rendered the collar "a part of history" for the Philadelphia designer - but she did feel kinship with the pain it evoked.
May 30, 2016 |
The first job of any remake is to justify itself. Why do we need a new version of Roots , the beloved 1977 ABC mini-series whose finale more than 100 million people watched and whose most recent rerun - in high-definition on TV One - was only last fall? Because the world has changed enough in 39 years to justify more sophisticated writing and better production values, but not enough to make Roots any less relevant. Our understanding of the history underlying Roots has changed, too, though not in ways that hurt the History Channel's four-night version, which premieres at 9 p.m. Memorial Day and will be simulcast on A&E and Lifetime.
March 26, 2016 |
Where to begin? A knockout production of An Octoroon , by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed mightily by Joanna Settle, has just opened at the Wilma Theater. Well, it's not exactly by Jacobs-Jenkins, but rather radically reimagined and adapted from a 19th-century melodrama by Dion Boucicault called The Octoroon . So this is a contemporary play - note the An in the title rather than The - about theater history. Boucicault's play is about slaves on a plantation in the Deep South - this is Tara territory - and is thus about racial injustice (radical in itself, since the original play predates the Emancipation Proclamation)
March 23, 2001 |
In the 1950s, when the bells of the historic First African Baptist Church rang 96 feet above this corner in South Philadelphia, the neighborhood was filled with prosperous African Americans, and the church itself, 2,000 members strong, would crowd to overflowing on Sundays. Mabel R. Taylor, 96, is the oldest of the 100 or so faithful who remain. She remembers well the joy of watching the sun glint through the many stained-glass windows, and she recalls the glory of the chimes. "I have really enjoyed that church," said Taylor, who lives in Germantown.
February 18, 2016 |
Stoutsburg Cemetery - in Skillman, N.J., at the heel of the Sourland Mountains - has long served as an African American burial ground. Like many such places, it holds much unspoken history. Two trustees of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association are unraveling those secrets - the stories behind unmarked slave graves around the cemetery - for a book to be published next year. Purchased in 1858 for people of color, Stoutsburg became the final resting place for local residents, including veterans of conflicts dating to the American Revolution.
December 13, 1998
"There are many of us African Americans who absolutely reject the great myth of white/Jewish superiority. We are the superior people! . . . They are not there because they love or care about our children! They are there because oppressors need to oppress! . . . The sons and daughters of slave-traders and slave owners/masters should absolutely not be expected, nor trusted, to effectively teach and generally work to uplift the lot of the sons and daughters of former slaves. " Excerpt from a letter sent in January by Marvin A. Smith to Ella Travis, principal of George Washington Carver High School.
May 2, 2013 |
In the 1840s, Benjamin "Big Ben" Jones of Baltimore was a fugitive slave living in Bucks County. The mountainous Jones - nearly seven feet tall, according to historical accounts - made friends in the region, but in 1844, he was caught by his slave master and forced to return to Maryland. Those friends from Buckingham, however, helped him return. After raising about $700, they bought Jones' freedom, bringing him back to Bucks County, where he lived until his death. Jones' dramatic life has been recounted in books and historical exhibits, and now will be brought to the screen in The North Star , a biopic set to debut at theaters in Doylestown and Newtown this week.