I initially chose to take this course in the hopes to expand on my limited knowledge of black history in America. Over the years the most information I obtained on the subject was briefly and vaguely in history classes and during the month of February when the same basic facts about obligatory figures would be read during class for Black History Month. After reflecting on the events of the past few years and realizing how history has begun repeating itself, I understand that I need to begin educating myself on said history. In the past few weeks I have learned more about black history in general than I ever have in elementary and high school. Learning that Africans were not exactly snatched up by white people and that Abraham Lincoln is not the hero I was taught to believe was extremely eye opening. It is also very enlightening reading the personal experiences of Equiano being taken from his tribe and the thoughts and feelings of “the tribe of the Middle Passage” on their return to Africa. Overall, I am enjoying the class very much and am looking forward to future lessons.
The upcoming release of the Marvel movie, Black Panther, is a long overdue milestone not just for comics turn into movies, but black representation on cinema. The last black superhero to show up on movie screens was Wesley Snipes’s 1998 vampire slaying hero Blade. It was groundbreaking to see a superhero whose melanin was dark and his strength could kill blood thirsty vampire with a swing of his sword . Snipes’ Blade gave young black children someone to idolize that looked like them and made them believe the possibility of also appearing on the big screens.
On February 16th, when Black Panther releases, a new generation will witness for the first time a superhero who resembles themselves. Black Panther is a a title given to the king of Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa . The movie brings an Afrofuturism vision of what it would look like if an African country wasn’t colonized by European colonizers. Just like in actual African countries, Wakanda possesses a valuable resource called vibranium that is heavily sought after. It was used to make Wakanda the most technologically advanced society in the world.
The cast will be filled with black actors and actresses and will feature a variety of African culture in it. This type of representation is unheard of in comic book movies because the typical superhero is a white man or woman from the American cities like New York or a fictional one like Metropolis. This movie breaks down white culture’s grasp on blackness as Jamil Smith says, “films that depict a reality where whiteness isn’t the default have been ghettoized, marketed largely to audiences of color as niche entertainment, instead of as part of the mainstream”. This film is important for the next generation as it focuses on identity, incorporates black representation, shows the beauty of African culture, and invites its audience to a world that many like myself, is mesmerized by.
The win of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election surprised many United States citizens. However, how surprised can one really be? President Donald Trump’s election was an almost direct parallel to the secession of the Confederacy. The bridge between the two is not racism, or even economics, but cultural anxiety–the worry or concern surrounding societal transitions.
Although traditionally understood as the primary cause of the Confederacy’s secession from the United States, the economics of slavery was not the primary driving force. This is exemplified through the border states’ rejection of Lincoln’s A Plea for Compensated Emancipation in 1962 in which Lincoln offered continuous financial compensation for the gradual emancipation of slaves. If finances were the Confederacy’s primary concern, the states would have willingly accepted Lincoln’s offer. Rather, the states committed to a war that contributed to the major loss of both people and money. In 2016, it was speculated that economic anxiety was the driving force behind Trump’s election. However, “financially troubled voters in the white working class were more likely to prefer Clinton over Trump,” (Green, 2017). Again, money was not of utmost importance. Instead, it was the preservation of particular way of life.
The southern plantation owner of the 1800s and the white working class of the 2000s have more in common than race. Each group had witnessed decades of events and ideologies that were perceived to threaten their way of life. The southern plantation owner, in particular, experienced the Compromise of 1820, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott case, and John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry in the span of forty years. Each of these events questioned and even attacked the continuation of slavery and the south’s entitlement to property, violating the southern states’ constitutional rights. In the Apostles of Disunion, the South’s aggravation and fear for their way of live as a slave society can be seen through the charged language: “the light of our civilization goes down in blood, our wives and our little ones will be driven from their homes by the light of our own dwellings….” This fear is apparent in the white working class as 68% felt the U.S. is in danger of losing it’s identity and needs to be protected from foreign influence (Green, 2017). Nearly half of the white working class agreed that “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country,” (Green, 2017). These claims are reminiscent of the Confederacy’s own fear for their way of life.
The one thing, however, that is unknown are the specific events and ideologies that led to the white working class’ feeling of isolation. Currently, these events can only speculated. Such would be the increased immigration in the past 10 years as well as the increase in diversity in multiple social spaces. In addition to the increase in diversity, the onset of social media has contributed to the public advocacy for Black, LatinX, Native American, and LGBTQ+ rights, decreasing the apparent media attention on the white middle class. Although these events are not necessarily deserving of a secession, they can be seen as a contribution to white American fear.
Green, Emma. “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 9 May 2017, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/white-working-class- trump-cultural-anxiety/525771/.
After our discussions in class about learning the reality of history and truth behind some of our beloved American icons like Abraham Lincoln. Also how at the end of one of our classes we went around the room and saw how our high schools taught the civil war, and a vast majority of the class was taught how Abraham Lincoln was against slavery. However after doing our readings we learn this is not the full truth. This is the same thing that is happening with the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it is being pulled from school curriculum because of its uncomfortable nature. That is the point of the book it is to show the gritty reality of racism and the Jim crow laws. As a nation we cannot keep teaching what we want or removing important books that show the dark history our nation went through. This is because it teaches us important life lessons and we as students and teachers has missed a wonderful opportunity to have a frank discussion with children why reasonable people go stark raving mad, Perhaps if we talked about race more there would be fewer people cavalierly tossing out hurtful racist language.
After watching Traces of the Trade two times, I have come to have a deeper understanding of the documentary. Though the documentary has many good layers including showcasing the problem of the deep north and conversations about subjects such as reparations and white privilege. On the other hand, it raised quite a few problems for me that I felt was not properly addressed.
One thing that struck me as odd was how nonchalant everyone seemed when they mention the Adjowa and Belladore nursery rhyme. The rhyme struck me as odd and dark because it ended with Adjowa being pushed down the stairs. It was discussed in passing; well my ancestor gave a slave to his wife as a present, and it turns out she was born on a Monday. It just felt like there was a disconnect between the story, where no one was interested in what really happened to the girls and how they lived.
During the tour of Bristol, one of the women got upset because there were shackles in the room and she felt uncomfortable. It saddened me because in that moment everything became center about her, while no one went to the root of the problem or even wondered what the black people might have felt. If the woman was that upset by being exposed to the little truth, then what might black people be feeling overtime they hear about slavery or encounter racism.
As a native of Ghana, I found it very disrespectful for the family to intrude on the sacred traditions of the festival. Their curiosity and need for closure became more important than understanding common courtesy and respecting boundaries. Even natives don’t stand around to just watch sacred proceeding, it is for those who are directly affiliated with it and not outsiders, so I understood why the black woman didn’t want to acknowledge them.
The Family’s participation in a so-called “slave meal” was pitiful as sad. They were served in fine china and good glasses. It defeated the point of putting yourself in the shoes of the slaves. Instead, to taking time to analyze the meal and go more in-depth, it was kind of skimmed over. During the walk around the abandoned building, some were too jovial for the circumstances and that rubbed me the wrong way.
The documentary was made with good intention the were many hits and misses, and though it achieved a great deal of many things, I don’t think the family put themselves fully into the experience and it was felt throughout the video.