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tv   Barracoon - The Story of the Last Black Cargo  CSPAN  August 2, 2021 10:30am-11:48am EDT

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2018. next, on american history tv, the book's editor, deborah plant, discusses "the new york times" best seller "barracoon: the story of the last black cargo." she was the keynote speaker at the spirit of our ancestors festival, a reunion of descendents of the clotilda, who founded the africatown neighborhood of mobile, alabama. >> now, we have the pleasure of welcoming an old friend to africatown, dr. natalie s. robertson. she's a friend of africatown, and we count on her very often to come and share the history and all the knowledge she's gained about the 110 and africatown. and she has a pleasure also of introducing our speaker for the hour. so let us welcome dr. natalie s.
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robertson. [ applause ] >> thank you very much and good morning, africatown. the spirit of our ancestors festival has been ceded by our ancestors through the efforts and dedication of the festival's founder, joyce lynn davis. it's taken root like the bilbob tree, under whose canopy we are imparting knowledge of africatown to the world. i am proud to have served as the festival's inaugural speaker, and i am equally proud to introduce my successor, dr. deborah plant, the editor of "barracoon: the story of the last black cargo," authored by ancestor vora neale hurston.
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dr. plant is an africana scholar and literary critic, those interests are in the life and works of hurston. as editor of "barracoon: the story of the last black cargo," dr. plant created what "the new york times" said was a profound impact on zoa neale hurston's legacy, in publishing hurston's account of the story of clotilda survivor and africatown founder cudjoe lewis. barracoon was a "new york times" best seller, "time" magazine's best non-fiction book of 2018, and new york public library's
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best book of 2018, among other accolades. plant was instrumental in founding the usf department of africana studies, in a department of its graduate program. she chaired the department for five years and was associate professor of africana studies there until her appointment as associate professor of english in 2014. she holds a b.a. degree in fine arts from southern university. an m.a. degree in french from atlanta university. and an m.a. as well as a phd in english from the university of nebraska lincoln. her published works include "every tuck must sit on its own bottom: the philosophy and
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politics of hurston." "zora neale hurston, biology of the spirit." "critical essays on hurston." and "alice walker: a woman for our times." currently, dr. plant resides in tampa, florida, and continues her research and writing as an independent scholar. direct descendents, family, and friends of africatown, please join me in extending this special africatown welcome to ourkindred spirit, dr. deborah plant. [ applause ]
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>> one of the things i like to do whatever i talk about "barracoon" is to invite the spirits of zora neale hurston to be with me as i do the best i can to represent them and express what i think they would like for us to know and to understand. i also would like to invite you to evoke those ancestral spirits who would be with us today during this event and throughout the festival, so that we would have their guidance as well as their inspiration in how things unfold. so "barracoon" is the story of
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oluale kossola. hurston captured his story when she went out into the field in 1927. on behalf or carter g. woodson. hurston, as many of you might know, was reared in florida, but she was born here in alabama. not far from tuskegee. she went to school at howard university. she acquired her associate degree, then she transferred to barnard college where she majored in english. she also, during a matriculation, studied anthropology. she started with gladis ripert,
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and came to the attention of the father of american anthropology. so at that point in time, she learned as much about anthropology as she did about writing and tlitture. -- litliterature. she goes into the field on their behalf, as i said, and what her responsibilities were, what her tasks were, were to collect folklore on behalf of franz, do research on behalf of carter g. woodson, the father of black history month, right? february is -- we k loo edlooke to thank him for february as black history month. he started it as black history week, and it grew into black
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history month. we have carter g. woodson to thank for that. carter g. woodson was also the founder of the association for the study of negro history and negro life and history. so on behalf of the association and the journal of negro history, he asked hurston to do that archival work down in florida and alabama. also when in alabama, to go to see cudjoe lewis and ask him about the story of how he and his village had been destroyed and, thus, he had been forced into enslavement in alabama. so she did this. this is 1927 initially. she goes, she gets the story about west africa and how the amazons, you know, destroyed the
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city, committed all kinds of slaughter. and she sends that report back to carter g. woodson. she knew that there was more to the story. so she came back. this time when she came back, she came back under the patronage of charlotte mmason, who was able to fund her research and the time that she spent with kossola. she conducted several interviews and filmed him and photographed him, things of that nature, and that took time and that took money. but she had it because of the patronage with mason. and so when she comes to see him, she says the first time she met him was in july of 1927. when she comes back later in the
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year, december and then again at the first few months of the year in 1928, this is when she conducts a series of interviews with him. and this is how she talks about it in "barracoon." it was summer when i went to talk with cudjoe. so his door was standing wide open. but i knew he was somewhere about the house before i entered the yard because i had found the gate unlocked. when cudjoe goes down into his back field or away from home, he locks his gate with an ingenious wooden peg of african invention. i held him by his african name as i walked up the steps to his porch. he looked up into my face as i stood at the door in surprise. he was eating his breakfast from a round pan with his hands in the fashion of his fatherland.
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the surprise of seeing me halted his hand between pan and face, then tears of joy welled up. oh, lord. i know when you call my name. nobody call my name from across the water but you. you always calling me kossola, just like on the africa soil. and so they talk, and he knows she wants to know about him. he asks her, what is it that you want to know? hurston tells him, i want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave and to what part of africa do you belong and how you fair as a slave andmana. kossola bowed his head, and when he lifted his wet face again, he
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murmured, thank you, jesus. somebody come ask about cudjoe. i want to tell somebody who i is, so maybe they go to the africa soil someday and calling my name, and somebody there say, yeah, i know kossola. i want you, everywhere you go, to tell everybody what cudjoe say and how come i in america soil since 1859 and never seen my people. i can't talk the plain, you understand me, but i calls it word by word. so it won't be crooked, too crooked for you. my name is not cudjoe lewis. it kossola. when i get in america soil, mr. jim there, he try calling my name, but it too long. you understand me? i say, well, i your property?
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he say, yeah. then i say, you calling me cudjoe. that do. but in africa soil, my mama, she named me kossola. and so he tells her the story about -- go to the next one -- about his upbringing in west africa, about the rites of passage, initiations, learning how to hunt, learning how to throw spears. he tells her about the young women in the village whom he sees and he likes. he sees one in particular, and he tells his parents, "you see such and so and so? when you see her, you be kind to her." so what they knew was that, okay, we have to begin to prepare initiation rites for
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marriage. it is during this time that just everything changes for kossola. this is when, as he puts it, in a predawn raid, the amazon warriors came into the village and slaughtered so many. he and some others survived that slaughter. as they did, they were chained together, tied together with others, and marched down to the capital, which is modern day benin. so as they are held there for a while, after about three days, as he says, they were taken to the barracoons. this is where the title of the
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book comes from. can you go to the next slide, please? so barracoon is a spanish word that has its roots in the -- these terms you see here. barraca and the portuguese word barrucio. it means hut or shed. it describes the kind of structure that he was placed in, along with the others. these kind of structures were dotted all along the coast, the west african coast. this is where african captains would be held while they were -- those who were waiting to exchange goods and materials and what have you and gold, for them, they would wait there until those ships would dock. and in relation to kossola and his compatriots, this is where,
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at that point in time, when william foster, who was the captain of the clotilda, had had come to the bite of benin, where he was there to buy captives on behalf of timothy meaher. next one. so we see africa there in the green to the right of the screen. benin, which is in white there, it's in this area where he was taken and there at the bite of benin where william foster navigated the clotilda. and when they go back, you can see the journey that they took
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through the middle passage, back into the gulf of coast of alabama. this map, my sister made this map. this is the kind of the thing she would give me. you won't find this in any book. the white ship there, that's my clotilda. next one. this is a map that shows the course out of the gulf, up the mobile river, into the spanish river, and up to the point where they are disembarked into the cane fields. then after that, of course, you know the story. william foster takes the boat, the ship, to 12 mile island. he scuttles it and he burns it
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to try to get rid of the evidence. let's go to the next one. so timothy meaher and william foster, i've given a lot of talks about barracoon, and almost never has anyone asked me about timothy meaher and william foster. but i think it's important that we talk a little bit about them because of what they represent. and when we look at timothy mea meaher, who funded the clotilda expedition, he was one of three brothers, burns and jim meaher, who owned plantations and they had all kinds of industrial businesses here in alabama.
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and to have those businesses run and those plantations, they used the labor of african peoples. and so we want to understand what that means. we want to understand why that's problematic. you know, there's nothing wrong with wealth. there's nothing wrong with wanting to do well and be successful. there is a problem when your wealth and your success depends on the extrapolation of the life force of other people. and this was their means or their methods, to come to their so-called success. what hurston says in "the strikes on the road," what she
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learned in one -- one of the many things she learned in her interview with kossola was, as she put it, she learned about the universal nature of greed and and this is the phase of greed and glory and now what is problematic is that as i said and wealth and success are one thing, and when you think that there should be no end to your success and your wealth and you think that excess is nor nal, that is the greed aspect of it, but for people like timothy
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meaher the idea of it is that it was his right to do that, and it was his right as a man and it was his right as a white man, and it was his right as he believed, because as he and so many others at that point in time as is today, he believed that white is superior and the notion of white supremacy is part of the whole idea of the glory. as a white man, hayes the right to build the empire on back of black people. this is his glory. and this is his right. he believes. and so this kind of the arrogance, this kind of conceit, this kind of self-righteousness that becomes an ideology that allows people to exploit anyone and everyone for their own
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benefit is a problem that we have to attend to, because it is not all right. and the thing about greed and glory is that it is not particular to any particular group of people. how do with know this? because the thing about timothy meaher and william fost ser that they could not do what they did without the support of the kings and without the support of and the facilitation of the support of the people of that village. so when we are looking at greed, greed comes in many colors. and we have to remember that. because we get caught up with, you know, superficiality of who is supporting us and who does not. so we have to pay attention to that. of course, you know, we have to
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look at that within ourselves. where is the greed and glory in me. where am i striving for something that is not my right, and who am i taking advantage of to get to this point or that point? yes? this bet that timothy meaher made is just another indication of the arrogance of the man. now "the bet" says that i can within two years, and this is 1858, i can within two years bring in a shipload of africans and force them into servitude and nobody be hanged for it. so this is important, nobody be hanged for it. why is that a concern?
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well, the u.s. constitution stated in 1807 that international trafficking was to be banned, that is going to africa and bargaining for people, bringing them back and forcing them into servitude was no longer a practice that the united states would partake in. so it was illegal. that was 1807. and still, from that point to 1860, there were those like timothy meaher who continued this illegal practice. even though that ban was in place, it had not really been enforced, and so in order to
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enforce it, the constitution was amended several more times in 1818, 1819 and by 1820, in addition to penalties and monetary fines being charged to those who participated in either funding expeditions or building, outfitting ships for that purpose, in addition to the fines, they added the penalty of branding you a pirate and as a pirate, if you are caught, and it is found that you committed this act of piracy in terms of trafficking, you were to be hanging. but in 50 years, only one man was ever hanged for all of the so-called illegal trafficking that was ever done in america.
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even then, he said, he hadn't done anything wrong. we hear that a lot, right. so, you know, timothy meaher and william foster took them to court, and timothy meaher's case didn't make it to court, and william foster's case was thrown out. so we have a group of white arrogant men who believe they are above the law. so we see this problem that is not new. we hear this today, but the idea is not new, you can do whatever you want to whomever you want, and the fact is that, you know what, they get away with it. you can get acquitted.
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but this is part of the american heritage that we have to do something about. that is not the america that we want. so this is a copy of the constitutional act that bans trafficking which he didn't adhere to, did want to, and when he placeded that bet, you know, the thing about it is that the enforcement of the law was so difficult because so many people thought just like timothy meaher. the customs officer, the judges, senators thought just like him.
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and so in terms of the ideology. it is like, this is what people learned, and what people heard in church, and this is what people heard in their social gatherings and in their groups. this is what the scientists were saying that there is a master class, and it is white people, and they are superior. everybody else is inferior according to a hierarchy with africans, and so, it is their right to exploit, dominate, and the thing about this idea is that we can see how problematic it is, and the chaos that it brought and the destruction that it brought, and this idea for white supremacy is like the
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bottom line, the foundational problem out of which came the civil war. and that breach is still a breach that we have to heal today. the idea of white supremacy is an idea itself that is inferior. and we have to do something about that. [ applause ] okay. i can't see too well. okay. yes, he was, william foster the captain, he was equally arrogant and conceited and very much a white supremist. he wrote an essay or his wife
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wrote it for him that basically detailed the whole journey. the whole thing from alabama to the benin on the west coast of africa and back. he tells you everything, you know, what they took, and how much money, and $9,000 worth of gold and all of this kind of thing and he lays it out in this letter. why does he write this letter? he had heard that some other captain was taking and had said that he had brought the last illegal cargo into america. he wanted posterity to know that he had done this, because it was a point of pride to defy the
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government, if federal government. and both of them, william and timothy were pirates. they were criminals. it does not look like it in state of alabama, but they were criminals. okay. it doesn't matter, but of course, in 1861, alabama seized from the union, but this is from 1860, and he was a criminal. okay. next one, please. okay. so, because of that notion that african people could be used as something called chattel. that is they could use us as
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though we were mules or donkeys or horses or what have you, the idea that they could just go into africa and bargain and bring us over here to work and work and produce wealth for them. i am looking for a passage here. so bear with me a second. it resulted in so much suffering. and kosola shares this with
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ursula, and he talks about this fateful day, and he says "if bybreak, when the folks that sleep get waken by the noise are with the gate break, i am not woke yet. i still in bed. i hear the gate when they break it. i hear the yell from soldiers while they are chopping the gate. therefore, i jump out of bed and looking. i see the great many soldiers the gun in the hand and the knivesed and they have the willing soldiers, too, and they run with the big knife and make noise. they catch people and saw their neck like this with the knife. then they twist their heads so and they come off of the neck. oh, lord, lord, i see the people
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killed so fast, the old ones try to run from the house, but they are dead by the door, and the women soldiers got their heads, too, oh, lord. when i think about those times, i try not to cry anymore. my eyes, they don't stop crying, but the tears start running down inside of me. and when the man pulled me with them, i call my mama name. i don't know where she is. i don't see none of my family. i don't know where they is. i beg the men for letting me go to find my folks. the soldiers say they got no ears for crying, the king come to hunt slaves himself, so they tie me in line with the rest." and so we can see this
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disruption and the chaos and the trauma that people experience, and so when we are looking at what kosola experienced, and you multiply that times how many many million over centuries and you get the sense of the weight of the pain that black people have in their very bones even to this day. this pain, this grief, and deracination means uprooting, it means to take everything away from what you know. he was calling for his mother. i want my mother. and so, what we see is that not only did he lose his mother, when they put him in the ship and took him to the middle passage he lost his motherland. and after 67 years in alabama,
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he lost his mother. so, what i like to remind people when they are reading and they say it is in didialect, and it s not published said, well, we want your story, but we want you to write it in language rather than dialect. and now that means a lot of things, and we don't have that kind of time, but suffice it to say that, you know, that first of all, for one of them in language, we are talking about what we call the standard english, but it is really the language of the establishment. and they don't want to hear it in his language, but it is his
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story, and why should it be in another language? and the thing about it that i like to remind people is that this language that he wrote in and when she wrote it and she transcribed it just in the way he spoke, and she was supposed to do that and she was a sten nog -- stenographer, and a stenographer knows that they have identifying feature of a person, and when you change the language, you change everything, but the thing about it is that when kosola was taken, he was 19 years old. these folks know that how does this young man become from yarba and he winds up from alabama and
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speaking in black vernacular with an alabama accent. they did not speak this in west africa. so the question is what happened to him that this is now the language that he now speaks? and everything that happened to him is encoded in that language, and this is why these publishers didn't want him to publish that or to read it or to be forced to read something that they were used to hearing. they wanted to change it so they can access it rather than change it themselves so they can access what kosola was talking about. okay. let's go on. and as one of the descendents spoke earlier today talked about alice walker's forward to
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barrakoon, hopefully shows us the moment and then hopefully shows us what the medicine is for that wounded. and so the wounding is this grief. the wounding is this pain. the wounding is this loss. the wounding is everything that he would never ever again be able to achieve or to experience. the loneliness. not only there, he has lost so much when he was uprooted from the continent, and so much also that he lost right here in alabama. this is the wounding. and as he talks to herston, he
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is grieving, and he is full of grief still. and sometimes herston has to leave him there and just walk out and let him, you know, just be with his memories, and they are so potent, and it is like he is looking exactly at that, at those same actions that occurred when he was on the continent. and it is like a, he would go through it again. and it is this deep grief. it is also it is part of our heritage. but as walker puts it. you know, along with the wounding and showing us a wound, he also shows us the medicine. what is the medicine. make sure that you have what i
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have. okay. so the medicine, and the fact that they are the survivors of the flotilla is the fact that we are here. not every ship that crossed the passage made it. not everybody aboard the ships made it. not everybody who experienced slavelet made it out of emancipation, and not everybody survived. so just surviving is a huge matter. we are here. the fact that we could survive, it means that we are physically strong. mentally and emotionally, and
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that doesn't mean that we don't have something that we have to deal with emotionally and mentally, and that is part of the wounding, and these are the things that we also have to look at. the thing about kosola is that when he is upset when he feels hurt, and when his pain comes up, he lets you know. he cries. he says is, excuse me, i cry. we don't do that. we are like, how you doing? i am fine. you are lying. we are not taught to be okay with the emotion that comes up when we are hurt. that wounding. you see, when he is talking to person, that is therapy. but some of us are afraid of therapy. we need to think about that. because that is part of the
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medicine. you know, can we talk about it? it is when we don't, and we don't allow the emotions to feel that we start to have the problems, headaches, depression, and sometimes you are just mad and you don't even know why. it is all of this. it is all of this. you know, i just feel some kind of way. feel it some kind of way. okay. so, we are here and we have survived that physical transportation, and all of the harshness that we have had to go
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through, we are still here. and we are able to continue. and this is what the people of africa town were able to do to continue. now, when we look at, when we are looking at the phenomenon of kosolo and his wife and the people who survived and actually stayed in this area, and when we are looking at what they were able to do, we have to be, you know, touched, moved and inspired because they came here with nothing. literally. you know, there is a verse that says "naked you come into the world and naked ye shall go out." i believe that is the verse. but when we are looking at that, and kosola literally came here
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naked. the cloth that he and his people were used to wearing, they took it from them. they boarded the flotilla with nothing. how can you come to this place with nothing and build a town? [ applause ] this is the medicine. right? because even though they didn't have anything physical other than their bodies, they came rich with knowledge of traditional africa. they brought it with them, and when you read the narrative, you know, he talks about what the society did and didn't do with the criminals and the people who should or shouldn't do things, and we talked about the elders and talked about the king would come in and handle things, and
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that is social structure. that was jurisprudence. there were initiation rights, and this or that, but they have a society. they were not just running around like, like this is something that you see on the cartoons. they had harmony. they had order. they had balance in their societies, in their communities. that was upended, but it was in them, so when they were emancipated, that they used that to build on and they drew on that traditional african cultural heritage. the traditional african world view, and you will get a sense of that. when kosolo is talking about his daughter that died and he had one daughter and five sons, and
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she was only 15, and he said, that is the first time that death found my door, but death came over with us on that ship. and what he is talking about is the fact that death is a part of life. this is the african tradition and the world view, and it is not like death is something bad or wrong, but it is a part of life. so he said when we laid the foundation, and the baptist church and cleared the way for the cemetery, and this is the circle is of life is what you are talking about. you are born and you are going through the initiations and the rituals as you are going into adulthood and you elder to be that all people meet and when you live and die, you become an
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ancestor and then as an ancestor, you spiritually guide the generations to come, and this is them guiding us as someone said earlier, you know, as those an sescestors who camer with him on that flotilla, they are sitting here as ancestors and look at us through those eyes. this is the pow ore of the ancestors. and this is why there is this, this tradition, this practice of ancestral reverence. you know, in america, it is like you can go to old folks home, but they respected the ancient wisdom. it is part of the integral part of the life of the people.
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and so when herston is talking to him, and she saying, kosola, you are telling me this or that, and i want to know about you. and he says, where is the house where the mouse is the ruler? i want the tell you about my father and grandfather. and so he does. this circle of life and the world view which reflects his world view is part of the medicine, the remembering is part of the medicine, the community, the ingenuity and when she talks about part of the kids and the african ingenuity being brought over, and the
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other part of the 109 is what they brought with them. and the most important part of the aspect of the medicine that he shares with us is that of being a human being. why is tham pornt? it is because in those days when there are some in these days, the idea was that african peoples were not quite human. not only were we seen as not quite human, we were also told that, you know, we had no spirit. that god had nothing to do with us, right. and so, what he expresses to us as, you know, in this narrative is a humanity of african people, and herston was able to capture that, and capture the humanity and the divinity, and you know,
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the divine essence that has been in everything that is created, and that does not leave us out. and what we learned from him is that no matter how brutal he was treated, he still had compassion. no matter the laws or the experience, and still had generosity. and no matter what the pain he experienced, he was able to love, and he was able to be kind. he was able to be tender, and you see that sugar cane over there, i grow that so when my granddaughters marry and they want something and they come to me and say, grandfather, i want some sugar cane, i want something. i will have it for them.
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he was good to them. kind to his wife, and tender with her. and a companion to those in the community. this is the humanity that he expresses. and the next one, please. oh, just one other thing, and i have to say this. and the other thing is that in terms of the medicine is that in spite of all of the trauma and the tragedy that he went through, he was still able to laugh. so in the appendix of the book, he can tell the story, and he can crack himself up laughing. you know, to the point of tears. and so, we don't, and it is not only that we cry when we are sad, but we can also cry tears of joy, and that is also part of his life, and so he was a whole human being and not just someone who was so, radically violated.
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and that, that is all he was. he never was just someone who was taken and forced into servitude, but he was a complete and whole human being. and so, yes. we will run through these and bring it to a close. so africatown, and after around 18, after emancipation, and shortly thereafter, the people found the town, and well, a community called africatown and it could have been a town, and everything that they needed, they created themselves. and we wanted a church, we built ourselves a church. they did not want to go to church where the african-americans would make fun of them. they had pride, and you know, we
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will have our own, and they created their own. they said that we want a school, and we will build a school, and we will send for a teacher. they were self-governing, and they knew how we wanted to live with one another, and help one another and support one another, and when somebody needed a house, they would help to build that house, and that is community. and so, you know, so we have, and we have what they have founded. we have what they have built. and so we have a foundation to build on. yeah, the next one. well, you know that sign. we see it all of the time. the my sister took that picture. okay. the next one. those, too. there are street signs called
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africatown, and i had not seen those before, so i had her take pictures of those that is is the union baptist church which is in the place of the old landmark baptist church which is where kosola worked at after the injury with the train. that is a marker there. go ahead. that's the bust in front of the church there of kosola. and the not the old landmark of the old plateau cemetery which is across the street, and you can see that whole circle of life that we are talking about. when kazoola says that we cleared the land for the cemetery, and they put a six-lane cemetery right through and divide both of us, you have
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to take your life into your own hands to get to the other side, and why would they do that to get into our community. and they put, and you know, initially the bridge and like the african bridge like you asked them to do that. >> they changed that. >> well, it is still a problem. and it is that we have to work toward to evolving our consciousness, but events like this help us to do that and what we have to do because so much of what we do, we do unconsciously. so that means that basically we keep repeating the past, and if we want a different future, we have to bring conscious
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awareness to what we do. and this is some of the things that we have going on today that are signifying that we are moving into a different kind of consciousness. to the next one. this is benip's -- benin's door of no return. apparently, we do return. ambassadors from benin have been here to apologize, because their consciousness has been raised about these issues, right? so they know that if we have to, we have to be responsible, and we have to acknowledge what we have done. you know, it is not to attack or blame, but it is to acknowledge what someone has done. if this is, you know, this is
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how we help to heal these wounds. benin's ambassadors can come here to say i'm sorry and perform rituals to appease the ancestors here, and the people in alabama can do the same thing. and you know, this is the sacred bird of looking back and finding what you missed and looking back to retrieve what has been lost so that you integrate what that is, the wisdom of it into your present consciousness so that you move forward. you will notice with this bird
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and i don't know if you see it, but the head is turned backwards, but the feet are headed forward. so you are going back to get what you need so you can move forward into the future that you want. the next one. so, this is going to bring us to a close. you know, what we still have to learn in this country is that all of us here are human beings. and you know, just like as martin luther king said "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." and also, "treating anyone inhumanely anywhere is a threat to our humanity everywhere." we have to be mindful of that as we go forward.
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[ applause ] >> i would like to thank you, thank you, thank you. as you were going through it and putting it all together, and did you think that you would have a best seller and the effect on the nation that it is having right now? >> no. i don't know what to say, but no. i had no, i had no thought about the impact. i had no idea, and i had no clue. actually i was continuously
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surprised, and i continue to be surprised. but when i looked at his story and i was like, well, yeah. i mean, and you know, it is sort of like, you know theoretically what a word means, but that is, you know, that is abstract, and it is academic, and you know, it is like, okay, this is a first work. and that is very important, too, but this work is herston's first work. she wrote several books. she was very, you know, prolific. but barracoon precede everything that she wrote and preceded all of that, and this is the first work. and the first work of someone
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who had not even quite finished undergraduate school. so that ought to let you know what you can do. she had not finished finished the work, and so it is going to speak to her genius as a social scientist that we have been talking about, but she was a genius social scientist. thank you. >> thank you, dr. laplante. >> i'm a descendent of kujoe lewis, and you say truth to the authenticity of dialect, because growing up, i heard the stories from my aunt and uncle, and they speak in that same dialect that was in the book. so i just wanted to know how important was it for you to remain authentic to his true dialect.
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>> very important. when i began the work, i asked for guidance for this. i am a black speaker, and this is my mother talking, and this other stuff, but i understood that dialect. it is not something foreign to me. i was glad that i was one of, you know, one of the people considered to edit this, because it was important to keep intact, and not only is black english my mother tongue, but i have researched and taught courses on black english, and so i know the importance of it, and know what that language means.
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it was important, i think that it was really good that i had background that i have in terms of my research with black english or what people called ebonics or black vernacular or whatever descriptions we want to use, because when in editing the manuscript, there were several versions, and the typed versions that she had typed up, but herston also wrote in longhand and the process is to usually write out the manuscripts in long hand and then type. she will then revise by typing again. in those, those different drafts, words could get misspelled or get left out or that kind of thing, and so to know the rhythm of the language
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and to know her, her -- her idea about the true transcription of oral speech, because i studied what she study, right. so her idea about how to transcribe the spoken word, you know, this is part of her learning as part of the anthropologist, and what she learned from transvoice, and so learning her process of that, i knew her approach when she took that narrative down. so i could stay true to not only kazoola but i could then stay true to the process, because it
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was his word. he said, i want you have to go tell everybody what i say, and well, then, that was my job. so thank you for the question. did i answer your question? >> i have a question. what relationship was, what relationship was there -- >> where am i looking? over here. well, they were friends until they weren't. >> i know the dream was to have that when she met in rhodesia, she had written to langston hughs that she had found a man called cudjoe, but she had a man who was older than he, and what relationship was there with langston? >> well, they were friends, but for the most part, herston saw hughes as a younger brother. you know, they both were a part
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of the renaissance, and so sometimes herston would take him on her folklore expeditions. so she saw him as a colleague, as younger brother, as, you know, someone who, who was standing up for the folk. langston hughes wrote a dialect as well, and part of his work was to, like herston and the others of that renaissance, was to capture the ethos of that work they produced and so they were friends and working on a play together when things went awry. so it was a lot of confusion,
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but the long story short of that is that herston felt like hughes had betrayed her in his working with louis thompson in giving her credit for work that was herston's work. they had a fallout about it. they tried to repair the relationship, but it didn't quite get back together the way it was. so, that's kind of describing the relationship. thank you for your question. >> back here for a question right over here. >> okay. >> hello. welcome to africatown. my name is angela hill. i am wondering if you have traveled to benin and found anyone there, the families of the founders of africatown? do they have stories of missing their loved ones?
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are there any stories from the benin side of the capture of their loved ones and how much they miss them, and how they are doing? >> that is a good question. i would defer that question to my associate natalie. she actually went there. she is one of the scholars who actually literally, you know, detail by detail, town by town, went to africa to track down this story. she knows that part of the story. you want to answer that? and i have not been, but i am trying to get my ticket. you have to go. and you know, you have to go to where, you know, where the people are that you are writing about, and that is why i had to come to africatown. thank you. >> thank you, and thank you so
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much for that, dr. plant. [ applause ] >> thank you. one of the important aspects of african culture, cultures and families and communities is that they tend to stay intact over many generations. so, you do have individuals who are closely associated with some of the descendents on this side, even though they may not know what the associations are. in the case of cudjoe, you would find people in the southwestern region of nigeria and they would
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know about his roots. nigeria is huge, and there are millions of people in nigeria alone, and there's a lot of cultural and linguistic diversity in nigeria. in addition to that, my research documents some of that history by way of the individuals who still live in that family. he was captured on a royal farmstand, and that royal farmstead still exists in that region of nigeria that still exists and a part of what keeps that history alive would be the
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historians on the palace. while it is not always possible to find, you know, individuals who are directly connected, you do have individuals who hold the history of particular community, of a particular family by way of the local historians in various african communities. some of my research captures their voices, and it captures some of the voices of the royal individuals of that area, and it captures the voices of the descendents of the slave traders who sold cudjoe and his shipmates into slavery. so this is a special case, this
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case of to flotilda and the making of africatown, and that is special because we have the ability to trace those areas where other individuals or communities on this side of the atlantic may not be able to do that. thank you for the question, and thank you for allowing me to answer it. >> i have one more question. >> i am from the family of kebbe, and we were one of the names left out, and would it be easier to track it out? >> when i first looked at the
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name, i would expect that he came from the kebbe hills, because the kebbe hills are in the northern region. they are north, i should say of the area in which cudjoe was captured. and to the extent that the cargo was a diverse cargo and you had slavery being conducted all over the region, you know, even though i was not able to establish with specificity that he indeed came from the kebbe hill region, what my research does show is that many of the names of the clotilda africans were part of contingency of the
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africans that came from central nigeria and many of the names were not personal ones, but the places from which they hailed. although kebbe is not in nigeria, you know, i would not dispute a connection between that name and the africans in the kebbe hills or the kebbe hill region of west africa, but more research needs to be done, and i would be happy to pursue that. >> thank you. >> and let's give dr. plant another round of applause for the way she enlightened up. we have so blessed to have scholars in our community to enlighten us. [ applause ]
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weekends on c-span 2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story, and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span 2 comes from these television companies and more including comcast. >> you think it is just a community center? no, it is way more than that. >> comcast is partnering with 1,000 community centers to create wi-fi areas so families can get the tools they need to be ready for anything. >> comcast, along with these television companies support c-span 2 as a public service. >> american history tv is primetime all this week on c-span3. tuesday beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern a look into the life and legacy of alexander hamilton, one of the founding fathers of
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