Recent Reads: Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery

Happy Black History Month y’all! The older I get, the more I appreciate Black History Month and the resilience that African Americans have to survive in a country that was built on our backs, and continues to oppress us systematically. However, that topic is for another post. This post is for lauding the magnificent work that is Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery by Charles Johnson and Patricia Smith.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is an accompaniment to a four part PBS special (that I have yet to watch), and it is truly a masterpiece. It starts at Jamestown and goes through American history to the brink of the Civil War. After I read this book, I realized how whitewashed the perspective of American history was, and it made me want to learn more about America from the views of the minorities, namely African Americans and the indigenous people.

The book itself is an easy read, you pick it up and from the first page it lays down the gravity of the topic that the book is about. Unlike many books that flirt around the history of slavery in a measly attempt to condemn the wrong and yet excuse the remains of its existence, Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery plods straight through. It takes the history that you’ve learned since middle school and flips the narrative. We know about Jamestown, about cash crops, about the Revolutionary War. Washington, Jefferson, Locke, Douglass are all familiar names to us, but there are sides to them that are conveniently glossed over or simply ignored in the history books that I’ve seen inside the walls of the American school system.

What Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery does is brilliant, everything is so familiar because it’s American history told chronologically, so as part of the brain remains in neutral territory, remembering what it’s learned over the span of X amount of years another part of the brain is absorbing the new knowledge and meshing it with the old to form a more holistic and complete knowledge of American history.

My favorite part of reading Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery was the short excerpts in the middle of the chapters. Some of them where historically influenced stories that related to the chapter, actual letters written by people of those times, or pictures and portraits of the land and the people. This made sure that the book didn’t read like a textbook, and it was very enjoyable.

This book does include a lot of facts, but it is to be read as a narrative and not so much as something that discusses slavery statistics in great detail. As a non-fiction, it does it’s job recounting history and showing how this country thrived on the backs of slavery. But do not expect to read this book and become an expert on colonial America. Many of the sources used are primary source, and are not scrutinized and picked apart, which I liked.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is a book that has influenced the way I see myself as a black woman in America. It has exposed the gaps in my knowledge of history from a perspective that wasn’t written by the winner. It points out the flaws in the Constitution, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the same men that are praised for defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness¬† are the same men that snatched those very ideals away from hundreds of thousands of people.

We clearly are still facing the effects of slavery today. Systematic racism is real. Mass incarceration is real. Gerrymandering and red-lining is real. Microaggression is real. There are so many problems that the African American community is facing because of the fact that America was built with a system of oppression, and we haven’t done enough to resolve it. Just because the slaves were “given their freedom” doesn’t mean that they were free from the violence, from the racism, from their place of disadvantage. The land that they toiled on, remained in the hands of their oppressors. With little access to funds or an education a whole race of people were slaves to a different system.

Everyone should read Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. It is truly a masterpiece, and beautifully twines together the history we are taught and the history that many tend to forget.





Real Talk: Don’t Get Lost In Your Crowd

There’s a phenomena called the Confirmation Bias which “occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true (source).

Basically what this means is that we as individuals tend to favor information that confirms what we are already thinking. It’s easy because we are creatures of herds, we like to know that we are alone in our beliefs. The appeal to belong is instinctual as well as dangerous.

How is it dangerous you might ask?

Well, in a world where “alternative facts” now exist we can no longer depend on our Facebook feed for correct information. We can’t just flip on the TV and rely on the news to be filled with sufficient and accurate news *cough cough FOX*.

This means that we have to go out of our way to inform ourselves about what is going on in the world. With the new administration purposely giving out misleading information, it is imperative to be consciously aware of what is going on in our society. That includes, taking a step outside of our bubble to see what that “opposing” side has to say.

One cannot make a well informed decision, nor hold a compelling argument unless they are informed on both sides of the story. Some may say that the burden of accurate reporting and understanding current events is too much for the everyday citizen. I say, stop being lazy.  If you have time to read this post, to scroll threw Twitter, to post that stupid thing on Facebook, you have time to read an article from an unbiased source.

Here’s a nice image to help you get along. This is also a little old, so obviously FOX has turned into click-bait trash, but hey if you’re into “alternative facts” then that’s the way to go.

Real Talk: Your Facebook Post Aren’t Doing Anything For Me

I get the appeal, I really do. It’s MLK Day, and everyone is posting a famous tidbit of what Martin Luther King Jr. said, or did in his too short lifetime. It shows that you own a calendar, and access to the internet.

But here’s the thing. Posting a quote on your wall that says “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” doesn’t mean anything. What about the other 364 days of the year?

The thing is, a lot of us, including myself, don’t go out of our way everyday to improve the lives of those around us. There is obvious racial disparity in this country, and anyone that denies it is either choosing to be willfully ignorant or lying. And so slapping a quote from a great civil rights leader and not following up with actions is basically useless.

It doesn’t have to be something fantastical. You don’t have to fly to Washington D.C and protest, you don’t even have to spend money. You can start in your community, with the people around you. I promise, I’m not trying to make anyone look bad, or even to pretend that I’m a perfect activist, because I’m not. But for anything to get better, people outside of the oppressed group need to realize that there is a problem.

I know that one of the hardest conversations that I’ve had with a friend was explaining to them why the Black Lives Matter movement is important. We talked about my experience as a black woman in this country, and the fears that I had everyday. I talked to him about my experience with police, and what was fundamentally wrong with Blue Lives Matter. This was difficult because my friend is currently working on becoming a police officer, and is a white, cis gender, heterosexual, Christian male.

He was never forced to navigate through a system that was designed to oppress him. He lived his whole life born with privilege that he never asked for. As a friend, it was my responsibility to educate him about the experiences that black women and men go through. I didn’t shame him, or blame him for anything, but I did stress the importance of being aware of his privilege and the responsibility that he has to work towards equality.

Anyway, I’m not trying to bash MLK Day or anything. But I am asking that actions follow the words. We have a lot of challenges facing our country and it isn’t just a black issue, or a woman issue. It’s everyone’s issues.¬† Image how the country would be if everyone worked as hard on society as they do curating a social media following, or pruning their Instagram feed?

I challenge everyone, include myself to have at least one conversation of importance each week. 10 points if it’s in person!

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

(How ironic that I end this post with a quote)