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.
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)
February 22, 2010 |
There was cannon fire in Philadelphia on the morning of Feb. 22, 1797, as 16 rounds of salute - one for each state - rang out in celebration of the nation's greatest hero. It was the 65th birthday of George Washington, the "man who united all hearts," as John Quincy Adams called him. And with Washington's final weeks as president ahead, the event was celebrated with "more sincere joy" than ever, according to the Philadelphia Gazette. People of all classes paraded to the President's House at Sixth and Market.
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.
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.
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.