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When the past is present…

 

First Trailer for Mini-Series of Acclaimed ‘The Book of Negroes’

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

The "Book of Negroes" mini-series is based on a bestselling historical novel of the same name. The Book of Negroes itself is an actual document kept by the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Aunjanue Ellis and Cuba Gooding, Jr. star.

The “Book of Negroes” mini-series is based on a bestselling historical novel of the same name. The Book of Negroes itself is an actual document kept by the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Aunjanue Ellis and Cuba Gooding, Jr. star.

Principal photography for Clement Virgo’s much-anticipated film adaptation of author Lawrence Hill’s award-winning bestseller, “The Book of Negroes,” is complete, as the project now moves into the next phase of the production process, with a MIPCOM premiere in Cannes set for Monday, October 13 as the opening night gala. (…)

Boasting one of the strongest female characters in recent fiction, the novel’s synopsis reads:

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.”

This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.

Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone—passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America—is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey. Aunjanue Ellis stars as Aminata Diallo, while Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lou Gossett Jr. play Sam Fraunces and Daddy Moses respectively.

The Book Of NegroesGooding’s Fraunces is a freed slave from Jamaica who runs his namesake tavern (Fraunces Tavern), participates in several historical events, and later moves to Mount Vernon to run George Washington’s household.

Meanwhile, Daddy Moses is Moses ‘Daddy’ Wilkinson or Old Moses, an African American slave, and Methodist preacher in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. Though blind and crippled, Wilkinson led a band of runaway slaves to freedom in 1776.

Also Lyriq Bent is playing Chekura, who, as a young boy, made the crossing with Aminata when she was sold into slavery, is separated from her, and later reunites with her when they are adults, and have a child together.

Allan Hawco is Solomon Lindo (a Jewish man Aminata is sold to), Ben Chaplin is Capt. John Clarkson (a young British naval officer recruiting black settlers to move from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone); and Jane Alexander plays a Maria Witherspoon, the matriarch of a white family that Aminata leaves her baby with, for safety, during a series of riots that break out as the city she lives in is attacked and black men and women are lynched. She later returns to the Witherspoon’s home to claim her child, only to learn that they’ve left with the baby.

The adaptation of the novel will be a 6-hour TV mini-series.

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An Original Freedom Rider Reflects on the Struggle

Right: Hank Thomas was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1961 due to the Freedom Rides. Left: Hank Thomas at 73 years old, is now retired and owns two Marriott Hotels in Atlanta, GA

Right: Hank Thomas was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1961 due to the Freedom Rides.
Left: Hank Thomas at 73 years old, is now retired, living the American dream by own several Marriot Hotels.

By , Theroot.com

In 1961, 19-year-old Howard University student Hank Thomas embarked on a journey that would change interstate travel forever and inspire the birth of other movements. Thomas made a quick decision to join the Congress of Racial Equality’s Freedom Rides to travel from Washington, D.C., to the Deep South with several other young African Americans and whites.

The U.S. Supreme Court had struck down racial segregation on interstate buses in 1946 and expanded that decision in 1960 by outlawing segregated waiting rooms, lunch counters and restroom facilities for interstate passengers. However, both rulings were largely ignored in the Deep South. Freedom Riders risked their lives by traveling on buses through the South and, by doing so, challenged the federal government to enforce the law. Freedom Riders were beaten, lynched and arrested for the sake of justice. Thomas’ experience as a Freedom Rider was no exception.

Being a Freedom Rider isn’t Thomas’ only claim to fame, however, and his rebellious spirit isn’t by happenstance. The great-great-great-grandson of an outspoken slave, Thomas also played a part in working toward Freedom Summer’s goal of registering black people to vote in 1964.

Thomas, now retired at 73, owns two Marriott hotels and lives in Atlanta. He recounted to The Root his experiences as a Freedom Rider, the importance of remembering significant events like Freedom Summer and what black people should be doing to build upon progress already made.

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How Hip-Hop Has Become a Gateway to Black Poetry

By: The Root Staff

Left of Black interviews poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander about how young people are coming to poetry through their experience with hip-hop, and what it means that more poets are winning prizes and recognition.

Left of Black host Mark Anthony Neal is joined by Elizabeth Alexander to discuss the black art aesthetic, growing recognition for black poets and whether hip-hop is poetry. Alexander—the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies, and a professor of American studies and English, at Yale University—was chosen by President Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his 2009 inauguration.

Watch:

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Baptism by Fire

fire_sullivan-1254

Firefighter Jordan Sullivan, who recently saved two children on his first ‘real fire’ call

By N. R. KLEINFIELD, nytimes.com

In his 96 days in the field as a firefighter, a probie out of the Fire Academy — the Rock, as it’s familiarly known — it had not happened. Around the firehouse, the veterans continually swapped fire stories. That was how they both taught and regaled one another, and the stories were good ones. He could not contribute. He hadn’t had a fire.

Sometimes a probie goes on the maiden run of his career and, bam, a fire. Usually, in New York, it happens during the first few tours. Maybe it takes a week or even a month. But 96 days — nearly triple digits! That was ridiculous.

Probies take a lot of ribbing, part of the subculture of being a probationary firefighter, and it was a running joke about how Jordan Sullivan could not catch a fire. The others would say drolly, “Well, I know I’m not going to a fire tonight, Jordan’s here.”…

FIREFIGHTER SULLIVAN had wanted to become a wrestling coach… Then Sept. 11 happened, and soon after that incoherent day, he decided he wanted to become a firefighter. It was something he had never before contemplated, and he could not explain his reasoning. He knew he had stood on a Brooklyn rooftop and watched in disbelief as the towers fell. And he knew it felt right to want this.

FIREHOUSEDW0017-1254

Sullivan sits and grins on the firetruck for Ladder Company 105.

He took the next Fire Department entrance exam, in 2002, receiving an 89. Seemed decent. Then he got his call number, where he stood among the 17,850 who took the test: 6,048.

Firefighters he spoke to told him it was a dead number, try again. He checked. The next test was in January 2007. He would be 29, and by department age limits too old to apply. Ultimately, the wounded department reached deep — its ranks thinned by the loss of 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11 and the stampede of retirements in ensuing years — yet they still hit only 5,646 on the call list.

So that was that. He was disappointed, but moved on, didn’t just carry around the dream. Soon after, he got a job with the city comptroller, starting as a clerk and working up to claims investigator. He was not unhappy.

In 2007, he heard on the news about the lawsuit. The Justice Department had sued the Fire Department after the Vulcan Society, an association of black firefighters, complained that the entrance exam was biased against minority applicants. At the time, the department was 90 percent white.

He hadn’t personally felt the exam was unfair to him as a black man. He found the suit curious but irrelevant to him, figuring, “I’ll be 50-something years old before it’s resolved.”

Things went quicker. In July 2009, a federal judge ruled that the 1999 and 2002 exams discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants. Under court-ordered reforms, promising black and Hispanic candidates not appointed from those tests could take a newly created one, regardless of their age, and would receive priority in being hired.

At the beginning of 2012, a full decade since he had that first urge, he was among hundreds of black and Latino candidates who heard from the Fire Department that they could sit for the new exam. He was amazed and unabashedly grateful at this stroke of providence.

 

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Texas county unwittingly votes in favour of reparations for African Americans

From theguardian.com

Dallas county commissioners, most of whom admit not reading the resolution, unanimously vote in support of slavery reparations

Leaders in a North Texas county passed a resolution this week supporting reparations to African Americans for slavery – without even realizing they had done so.

02 Feb 1960, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA --- Four African American college students sit in protest at a whites-only lunch counter during the second day of peaceful protest at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina. From left: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson. --- Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS

Feb. 2, 1960, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA — Four African American college students sit in protest at a whites-only lunch counter during the second day of peaceful protest at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. From left: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson. — Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS

Dallas county commissioners unanimously passed a Juneteenth resolution on Tuesday that appeared to be another routine proclamation, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. But the resolution went further by including a list of injustices, and then stating in the final paragraph that blacks’ suffering should be “satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations”.

Commissioners admitted afterward they hadn’t read the resolution before voting, according to The Dallas Morning News. About an hour after their vote, commissioners complained they hadn’t received copies of the resolution beforehand.

The meeting agenda made no specific mention of reparations, but the resolution was read aloud by John Wiley Price, who introduced the measure and is the commission’s only black member.

The vote is nonbinding, so no reparations, through payments or other means, will be made.

During Jim Crow, black men were often jailed for "shiftlessness" or other trumped up "crimes" like failing to step off the sidewalk for a white man. These "criminals" were put to work in factories, plantations, and mines owned by white businessmen.

During Jim Crow, black men were often jailed for “shiftlessness” or other trumped up “crimes” like failing to step off the sidewalk for a white man. These “criminals” were put to work in factories, plantations, and mines owned by white businessmen.

Price said he wrote the resolution after reading an article making the case for reparations. He noted that Native American and Japanese Americans are among the groups that have received compensation for past mistreatment.

“We are the only people who haven’t been compensated,” Price said.

Other commissioners didn’t debate the merits of reparations, and instead expressed frustration at not seeing the resolution before the vote.

“I am leaving my vote the way it is,” county judge Clay Jenkins said. “This is the body’s expression of support for unity towards people, a recognition of Juneteenth.”

He later added, “I want to encourage staff to make sure that all of the commissioners have the opportunity to actually read what they are voting on before that vote in the future.”

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This Day in History: We Celebrate the Birth of Anna Kingsley

 

From the African American Registry, aaregistry.org

This date in 1793 celebrates the birth of Anna Kingsley. She was a African plantation owner, abolitionist, and former slave in America.

The owner's house on the Kingsley Plantation

The owner’s house on the Kingsley Plantation

Born Anna Madgigine Jai in Senegal, she was captured in her native country in 1806 when she was 13 years old. She was brought to Florida, then a Spanish colony, where she was sold to Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave trader and a maritime merchant, and she worked on his plantation in northeast Florida.

Kingsley married her and allowed for her freedom in 1811. They had four children. She became the manager of the plantation and held the position for 25 years. Anna Kingsley became a slave owner herself. Her husband was on record as saying that she “could carry on all the affairs of the plantation in my absence as well as I could myself.”

After Spain sold Florida to the United States in 1819, life grew difficult. The U.S. laws concerning freed Blacks were far more restrictive than those of Spain. Kingsley’s status as a freed slave and landowner were threatened. Plus her interracial marriage was unacceptable in the new U.S. state of Florida. The Kingsleys fled to Haiti, where they ran another plantation and created a colony for free Blacks. After her husband’s death in 1843, Kingsley returned to Florida, where she fought the courts to claim the land left to her and her children in his will.

After a difficult court battle (some of his white relatives had contested her claim), Kingsley won the right to her inheritance. Her skill at running a plantation and her battle for property rights made her a celebrated and influential figure in the free Black community of northern Florida. Anna Kingsley died in 1870.

Anna Kingsley book

References:
Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman

The Anti-Slavery Society

Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner

 

 

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Black Identity and Racism Collide in Brazil

By , theroot.com

The country’s complex history with race gains the spotlight as the World Cup attempts to address the recent wave of racist attacks against black players.

Before teams representing their countries from around the world arrived in Brazil, the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, took the opportunity to label 2014 the “anti-racism World Cup.”

Brazilian soccer player Neymar stated that he had never encountered any sort of racism in his life because he is not black even though he clearly looks black.

Brazilian soccer player Neymar stated that he had never encountered any sort of racism in his life because he is not black even though he clearly looks black.

The declaration came after a wave of racist incidents in soccer around the world targeting black players, many of whom are Brazilian. While it’s a well-intentioned gesture and a particularly important one for a World Cup being hosted in the country that’s home to the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa, Brazil has a complex past and present when it comes to race.

That complexity can perhaps best be illustrated by the fact that many black Brazilians don’t think of themselves as black. Brazilian soccer star Neymar is a great example. Asked during an interview in 2010 if he had ever experienced racism, his response was, “Never.” He added, “Not inside nor outside of the soccer field. Even more because I’m not black, right?”

This denial of blackness may seem confusing to many Americans, because despite his long, straightened and occasionally blond hair, Neymar is clearly black.  But for Brazilians, being black is very different from what it is in the United States.

“The darker a person is in Brazil, the more racism she or he is going to suffer. Light-skinned black people don’t identify as black most of the time,” says Daniela Gomes, a black Brazilian activist who is currently pursuing a doctorate in African Diaspora studies at the University of Texas. “A lot of people choose to deny their blackness. They don’t believe they are black, but they suffer racism without knowing why.”

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Single mother graduates from UCLA with three degrees

by , theGrio.com

deanna-jordan-2

Deanna Jordan, 28, looks up before she walks in the graduation ceremony at UCLA.

A single mother of three boys, Deanna Jordan, graduated over the weekend from UCLA with three degrees.

Jordan grew up in Compton and, by 22, was a mother of three.

“I needed for my sons to see there was a legacy that preceded them with college,” Jordan told CBS Los Angeles. “I am the first in my family to go to college.”

The 28-year-old attended West Los Angeles Community College for two years before transferring to UCLA, where she spent three-and-a-half years.

Jordan earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in African-American Studies.

“You can’t really succeed unless you fail, and I failed a lot of times, but it was my persistence and my willingness never to give up,” she said.

In addition to her studies, she founded the Compton Pipeline Taskforce, a volunteer organization that helps Compton schools.

The new graduate plans to attend law school in the future in an effort to become a district attorney.

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Was the Author of The Three Musketeers a Black Man?

By Henry Louis Gates Jr., theRoot.com

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: You may already know the answer, but here’s why it matters
Editor’s note: For those who are wondering about the retro title of this black-history series, please take a moment to learn about historian Joel A. Rogers, author of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof, to whom these “amazing facts” are an homage.

Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 83: Which famous 19th-century French author had African ancestry?

When I was a teenager falling in love with books, had anyone told me that three of the most beloved characters in world literature, The Three Musketeers, had sprung from the pen of a black man, I would have said, Get out of town. And when I heard rumors about the author’s ancestry in college, I wondered whether it was more legend than fact, akin to the myth that Beethoven was black. It turns out that this happens to be true: Alexandre Dumas was both a Frenchman and a black man, and retelling his story reinforces the more important point that imagination should not be shackled by skin color.Alexander_Dumas

Recall, earlier in this series we read about Napoleon’s “Black Devil,” Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, the black man born to a French nobleman and a slave who ascended to the highest ranks of the French military during that country’s revolution only to end up in an Italian dungeon and a poor man’s grave. I mentioned then that Gen. Dumas would have the last laugh, thanks to his son, Alexandre Dumas père (meaning “father,” sort of like “senior” in English to distinguish from a “junior” of the same name). And that son would become one of the most influential writers in history.

 

Dumas’ most popular works, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, have engrossed readers and actors for years. Yet many literary historians simply chose to erase his racial origins, leaving most readers, until recently, to assume the default: that the author of those works had to be white in order to write so vividly about white people, even though his race was anything but a secret during his own lifetime. In fact, when I mention Dumas and Russian writer Alexander Pushkin in the introductory lecture to a course I teach at Harvard University with Lawrence Bobo, our students appear shocked to learn that both had black ancestry.

Early Years

Alexandre Dumas père was born in Villers-Cotterêts, France, on July 24, 1802, to parents Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and Marie-Louise Laboruet. He was one-quarter black, as Richard Stowe, author of the 1976 biography Alexandre Dumas père, recounts. Dumas’ godfather was supposed to have been Napoleon Bonaparte, but, as Dumas told it, the arrangement was dropped after his father and the future French emperor became enemies. Gen. Dumas died in 1806, yet through his absence, he loomed even larger in his son’s mind. “I adored my father,” Dumas is quoted as saying in Tom Reiss’ 2012 book The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.  “Perhaps, at so early an age, the feeling which today I call love was only a naïve astonishment at that Herculean stature and that gigantic strength I’d seen him display on so many occasions; perhaps it was nothing more than a childish pride and admiration. … But, in spite of all that, even today the memory of my father, in every detail of his body, in every feature of his face, is as present to me as if I had lost him yesterday.”

The general’s death hurt in other ways, for despite his high military rank, his pension was withheld. Dumas, growing up in poverty, also was convinced that the vengeful Napoleon had blocked his admission to any military school or civilian college, according to Reiss.

The Beginnings of a Literary Career

Dumas’ mother, a widow and single parent, “exercised little authority over [her son], rearing him with abundant affection but almost in spite of herself letting him do whatever he wished,” Stowe writes, so that “Dumas at seventeen or eighteen was as learned in the ways of the woods as he was little schooled.” The seeds of Dumas’ literary ambitions were planted around age 16, when he met Adolphe de Leuven, the teenage son of a Swedish nobleman, on vacation in VillersCotterêts. Dumas, whose résumé at that point was still thin, as a notary’s apprentice, was captivated by de Leuven’s tales of Parisian life.

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Black teen says teacher told him to say ‘Yes sir, master’

by theGrio.com

Jabre White said he was stunned and angry when he claims his teacher implied White was his slave and the teacher was his master.

White tells the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood his teacher Shawn McCurtain asked the class to move downstairs to take an economics final exam.

Jabre White was left speechless when he heard his white teacher telling him to call him "master." His mother Nicholle, found nothing humorous about the statement when the teacher tried to apologize and said that was all it was.

Jabre White was left speechless when he heard his white teacher telling him to call him “master.” His mother Nicholle, found nothing humorous about the statement when the teacher tried to apologize and said that was all it was.

White replied “Yes sir,” but he claims McCurtain replied, “You meant to say ‘Yes sir, master.’”

The incident, which occurred in May, left the college-bound senior considerably hurt and his mother calling for action.

According to the Register’s report, the school district is not denying the incident happened. White’s mother, Nicholle, claims McCurtain called her to apologize and referred to the comment as an attempt to be “humorous.”

It’s unclear what disciplinary action was pursued by the school district, because the information is “confidential under state law.”

A school district spokesman, Phil Roeder, confirmed to the Register McCurtain was still employed at the school.

White is headed to Iowa State next fall. His mother said she plans to “contact the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and the NAACP.”

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