slavery

Discovering the Legacy of African-American History in Virginia

Brandpoint

President Barack Obama designated Fort Monroe a national monument in 2011. Known as Freedom’s Fortress, Fort Monroe was finished in the 1830s. During the Civil War, Fort Monroe served as a shelter for runaway slaves, who were declared contraband of war. This is the site of the 1619 African Arrival, when the first Africans were forcibly brought to North America on an English privateer ship. 

Reading Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Underground Railroad’

Hope Wabuke

Previously nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur “genius” grant, Colson Whitehead has now been nominated for a National Book Award for his latest novel, The Underground Railroad, itself already selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick for 2016. Whitehead is also the author of John Henry Days, The Intuitionist and The Colossus of New York, among others, which explore questions of race, masculinity and identity.

The Original ‘Roots’ Was Superb – Why Is There a Remake?

Martin Johnson

To tell this story was revolutionary in 1977. It presented African Americans through African-American eyes in a dramatic and historically significant context. At that time, black people on television were typically seen in the context of white society or setting up gag lines like Jimmy Walker’s “Dyn-o-mite” exclamations. The presentations of  slavery’s inhumane brutality flew in the face of my high school teachers in Dallas, who contended that slavery helped blacks and that more whites than Africans died during the slave trade. 

6 Reason Why ’12 Years a Slave’ Matters

Genetta M. Adams

Director Steve McQueen’s hauntingly graphic depiction of slavery even made some people declare they were sitting this one out because they couldn’t bear to watch. The film has seeped into America culture. The long-term effects may never be fully measured, but the recent announcement that both the movie and the memoir on which it is based will be used in high school curricula ensures that people will be discussing it for years to come.

Did Abraham Lincoln Really Free the Slaves?

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, right? Well, the truth is a bit more complicated than that; actually, the truth is very complicated, leading even usually sober commentators such as the venerable historian Lerone Bennett Jr. to cry “foul,” and to do so quite bitterly, suggesting that black people have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to “The Great Emancipator.” 

The Gettysburg Address 150 Years Later

Hal Gordon

The words of the Gettysburg Address are so familiar to us today that it is hard to appreciate how radical they were at the time. Our country was neither “conceived in liberty” nor dedicated to “the proposition that all men are created equal.” A third or more of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had been slave owners. Nor was the Civil War being fought over the issue of human equality—at least not at first. Lincoln himself had hedged on this point. At the outset of the hostilities, he insisted that his chief aim was to preserve the union. 

D.W. Griffith and the Birth of Film History

Maggie Hennefeld

But when did filmmaking shift from point A to point B: from the spectacle of trick representation to the immersive art of narrative storytelling? The metaphor of “birth” -- the birth of cinema as a narrative art -- has often been located at a dubious conjunction with D.W. Griffith’s infamous adaptation of the The Clansman and The Leopard’s Spots (novels by Thomas Dixon), eponymously titled The Birth of a Nation (1915). 

From Master Juba to ‘Happy Feet’: A Brief History of Tap Dancing

Beth Kaiserman

Florenz Ziegfeld featured tap in his revues, including 50 tap dancers in the first Ziegfeld Follies in 1907. Aside from featuring big names like Fred Astaire, he also hired choreographers and dance directors to ensure the form was receiving particular attention. Tap became more popular as a result. Ned Wayburn was a hugely influential dance director. Aside from inspiring Fred Astaire to switch from ballet to tap, he also coined the term ‘tap dance.’

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