Black History Month and Segregation Denialism

“America struggles with ‘denialism,’ i.e., a refusal to face its grim past of racial crimes and human rights violations. ‘Other countries that have tried to recover from severe human rights problems that have lasted for decades…have always recognized that you have to commit yourself to truth and reconciliation: South Africa, Rwanda. In the United States we never did that. We had legal reforms that were imposed on some populations against their will and then we just carried on.’…

Every year for the past several, I have become the point person for the Black History Month celebration at my church. It is not a position I’ve ever sought, but it has obviously sought me. I had called a meeting of potentially interested parties in early December, so that I might offload some of the responsibility. But I was so sick, not only did I not go to church, I had forgotten that I had called the meeting until after the fact. Opportunity missed; so it goes.

At the end of the first adult education hour, which featured a guest speaker, I recommended that people view Slavery by Another Name, a new PBS documentary based on Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, narrated by Laurence Fishburne (pictured) before the following session. Some folks did watch, and it is interesting to note that it was a piece of American history that most in the room were oblivious to. My wife and I had seen the film at an advanced showing at UAlbany a couple weeks earlier.

From a description of the book: Continue reading “Black History Month and Segregation Denialism”

Slavery by Another Name PBS documentary

When you create a class of “the other”, not just racially, but as “the criminal”, even if it were based on a vague, trumped-up charge of vagrancy, it made it easier to think of people as less than human.

My wife and I got a babysitter last Friday night so we could take the bus – MUCH easier than trying to find parking at the uptown UAlbany campus – and watch Slavery by Another Name, “a 90-minute documentary that challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation.” Though the film will be premiering on PBS, Monday, February 13 at 9pm ET / 8pm CT (check local listings), the real draw of viewing it early on a bigger screen was to be able to see the director of the film, Shelia Curran Bernard, and the writer of the book upon which the film was based, Douglas Blackmon, who I had seen before.

Narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne, “The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. Continue reading “Slavery by Another Name PBS documentary”