I'll be back after Labor Day.
Today is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. UNESCO designated August 23 because it marks the beginning of the 1791 slave rebellion in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) led by Toussaint L’Ouverture.
The 2017 theme, “Remember Slavery: Recognizing the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent,” focuses on the ways in which enslaved Africans and their descendants “influenced and continue to shape societies around the world.”
The under-told story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade is also the focus of a TED-Ed video that has garnered 2.5 million views.
For more info, go here.
HBO’s planned drama series, Confederate sparked a fierce backlash organized by April Reign, creator of the Twitter campaign #OscarsSoWhite. During a recent tweetstorm, I, well, tweeted up a storm. This tweet got the most response.
Some draw a comparison between HBO’s alternate-history and Amazon Studio’s Black America. But that’s like comparing apples and oranges. The differences between the two creative teams are more than skin deep.
The creators of Confederate, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, are in thrall with an evergreen racist fantasy that the South won the Civil War. Their “vision” is ripped from the headlines.
Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members rallied in Charlottesville to “take America back.” They were protesting the planned removal of a statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park. For HBO, reality bites. The audience for its “alternate” history was on full display this weekend.
In the unrepentant South, black bodies were used and abused. For HBO showrunners, that’s entertainment.
In contrast, the creators of Black America, Will Packer and Aaron McGruder, envision an alternate history in which emancipated slaves received reparations in the form of their own sovereign states. From Deadline:
It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.
Black Americans have sought reparations since Reconstruction. At the start of every Congress since 1989, Congressman John Conyers Jr. has introduced H.R. 40 which calls for a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans. The bill number recognizes the unfulfilled promise to give freed slaves 40 acres and a mule.
When I was a student, I met civil rights leader Floyd McKissick, founder of Soul City.
Soul City was a multi-racial community in Warren County, North Carolina developed and managed by African Americans. The project was supported by then-President Richard Nixon and financed by $14 million in loans guaranteed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a 2016 story, The Guardian reported:
Soul City was born under the federal government’s Model Cities programme, which began in 1966. A plank in President Johnson’s anti-poverty efforts, it funded housing, employment, infrastructure and planning. Of the programme’s 14 new developments, Soul City was the only one to be built from scratch, with no pre-existing infrastructure – and the only one by a black developer.
Although Soul City failed, McKissisk’s vision was about “the freedom to shape their own destiny.” HBO’s Confederate is destined to fail. In the name of a resurgent Confederacy, an American was killed and 19 others injured. Charlottesville was White Privilege literally run amok. #NoConfederate
Nobel Prize-winning American novelist William Faulkner observed, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Faulkner was born in Mississippi where the Confederate emblem is embedded in the state flag.
In 2015, Bree Newsome climbed a flagpole in front of the South Carolina capitol and took down the Confederate flag.
Fast forward two years, HBO is planning a new series, Confederate, an alternate-history in which the South won the Civil War. Truth be told, the story of the “Lost Cause” is far from past. It is told in Confederate monuments from Maryland to Texas and the “Black Codes” enacted at the end of Reconstruction.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Newsome wrote:
The roots of mass incarceration in the 21st century trace directly to the period immediately after the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. Between 1865 and 1866, Southern states passed a series of laws known as the “Black Codes” designed to grant local authorities power to arrest black people for virtually any reason at all and force them to provide free labor via convict leasing programs. Some of the most notorious prisons in the South would be built soon after: Parchman in Mississippi, built to house black male prisoners, where Rep. John Lewis would later be held during the Freedom Rides in 1961; and Angola Prison in Louisiana, erected on the site of a former plantation, purchased with profits from a slave-trading firm. Angola remains the largest maximum-security prison in the country and is notorious for its extremely high prisoner death rates.
Given that the true cause of the Confederacy was slavery, did the Confederacy really lose altogether? Confederates were only out of power for roughly 12 years during the period of Reconstruction (1865-1877). Campaigns of terror led by groups such as the KKK were overwhelmingly successful, and despite a brief period of gain for African Americans during which time seven African Americans from the South were elected to the U.S. Congress, by the beginning of the 20th century, white supremacists in the South had succeeded in returning blacks to a condition as close to slavery as possible, and many of those abuses endure today.
Imagining a world where the Confederacy won, where the legacy of slavery is fresh and the terror of it ever-present may seem like fantasy for white creatives, but ask most black people living in the United States today. They’ll tell you it’s their reality.
With his white privilege on full display, HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys asked critics to withhold judgment:
My hope is people will judge the actual material instead of what it could be or should be or might be. We'll rise or fall based on that material.
What is there to judge? The ancestors' humanity?
For updates, follow @NoConfederate on Twitter.