239 Records Total

This past weekend I was at Colonial Williamsburg for a conference that highlighted five different woodworkers, two of them enslaved: John Hemings, head joiner at Monticello and Poplar Forest, enslaved by Thomas Jefferson, and Cesar Chelor, the first recognized Black plane maker, enslaved by Francis Nicholson.  During the course of the weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to many who worked at Colonial Williamsburg, and I was impressed with their honesty on the question of enslavement in America.  I fully anticipated hearing excuses or glossing over, possibly listening to a brief mention of the enslaved people in Williamsburg.  To my surprise, it was not a side piece of the conference, but a major portion, taking up at minimum 40% of the total conversation. Continue reading “239 Records Total”

A Primer

America has long ignored the incalculable contributions of people of color, specifically Africans brought to this continent. So often our history books downplay the institution of enslavement and portray the enslaved people as simple-minded field hands, cogs in a machine who helped their masters put some food on the table. This version of history serves to maintain white people as dominant and benevolent actors who saved Africans and other people of color from themselves: their beliefs, their histories, and their own families. In so doing, Africans go from actor to acted-upon by white people, not having any type of history or personality from which to draw a more truthful narrative. While the people who were enslaved certainly were acted upon, given the very nature of their enslavement, the idea that they were not actors who resisted and shaped their own history could not be further from the truth. Continue reading “A Primer”