Monday, February 10, 2014
HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR: SLAVERY BY THE NUMBERS
Editor's note:, to whom these "amazing facts" are an homage.
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
Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 67: What are the most important facts to know about American slavery?
In honor of Black History Month, I’ve assembled a list of statistics on slavery that every parent and child in America should know. There are 28 entries in all, one for each day in February, covering such broad topics as the first and second Middle Passages, emancipation, genealogy and the geographical diversity among enslaved and free black people in the United States and throughout the Caribbean and South America. Politicians and academics love quoting facts—what they call their “elevator speech”—to their various audiences at public events. So, here are some facts for you to memorize and quote, as you sort through the meaning of this marvelous month when we commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of our ancestors in your own lives. You can keep these facts in mind if you decide to search for your family’s roots or seek a deeper understanding of the many rivers our ancestors—and we, as a people—have crossed to get to where we are 149 years after the abolition of slavery.
Here is The Root's Black History Month Challenge: If you’re a parent, I ask you to share one of these “amazing facts” each morning or perhaps over dinner with your children (you’ll need to catch up by doing the first 10 today). If you’re a teacher, think about highlighting one each day after your students “pledge allegiance to the flag,” if your school still observes this time-honored tradition. And, if you work in an office, labor outside or are mobile on a daily route, try passing one of these around each day to your co-workers or customers, regardless of their ethnicity, at the water cooler, over a coffee break, at lunch, or, yes, even in the elevator!
To become a fundamental part of the genuine “conversation about race” that our country so urgently needs, black history must be allowed to live and breathe through sharing rituals such as these, and not remain buried in scholarly studies and textbooks, which all too often simply serve as doorstops or accumulate dust!
“Fellow Americans, let the nation and the world know the meaning of our numbers,” the great African-American labor leader, A. Philip Randolph, declared at that most historical of settings, the Lincoln Memorial, during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. “Our ancestors were transformed from human personalities into private property,” he continued. “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and keep what you can hold.”
Dear readers of The Root, my hope is that the 28 facts assembled here give you something to hold onto you as you make your journey through Black History Month, this life and the larger American story.
Let’s get started ...
The Middle Passage