My Book World
This auspicious tome opens with one distinguished author/editor and closes with another writing about the collection of essays they have amassed. Kendi begins: “Racist power constructed the Black race—and all the Black groups. Them. Racist power kept constructing Black America over four hundred years . . . [w]econstructed, again and again. Them into we, defending the Black American community to defend all the individuals in the community. Them became we to allow I to become me” (xvii). One hundred scholars each represent or write about four-year increments of Black history beginning, of course, in 1619, when twenty black-skinned people arrive on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, aboard the (how bitterly ironic)White Lion. There the pernicious practice of slavery begins in the United States of America. Each of the book’s ten sections ends not with an essay but with a powerful poem, lending the quality of a Greek chorus to the collection, voices telling truths that prose perhaps cannot.
This collection possesses many positives: scholarship and research; eloquence the one hundred varied voices (some angry, some solemn, some patient and considered) lend to the gigantic mosaic or puzzle of lost American history. The most poignant moments of clarity may arrive when some overlooked gem of our stinking history is thrust up in our noses . . . and we must not turn away for it is a stench African-Americans have lived with for centuries—if not in their direct memory then within the cells of their punished bodies.
facts omitted from history:
Some of these elusive facts: 1) In the early 1700s there existed the term maroon, a runaway slave; the accompanying form, marronage meaning extricating oneself from slavery— which caused American slave owners no small amount of worry. 2) “Georgia was the only colonial region that issued a ban on slavery from its inception in 1733” (150). 3) “While many historians describe Reconstruction as a period of ‘racial unrest’ marked by lynchings and ‘race riots,’ it was undoubtedly a war. The network of terror cells that sprang up during Reconstruction was no different from the organized militias of the American Revolution or the ragtag Confederate squads” (235). The Civil War, in other words, has never really ended. The U.S. did not have the guts or will to return troops in the South to enforce Reconstruction policy, thus giving the South a back-door victory. 4) 1.2 million Black men and women served in WWII but came home to no hero’s welcome (307). 5) “Ella Baker, someone who should be much better known, was critical in the organizing that emerged from the sit-ins. Her activism brought together generations of Black struggle. The 1960 surge in youth activism drew her immediate attention . . . Baker was the SCLC’s temporary executive director and one of the South’s most respected political organizers. As the NAACP director of branches in the 1940s, she had organized chapters throughout the region” (326). 6) “The real story was that the real estate industry and mortgage bankers were fleecing African Americans with an assist from an utterly passive federal government” (337). 7) “In Clarence Thomas, a forty-three-year-old African American Republican from Pinpoint, Georgia, with only two years of experience as a federal judge, Bush found the ideal candidate to help him appeal to both these constituencies [white conservatives and right-leaning Blacks]” (361). 8) “In 2019 alone, more than 250 people in the United States were killed in mass shootings. The overwhelming majority of the shooters were white nationalists” (385).
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