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.
December 25, 2012 |
A version of this review appeared in Sunday's Arts + Entertainment section. Neck-deep into Quentin Tarantino's antebellum western Django Unchained , I had this mental image of the über-geek genre filmmaker tapping furiously on his laptop, beaming at the brilliance of every new piece of dialogue he's writ. For all I know, Tarantino works on a typewriter, or longhand on a legal pad (or dictates his copy to a Gal Friday in spike heels), but in any event, as the banter ping-ponged across the dining table in the plantation mansion of slave-master Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, twirling his mustache)
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.
April 28, 2011 |
Despite a keen interest in African American history, Warren Oree had never heard of the violent standoff that came to be known as the Christiana riot. Then Oree came upon a two-sentence summary of the 1851 confrontation, which involved three escaped slaves, a strong-willed free black man, and a slave owner intent on retrieving his property. That was enough to spark the bassist/composer's curiosity. "I don't knock the Underground Railroad," Oree says, "but for too long African Americans have been pictured as either running away or cowering, and that's not a true picture.
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.
February 12, 2004 |
For years, my children asked questions whenever we walked past the jockey on a neighbor's lawn. The three-foot-high statue - dressed in white shirt and pants and a red vest - looked like a tiny slave holding a lantern, waiting patiently to be of service. "Why is that statue black, Mom?" the children asked. Finally, last fall I decided to broach the subject. I introduced myself to the homeowner, said I was a neighbor, and politely asked whether she would consider painting the statue in Caucasian skin tones.
March 25, 2012 |
CAMBRIDGE, Md. - At sunset, storm clouds were gathering and a breeze blew ripples in the Choptank River as golfers finished up their rounds and a hand-in-hand couple walked out on a wildlife-viewing boardwalk. It was hard to picture this placid scene as the setting of high tension in the mid-1800s, when local heroine Harriett Tubman guided many slaves across the river on their way north to freedom. The Choptank, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay, extends north through land that at the time was populated by Quakers and other abolitionists, so it was important to the Underground Railroad.