“You were afraid to nurse your young
lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
drank the sustenance of life from me.
And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
I could have lied,
told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
and as for color knew no difference.
Yes, in that first while
I kept your sons and daughters alive.
But when they grew strong in blood and bone
that was of my milk
taught them to hate me.
Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
so that strength that was of myself
turned and spat upon me,
despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
You know I speak true.”

- Beah Richards, an excerpt from A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood

A friend of mine shared this excerpt on Facebook, and it really affected me. Firstly, I cannot imagine how it must feel to be forced into something so intimate to benefit an enemy. Your owner. Your master. Secondly, the act itself, as the poet alludes to, is so pure and bonding. I know that I feel most connected to my daughter in those sweet moments of nourishment. To see that child grow older and grow to hate you because of brainwashing alone… Devastating. This poem, wow. All I can do is shake my head as the tears well up in my eyes.

This ain’t poetry, it’s rage unmuted. A verb. A means. An end…Tell him I have never been invisible. Tell him he has never been invincible…Tell him I’m African wide hips and American bulimia. Peace symbols affixed onto assault rifles. It is the deepest kind of contradiction. If I could write this shit in fire…
Some New Orleans History

Last month, I was in New Orleans for work, and I’ve also been reading Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told, which contains in depth discussion of slavery in the city. Since I wasn’t able to really enjoy the history of New Orleans, I went back over Memorial Day weekend with Baptist’s book in tow.

In The Half Has Never Been Told, Baptist combines first hand accounts with statistics to show how slavery - specifically a system of slavery associated with cotton, which he calls “the pushing system” - provided the basis for American economic growth in the 19th Century. This system made the United States the largest producer and exporter of cotton in the world. And New Orleans was a focus on much of this economic activity - both the selling of cotton and the selling of human beings.

One of the places where slaves were bought and sold was Pierre Maspero’s Coffee House - now a cafe in the French Quarter:

According to Baptist, slave traders would make deals inside Maspero’s Coffee House, and slaves would be publicly sold in St. Louis St [pp. 87, 94]:

Rachel and William blinked in the sunlight that beat down on the St. Louis Street wall. The first person to be pulled out might have been John - at about fifty, the oldest in the group. Mossy pointed him to the low bench. Tall and light-skinned, John stepped up on the box as white folks filed out of Maspero’s and surrounded him in a semicircle [p. 94].

Perhaps most famously, Maspero’s is reputed to be the site where Andrew Jackson planned the defense of New Orleans in 1814. And of course, the Place d’Armes now bears his name and a statue of the general was erected in 1856:

However, Jackson’s defense of the city wasn’t his only lasting impact on New Orleans. As a general, Jackson defeated the Creeks, forcing them to relinquish millions of acres in Alabama and Georgia - expanding the slave trade (trade conducted in and through New Orleans) as white settlers moved into the former Creek land [pp. 68, 73]. And as President, Jackson won his war against the Bank of the United States, which lead to the creation and spread of state chartered banks, such as the Consolidated Association of the Planters of Louisiana. These banks allowed planters to get loans to plant more cotton and purchase more slaves. The loans were secured by the slaves themselves (since they were property) [pp. 245-257].

This history lurks underneath the surface, not only in New Orleans but across the United States. And that is what Baptist attempts to reveal - the extent to which U.S. economic success was fueled through slave trade and labor. And New Orleans, as well as the surrounding area, is good place to visit to discover this history.



In an investigative story reported by WJTV News Channel 12 out of Jackson, Mississippi, “Mass Graves Remain in The Devil’s Punchbowl of Natchez.”

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a place located in Natchez, Mississippi where during the Civil War; authorities forced tens of thousands of freed slaves to live into concentration camps.  Westbrook adds that, “The union army did not allow them to remove the bodies from the camp. They just gave ’em shovels and said bury ’em where they drop.”

According to researcher Paula Westbrook, she researched through Adams County Sheriff’s reports from the time.

“When the slaves were released from the plantations during the occupation they overran Natchez. And the population went from about 10,000 to 120,000 overnight,” Westbrook said.

“So they decided to build an encampment for ’em at Devil’s Punchbowl which they walled off and wouldn’t let ’em out,” Don Estes, former director of the Natchez City Cemetery, said.

Estes said that history research is his life. During his studies he said he learned that Union troops ordered re-captured black men to perform hard labor. Women and children were all but left to die in the three “punchbowls”.

“Disease broke out among ’em, smallpox being the main one. And thousands and thousands died. They were begging to get out. ‘Turn me loose and I’ll go home back to the plantation! Anywhere but there’,” Estes said.

crimson-not-scarlet asked:

(1) Hey, I noticed today a painting in my history of art textbook which has a poc! I don't think you've posted it anywhere, so I thought I would bring it to your attention. It's the "oculo del soffitto" in the "camera degli sposi" by Andrea Mantegna, painted in 1473 (I think); there is a black man (or woman -frankly, it's not clear) with a turban - I asked my art teacher about it, and she said he was a doctor of the family. On the internet, though, they mostly say it was a slave woman.

(2) I don’t know which is true, but if you find something more, please make a post about it! (I really hope they are not a slave -especially since the only “source” I’ve found is “Oh well, they’re not white… they’re probably a slave.” which is def quite racist.) Thank you for your attention! (and sorry for my English - I tried my best but I’m quite sure I’ve made a few mistakes)  (Also I love your blog - though that went without saying!)


Here’s the detail of the oculus for reference:

There’s no reason to assume this person is enslaved. I have more posts about Andrea Mantegna on the blog here, and Italian renaissance paintings that feature people of color are far from uncommon. The same artist painted this Adoration featuring the Black King, Balthazar:

It’s important to realize that Italy was a massive intercultural and international center for trade during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It’s also important to consider the fact that the reason we associate skin color with enslavement is because of American chattel slavery, and then this association gets projected backwards onto the past. That’s also why so many Americans have really intense misconceptions about the modern construction of race, anti-Blackness, and Roman slavery. It profoundly affects the way that these artworks are perceived and written about, including within academia.

Tempie Cummins -

‘’…she used to hide in the chimney corner and listen to what the white folks say.‘

“The white chillun tries teach me to read and write but I didn’ larn much, ‘cause I allus workin’. Mother was workin’ in the house, and she cooked too. She say she used to hide in the chimney corner and listen to what the white folks say. When freedom was 'clared, marster wouldn’ tell 'em, but mother she hear him tellin’ mistus that the slaves was free but they didn’ know it and he’s not gwineter tell 'em till he makes another crop or two. When mother hear that she say she slip out the chimney corner and crack her heels together four times and shouts, 'I’s free, I’s free.’ Then she runs to the field, 'gainst marster’s will and tol’ all the other slaves and they quit work. Then she run away and in the night she slip into a big ravine near the house and have them bring me to her. Marster, he come out with his gun and shot at mother but she run down the ravine and gits away with me.”

African-American Slave Testimonies (2/?)

Feminism is a way of forcing men to such desperation they must work, therefore it is slavery.

Manslation: I ostensibly consider voluntarily seeking out employment for which one is compensated and retaining the right to leave at any time to be slavery, so that’s… confusing.

Alternate Manslation: My mom told me to get a job :(

Born In Slavery: Interviews with Freed Slaves

from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938. By this point, the American Civil War had been over for seventy years. Most of the former slaves interviewed could barely remember their time enslaved. The Federal Writers’ Project set out to record their memories before it was too late. There are more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves, available online here.


You wouldn’t think this would need to be stated, but teens, you really ought to cool it with the Confederacy worship on your social media. Just earlier this week, a group of Colorado high schoolers became national news after they posted a photo on Facebook of themselves on prom night, holding guns and surrounding a Confederate flag. The caption was “The south will rise again.” Now, a pair of North Carolina teens is making headlines for a strikingly similar social media faux pas.

A helicopter dad doubles down defending his high schooler’s classic non-apology for Confederate flag Instagram

What is the real history of Memorial Day?

Most official histories of Memorial Day credit its founding to a white former Union Army Major General John A. Logan. However, it’s not the full story. It turns out that Logan was reputedly inspired by a local tribute to the fallen dead and to the gift of freedom organized by the formerly enslaved black community of Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1865. In the West African tradition from which Charleston’s Gullah people came, honorable warriors deserved sacred burial, and the dead were seen as part of a cycle of souls entering and leaving the world. 

Learn more here.