Roll Jordan, roll Roll Jordan, roll I want to go to heaven when I die To hear ol' Jordan roll
A rising tide. This is the closest feeling and image I can give to describe the impact of watching Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years A Slave, based on the true narrative by Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was captured and sold into slavery in 1841. It is a tide that hits, even when you’re not ready, recedes, then comes back with a force more powerful than the last.
This tide keeps coming, and you keep anticipating it, but nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming fear and loathing that fill your body when slave owner Master Epps (Michael Fassbender) enters the frame, and Solomon’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) face falls heavy with an aquatic force.
In Karen Sander's dystopian young adult book Tankborn, the world is a stringent caste system where race and origins determine all status. Tankborn was a hit and the sequel, Awakening, just came out this April, which means now is a great time to discuss the race and gender angle of the book.
Scarlett O'Hara and her mammy in Gone with the Wind.
With their Oscar wins last night, Django Unchained and Lincoln have taken their places in the top-tier pantheon of Hollywood's slavery films. As Official Slavery and Jim Crow Epics, both films have the full support of the Hollywood machine, enjoying obscene budgets and lengths, and use the power of image and story to re-create the history of the eras. They also both, in my opinion, absolve the white majority of guilt for upholding systemic labor exploitation.
Slavery and Jim Crow Epics are a whole mini-genre in Hollywood. These films are often released in an important anniversary year and rake in the box office dollars, and often wind up hindering meaningful conversation about the legacy of slavery. Whether the films employ benevolent omission or base humor, these versions of America's racial history continue to write African Americans out of the scene.
Here is a brief history of America Slavery and Jim Crow Epics, from 1915 to the present.
Mary Elizabeth Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew, a former slave and a wealthy white woman in Richmond, Virginia, might seem unlikely members of a successful espionage ring. Thanks to Hollywood, the typical images surrounding spies include scantily clad women, technological gadgets, and Pierce Brosnan—but this equation would hardly have gone unnoticed during the Civil War. Bowser and Van Lew used society's assumptions about them to their advantage, passing key information along to the Union Army and contributing to the demise of the Confederate States.
In an attempt to protest the Pennsylvania state House's recent designation of 2012 as "The Year of the Bible" (which is admittedly messed up), two atheist groups went the fight-douche-with-douche route last week and erected a slavery-themed billboard in "one of the Harrisburg's most racially diverse neighborhoods." Ostensibly meant to highlight the hypocrisy of the "Year of the Bible," the billboard instead pissed people off because it's racist.
You know how most of the time everyone glorifies the forefathers of this nation and kinda glosses over the f*#$d up parts of our great nation's history? Yeah. Well, that's one reason why it's important to remember people like Oney Judge. Born in 1773 into slavery on the plantation of President Powdered Wig Boner himself (George Washington of course), Judge escaped after being offered up as a WEDDING GIFT to the Washingtons' granddaughter (and you thought that gift card to Target was an inappropriate present). Before we move on into greater detail, I'll let comedian Jen Kirkman take this one over:
If you think politics today is a boy's club imagine 1860s America. The Civil War was beginning, slavery was not yet illegal, and women were still a good eighty years from receiving the right to vote. Yet one fiery young woman was able to become a national celebrity through her impassioned speeches on social reform. Anna Elizabeth Dickinson had her first anti-slavery piece published at the age of fourteen. As an advocate for black suffrage in addition to emancipation, and equal opportunity and pay for women in addition to the vote, Dickinson was one of the best-known reformers of her time.
When Damali Ayo was 12, her parents sent her to day camp with 20 white kids. The kids were fascinated by the way Ayo’s hair maintained its texture in the pool. Even after she deliberately dunked her head in the water, they were convinced that black hair doesn’t get wet.
This experience stuck with her as she launched her art career in the predominantly white city of Portland, Oregon. Ayo often felt she was the token black person relied upon for opinions and advice precisely because of her skin color.