To keep up with Peace Readers I continued reading Toni Morrison’s, BELOVED; also read, TO BE A SLAVE, by Julius Lester; and viewed all OPB’s BHM programs.
Lester’s book gave me a reality check: “The ancestry of any black American can be traced to a bill of sale. In many instances that cannot be done.”
He wrote that in the early 19th century the American Slavery Society, and other northern abolition groups, took down stories of thousands of blacks, who escaped the south. Those narrations swayed northerners’ attitudes about slavery, and the eventual Civil War. Interest in the ex-slaves stories diminished until 1930’s, when a Federal Writers’ Project interviewed former slaves, still alive & willing to speak.
In 1963 Lester learned the 1930’s narratives were kept in the Archive of Folksong, at the Library of Congress. The Writers’ Project had verbatim narratives, preserving speech patterns, language, giving posterity the “earthy directness communication”. (Lester pg. 14-15)
In the 19th century the white abolitionists, in many instances, rewrote, “…to conform to literary standards of the time”. (Lester pg. 14) And they faced this possibility: If former slaves were quoted verbatim, that provided, “…ammunition for arguments of black inferiority”. (Lester pg. 14)
The goal of slave owners’ was to break the spirit of another human. But, such produced a rampant misfortune, FEAR—that slaves would rise up. In a word, owners created their own hell, then had to live in it.
Aisha Hauser, MSW, of the UU Church of the Larger Fellowship’s Lead Ministry Team (a trio), wrote in a February 26 email she’s reading James Baldwin’s, THE FIRE NEXT TIME. (Peace Readers, take note for a possible selection.) She shared, “Baldwin’s stark truth-telling resonated deeply with me. I have been on a mission as a truth-teller to create a vision of this faith’s potential.”
She closed with: “I believe that if UUism can be the place where whites live authentically and learn to sit in discomfort and face the realities of targeted communities and take substantive (not white savior) action toward dismantling systems of oppression. For folks living with targeted identities, my wish is UUism offers a place of solace and care for their spirits.”
–Barbara Turk, Archivist