Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin stands alongside Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Frederick Douglass's Narrative as an American classic. Any liberally educated person needs to know something about Eliza, Uncle Tom, Eva and the notorious Simon Legree.
Until fairly recently, scholars have not known very much about the everyday lives of enslaved African Americans. But in the past 20 years a wealth of historical studies has lent considerable insight into the worlds of the men, women and children held in bondage in North America. We now know a great deal about how they worked, worshiped, ate and attempted to keep their families together.
This history of African Americans is a quintessentially American history. It presents the perspective of a people who have been among the most eloquent voices for and embodiments of America's cherished ideals of the essential liberty and equality of all people, the right to self-determination and the pursuit of happiness, the sanctity of individual life, and equality before the law.
Today is the 150th anniversary
of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, which began the U.S. Civil War. In a
fascinating entry from the New York Times "Disunion" series, which has been "covering"
the war since last fall, Adam Goodheart describes how Maj.
When Washington Post writer Colbert King invited readers to respond to the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of African-American slaves, he got a mailbox full of opinions. “I’m all for reparations for blacks,” said one. “By the way, as a descendant of Anglo-Saxons, I’ve been deeply traumatized by what the Normans did to us in 1066. How about some for me too?”
In 1969, I dropped out of college, moved to Racine, Wisconsin, and worked for a community action program and then for a welfare rights organization. The focus of my work was tenants’ rights—helping tenants negotiate with landlords over things like rent and housing violations. Among my many indelible memories from that year was the situation of a family with six children.
Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy begins with a Sophie’s Choice moment for a slave woman living in Barbados in the late 17th century. Her master owes a debt to a trader, and he offers the woman’s infant son as collateral. She pushes her preadolescent daughter toward the trader and begs him to take the girl instead.