What Everyone Should Know About Reconstruction

What Everyone Should Know About Reconstruction

Many African Americans made education a high priority after the Civil War.National Museum of African American History and Culture

I’ll never forget a student’s response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about black history: “Martin Luther King freed the slaves.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six decades after the time of enslavement. To me, this comment underscored how closely Americans associate black history with slavery.

While shocked, I knew this mistaken belief reflected the lack of time, depth and breadth schools devote to black history. Most students get limited information and context about what African Americans have experienced since our ancestors arrived here four centuries ago. Without independent study, most adults aren’t up to speed either.

For instance, what do you know about Reconstruction?

I’m excited about new resources for teaching children, and everyone else, more about the history of slavery through The New York Times’ “1619 Project.” But based on my experience teaching social studies and my current work preparing social studies educators, I also consider understanding what happened during the Reconstruction essential for exploring black power, resilience and excellence.

During that complex period after the Civil War, African Americans gained political power yet faced the backlash of white supremacy and racial violence. I share the concerns many writers, historians and other scholars are raising about the shortcomings of what schoolchildren traditionally learn
about Reconstruction in school. Here are some suggestions for educators and others interested in learning more about that time period.

Reconstruction amendments

As most students do learn, the U.S. gained three constitutional amendments that extended civil and political rights to newly freed African Americans following the Civil War.

The 13th, ratified in 1865, banned slavery and involuntary servitude except for the punishment of a crime.

The 14th, ratified three years later, granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all people born in the United States, as well as naturalized citizens – including all previously enslaved individuals.

Then, the 15th Amendment asserted that neither the federal government nor state governments could deny voting rights to any male citizen.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment on Feb. 3, 1870. The anniversary is a good opportunity to learn about how the amendment was supposed to guarantee that the right to vote could not be denied based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

African Americans celebrated the 15th Amendment’s ratification.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

African American politicians

What few history and social studies classes explore is how these changes to the Constitution made it possible for African American men to use their newfound political power to gain representation.

Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American senator, represented Mississippi in 1870 after the state’s Senate elected him. He was among the 16 black men from seven southern states who served in Congress during Reconstruction.

Revels and his colleagues were only part of the story. All told, about 2,000 African Americans held public office at some level of government during Reconstruction.

White supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan also formed following the Civil War. These terrorist groups engaged in violence and other racist tactics to intimidate African Americans, people of color, black voters and legislators. They thus made the accomplishments of African American politicians even more impressive as they served as public officials under the constant threat of racial violence.

The first African American members of Congress were elected after the Civil War.Currier and Ives via the Library of Congress

Black activist women

African American women technically gained the right to vote in 1920, when the 19th Amendment passed. However, their constitutional right was limited in many states due to discriminatory laws.

Mary Church Terrell, an educator, fought for the rights of women of color.National Archives Docs Teach collection

Many black women were activists and women’s suffrage movement leaders. Through public speaking, prolific writing and developing organizations dedicated to racial and and gender equality, they fought for equal rights and dignity for all.

Among the black women who were activists during Reconstruction were
the five Rollins sisters of South Carolina, who fought for female voting rights; Maria Stewart, an outspoken abolitionist before the Civil War and suffragist once it ended; and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first black woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper, one of the first black female lawyers in the country and an advocate for granting women the right to vote.

Other women of color who played key roles in the suffrage movement included Ida B. Wells, the journalist and civil rights advocate who raised awareness of lynching, and Mary Church Terrell, founder of the National Association of Colored Women.

Higher education

Before the Civil War, many states made teaching enslaved individuals to read a crime. Education quickly became a top priority for black Americans once slavery ended.

While northern, largely white philanthropists and missionary groups and the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, did help create new educational opportunities, the African American public schools established after the Civil War ended were largely built and staffed by the black community.

Many new institutions of higher education, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs, began to operate during Reconstruction.

These schools trained black people to become teachers and ministers, doctors and nurses. They also prepared African Americans for careers in industrial and agricultural fields.

Public and private HBCUs founded during Reconstruction and still operating today include Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hampton University in Virginia, Alabama State University, Morehouse College in Georgia and Morgan State University in Maryland. These colleges and universities train a disproportionate share of black doctors and other professionals even today.

Morehouse graduates from the class of 2013 celebrated in the rain when President Obama delivered their commencement address.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Historical experiences

Storytelling, multimedia experiences and trips to historic sites and creative museums help get people of any age interested in learning about history.

Depending on where you live, you may want to embark on a family outing or school field trip.

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has a new permanent exhibit on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in Washington, D.C. in 2017, contains artifacts from the Reconstruction era. It’s also making the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, including the names of formerly enslaved individuals following the Civil War, available online.

Another option is the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

I also recommend watching the PBS documentaries about Reconstruction by the scholar and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. and reading the young adult book Gates co-authored with children’s nonfiction writer Tonya Bolden about the era. Gates has also compiled a Reconstruction reading list for adults.

In addition, the organization Teaching for Change curates a booklist on Reconstruction for middle and high school students. And the Zinn Education Project Teach Reconstruction Campaign offers a variety of resources including readings, primary sources and even lesson plans.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.‘s documentary series delves into the history of what happened in America after the Civil War.

An incomplete transition

As the renowned black scholar W.E.B. DuBois observed, racist laws and violent tactics in many states actively limited black freedom.

“The slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery,” he explained.

This was by no means voluntary. Intimidated and threatened by black enfranchisement and excellence in the era of Reconstruction, white supremacists attempted to enforce subordination through violence, such as lynching; and in systemic ways through Jim Crow laws. African Americans continued to assert their civil and constitutional rights as activists, politicians, business owners, teachers and farmers in the midst of white supremacist backlash.

With the latest voter suppression efforts restricting access to the ballot box for voters of color and the resurgence of racist violence and vitriol today, DuBois’ words sound eerily familiar. At the same time it’s reassuring to recall how quickly formerly enslaved African Americans made their way to schoolhouses and public offices.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

Tiffany Mitchell Patterson, Assistant Professor of Secondary Social Studies, West Virginia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What Everyone Should Know About Reconstruction

What Everyone Should Know About Reconstruction

Many African Americans made education a high priority after the Civil War.National Museum of African American History and Culture

I’ll never forget a student’s response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about black history: “Martin Luther King freed the slaves.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six decades after the time of enslavement. To me, this comment underscored how closely Americans associate black history with slavery.

While shocked, I knew this mistaken belief reflected the lack of time, depth and breadth schools devote to black history. Most students get limited information and context about what African Americans have experienced since our ancestors arrived here four centuries ago. Without independent study, most adults aren’t up to speed either.

For instance, what do you know about Reconstruction?

I’m excited about new resources for teaching children, and everyone else, more about the history of slavery through The New York Times’ “1619 Project.” But based on my experience teaching social studies and my current work preparing social studies educators, I also consider understanding what happened during the Reconstruction essential for exploring black power, resilience and excellence.

During that complex period after the Civil War, African Americans gained political power yet faced the backlash of white supremacy and racial violence. I share the concerns many writers, historians and other scholars are raising about the shortcomings of what schoolchildren traditionally learn
about Reconstruction in school. Here are some suggestions for educators and others interested in learning more about that time period.

Reconstruction amendments

As most students do learn, the U.S. gained three constitutional amendments that extended civil and political rights to newly freed African Americans following the Civil War.

The 13th, ratified in 1865, banned slavery and involuntary servitude except for the punishment of a crime.

The 14th, ratified three years later, granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all people born in the United States, as well as naturalized citizens – including all previously enslaved individuals.

Then, the 15th Amendment asserted that neither the federal government nor state governments could deny voting rights to any male citizen.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment on Feb. 3, 1870. The anniversary is a good opportunity to learn about how the amendment was supposed to guarantee that the right to vote could not be denied based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

African Americans celebrated the 15th Amendment’s ratification.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

African American politicians

What few history and social studies classes explore is how these changes to the Constitution made it possible for African American men to use their newfound political power to gain representation.

Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American senator, represented Mississippi in 1870 after the state’s Senate elected him. He was among the 16 black men from seven southern states who served in Congress during Reconstruction.

Revels and his colleagues were only part of the story. All told, about 2,000 African Americans held public office at some level of government during Reconstruction.

White supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan also formed following the Civil War. These terrorist groups engaged in violence and other racist tactics to intimidate African Americans, people of color, black voters and legislators. They thus made the accomplishments of African American politicians even more impressive as they served as public officials under the constant threat of racial violence.

The first African American members of Congress were elected after the Civil War.Currier and Ives via the Library of Congress

Black activist women

African American women technically gained the right to vote in 1920, when the 19th Amendment passed. However, their constitutional right was limited in many states due to discriminatory laws.

Mary Church Terrell, an educator, fought for the rights of women of color.National Archives Docs Teach collection

Many black women were activists and women’s suffrage movement leaders. Through public speaking, prolific writing and developing organizations dedicated to racial and and gender equality, they fought for equal rights and dignity for all.

Among the black women who were activists during Reconstruction were
the five Rollins sisters of South Carolina, who fought for female voting rights; Maria Stewart, an outspoken abolitionist before the Civil War and suffragist once it ended; and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first black woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper, one of the first black female lawyers in the country and an advocate for granting women the right to vote.

Other women of color who played key roles in the suffrage movement included Ida B. Wells, the journalist and civil rights advocate who raised awareness of lynching, and Mary Church Terrell, founder of the National Association of Colored Women.

Higher education

Before the Civil War, many states made teaching enslaved individuals to read a crime. Education quickly became a top priority for black Americans once slavery ended.

While northern, largely white philanthropists and missionary groups and the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, did help create new educational opportunities, the African American public schools established after the Civil War ended were largely built and staffed by the black community.

Many new institutions of higher education, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs, began to operate during Reconstruction.

These schools trained black people to become teachers and ministers, doctors and nurses. They also prepared African Americans for careers in industrial and agricultural fields.

Public and private HBCUs founded during Reconstruction and still operating today include Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hampton University in Virginia, Alabama State University, Morehouse College in Georgia and Morgan State University in Maryland. These colleges and universities train a disproportionate share of black doctors and other professionals even today.

Morehouse graduates from the class of 2013 celebrated in the rain when President Obama delivered their commencement address.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Historical experiences

Storytelling, multimedia experiences and trips to historic sites and creative museums help get people of any age interested in learning about history.

Depending on where you live, you may want to embark on a family outing or school field trip.

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has a new permanent exhibit on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in Washington, D.C. in 2017, contains artifacts from the Reconstruction era. It’s also making the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, including the names of formerly enslaved individuals following the Civil War, available online.

Another option is the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

I also recommend watching the PBS documentaries about Reconstruction by the scholar and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. and reading the young adult book Gates co-authored with children’s nonfiction writer Tonya Bolden about the era. Gates has also compiled a Reconstruction reading list for adults.

In addition, the organization Teaching for Change curates a booklist on Reconstruction for middle and high school students. And the Zinn Education Project Teach Reconstruction Campaign offers a variety of resources including readings, primary sources and even lesson plans.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.‘s documentary series delves into the history of what happened in America after the Civil War.

An incomplete transition

As the renowned black scholar W.E.B. DuBois observed, racist laws and violent tactics in many states actively limited black freedom.

“The slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery,” he explained.

This was by no means voluntary. Intimidated and threatened by black enfranchisement and excellence in the era of Reconstruction, white supremacists attempted to enforce subordination through violence, such as lynching; and in systemic ways through Jim Crow laws. African Americans continued to assert their civil and constitutional rights as activists, politicians, business owners, teachers and farmers in the midst of white supremacist backlash.

With the latest voter suppression efforts restricting access to the ballot box for voters of color and the resurgence of racist violence and vitriol today, DuBois’ words sound eerily familiar. At the same time it’s reassuring to recall how quickly formerly enslaved African Americans made their way to schoolhouses and public offices.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

Tiffany Mitchell Patterson, Assistant Professor of Secondary Social Studies, West Virginia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Alabama heralds ‘last slave ship’ discovery; ponders future

Alabama heralds ‘last slave ship’ discovery; ponders future

Dives into murky water, painstaking examinations of relics and technical data and rigorous peer review led historians and archaeologists to confirm last week that wreckage found in the Mobile River in 2018 was indeed the Clotilda, the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to the United States.

An event heralding the discovery Thursday afternoon in the Mobile community of Africatown made clear that much work remains. The Alabama Historical Commission and others working on the project must decide how much can be salvaged, whether it can be brought ashore or if it should be left in place and protected.

Perhaps more important: How can the interest and publicity engendered by the discovery of the Clotilda be harnessed to foster economic and racial justice in the community?

Anderson Flen, a descendent of one of the Clotilda’s enslaved, believes the historic find can spark new discussions on those topics.

“Number one is talking and communicating honestly and transparently,” Flen said after a news conference on the effort to confirm the discovery. “The other thing is beginning to make some tangible things happen in this community.”

Another Clotilda survivor’s descendant, Darron Patterson, said Africatown residents “have to come together as a group to make sure we’re on one page, of one accord, to make sure this community survives.”

Thursday’s gathering at a community center drew roughly 300 people. Government officials taking part included U.S. Rep Bradly Byrne — who said he would work to help make Africatown “a place that people all over the world are going to want to come to” — and a representative from Sen. Doug Jones’ office. A statement celebrating the discovery from Gov. Kay Ivey was read by historic commission chairman Walter Givhan.

Officials credited Alabama journalist Ben Raines with renewing interest in locating the remains of the Clotilda. Raines had reported that he believed he had located the ship last year. Even though the ship he found turned out not to be the Clotilda, it led to the commission’s and other organizations’ efforts to locate the Clotilda’s wreckage.

A team of maritime archaeology experts conducted an assessment of a previously unsearched area of the Mobile River and historical research and an archaeological survey revealed up to two dozen 19th and 20th century vessels. One closely matched characteristics of the Clotilda and peer-reviewed findings led researchers to conclude that the wreckage is the Clotilda.

Officials have said they are working on a plan to preserve the site where the ship was located. Beyond that, the ship’s future is uncertain.

“This is the point where we pause,” Givhan told reporters. “We have to do our duty in protecting it. That’s job one right now.”

More experts will be brought in to determine the next move. “There are several options, obviously, as to whether you leave it in place, whether you bring up certain artifacts,” Givhan said.

James Delgado, a maritime archaeologist who helped lead the team that verified the wreck as the Clotilda, recently told The Associated Press that the ship’s remains are delicate but the potential for both research and inspiration are enormous.

Joycelyn Davis, a descendant of one of the Africans held captive aboard the ship, said she wants to somehow honor both the ship’s human cargo and the hard work of them and their descendants in forming Africatown .

Jerry Ward, an African American man who said he lives near Africatown, said he’d like to see the ship reconstructed as part of an effort to educate people about its history. “To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you come from,” Ward said.

The commission said organizations involved in the research and survey efforts include the Black Heritage Council, the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Slave Wrecks Project, Diving with a Purpose, SEARCH Inc. and the National Park Service.

A brief history of slavery reparation promises

A brief history of slavery reparation promises

File 20190409 2914 1nhdlw9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Several 2020 presidential candidates have called for reparations for slavery in the U.S. AP Photo/Douglas Healey

Does the United States owe descendants of slaves reparations?

It’s a question being asked more frequently of Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination. Many have expressed varying degrees of support for reparations, giving the idea the greatest prominence it’s ever had among leading politicians.

Although the notion of compensating freed slaves has been around since at least the Civil War, providing reparations for their descendants has never really gained much traction in the United States, as I learned while researching my book “Making Whole What Has Been Smashed.”

Is anything different now?

Reparations are rare

Historically, the term “reparations” dealt primarily with the indemnification of states ravaged by war, such as those required of the Germans by the Versailles Treaty after World War I.

In the aftermath of World War II, however, the term began to acquire a broader meaning, extending to compensation for those injured by the actions of a state.

Still, such compensation has happened only rarely.

Germany paid Holocaust survivors US$927 million – or $8.84 billion today – in compensation as part of the 1952 Luxembourg Agreement, most of it going to the newly created state of Israel to defray the costs of resettlement.

Later, the U.S. offered “redress” to some 82,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated as “enemy aliens” during World War II. The 1988 Civil Liberties Act granted a presidential apology and $20,000 to each living person who had been detained based on the recommendations of a commission created by Congress in 1980 to examine the causes of the “internment.”

But this payback was intended to be very limited. During the debate, then-Sen. Ernest Hollings worried, “Where do we draw the line against reparations to the countless other groups of Americans who have suffered because of actions of the U.S. government?”

And the law explicitly says compensation would only be provided to victims still alive in order to preclude reparations claims by the descendants of black slaves and others.

‘40 acres and a mule’

Efforts to avoid establishing a precedent for reparations arose in part because former slaves and their descendants have long sought some sort of compensation for their suffering under slavery and segregation. These efforts have achieved little.

W. E. B. Du Bois called for reparations. Addison N. Scurlock, CC BY

Perhaps the best-known measure intended to get blacks on their feet after the Civil War was General William Sherman’s promise of land and loaned mules to work it.

Yet after taking office in 1865, President Andrew Johnson rescinded efforts to distribute land to those who were freed. Scholar-activist W. E. B. Du Bois thus observed that “the vision of ‘forty acres and a mule’ … was destined in most cases to bitter disappointment.”

‘Freedom is not enough’

A century after the Civil War, however, President Lyndon Johnson hinted at the need for reparations when he pushed through civil rights legislation intended to make blacks full citizens.

During a speech at Howard University in 1965, he declared: “Freedom is not enough. … It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity.”

Although Johnson didn’t call explicitly for reparations, he urged something more than just equal rights for blacks – something that would rectify the economic disadvantage blacks faced. The speech has often been seen as a harbinger of affirmative action.

Two years later, in the aftermath of urban riots in Newark, Detroit and elsewhere, Johnson created the Kerner Commission to investigate the causes and recommend remedies. The commission found that “white racism” was the basic cause of the racial unrest and proposed massive investment in black communities.

Although the report was a best-seller, Johnson found the conclusions politically distasteful and distanced himself from the commission.

Martin Luther King Jr. agreed with these critical assessments of black deprivation, but generally couched his appeals for addressing poverty in interracial terms. King did once indicate that he was coming to Washington “for a check,” but this was a rare aside.

The heart of King’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” his main focus toward the end of his life, was a universal basic income, not reparations.

But others would pick up the reparations baton. Black radical James Forman, for example, stormed Manhattan’s famously progressive Riverside Church in May 1969 to demand $500 million from “the white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues that are part and parcel of the capitalist system.” This and other demands formed the basis of the Black National Economic Conference’s “Black Manifesto.”

Calls for a commission

Little came of these efforts until decades later when then-Congressman John Conyers introduced the first bill on the issue in 1989.

It proposed a commission to “study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African Americans, [and] to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies.”

The Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act has been proposed in every legislature since and never garnered much support. Even during President Barack Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office, little changed, despite the appearance of author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ much-discussed 2014 plea for reparations.

Indeed, shortly before he left office, Obama told Coates that, as a political matter, reparations for black people was far less likely than a “progressive program for lifting up all people.”

Activists have called for reparations for slavery for years. AP Photo/Hillery Smith Garrison

Different this time?

Heading into 2020, some believe that the time for reparations may have come.

A driving force behind the persistence of reparations is just how stark the racial differences remain. Relative to whites, blacks tend to have lower educational attainment, rates of home ownership and life expectancy but higher rates of poverty, incarceration, unemployment and life-threatening diseases. The wealth gap between whites and blacks is very large, and wage inequality is likely making it worse.

But are all these disparities rooted in slavery and segregation? This is where a congressional inquiry, which may finally be politically palatable thanks to the growing embrace of the idea among prominent Democrats, would come in.

Success, which will require legislation, will depend on building bipartisan support for the inquiry. Accordingly, I believe it’s best to avoid talk of “reparations.” After all, most Americans oppose them and always have.

First, get the commission and let it determine the causes of racial inequalities and the form that remedies should take. As poverty is not an affliction of blacks alone, the U.S. must also address the poverty that affects many others as well.

If the commission is given the opportunity to explore the causes of and remedies for racial inequality, however, perhaps Americans can finally move toward rectifying the inequities that beset blacks as a result of their country’s history of slavery, segregation and discrimination.The Conversation

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Graduate Center, City University of New York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

SAVING OURSELVES: A Closer Look at ‘The Birth of a Nation’

SAVING OURSELVES: A Closer Look at ‘The Birth of a Nation’

Finally, we have a story of rebellion that takes us beyond the slave narrative and shows the beginnings of the revolution of the African American. The Birth of A Nation is the story of Nat Turner played by actor and award-winning director Nate Parker, who is a literate slave preacher-turned-radical that endures the woes of slavery and reinterprets the Bible to be empowering, instead of a source of control.

Starting this weekend, audiences everywhere will have the opportunity to relive the slave tale from a different perspective. It is a story that sheds light on how Christian faith did not subdue slaves, but instead, it became a source of strength. We had the opportunity to view the pre-screening of this perfect retelling of the events leading up to this historic revolt and its haunting, gory imagery that depicts a reality of this undeniable time in history.

While viewing the film, some may spot some other similarities that Turner endures at the age of 31, so be prepared to cheer when he displays his God-given intellect and might. In the meantime, we would like to share some of the film’s most compelling themes with the uneducated, miseducated, and African American History enthusiasts that are prevalent both in the past and present below:

Using Scripture as a Source of Power

Historically, so much has been handed to black people for defeat and turned into a weapon of victory, including our faith.

In the film, the slave master’s wife discovers that Nat can read and takes it as a divine sign to mentor him in Scripture. As an adult, the owner uses Nat’s gift of preaching for profit while also using the sermons to subdue other slaves.

However, after taking a closer look and studying the Bible again, Turner realizes that the Scripture is being misused; so he chooses to use it as a source of power for the revolution.

The message we should all take from this is to read the Word and get to know God for yourself in order to prevent misinterpretation and enhance our sense of empowerment. The tale of false prophets is nothing new, so it is important that we are able to differentiate between a manipulated preacher and a vessel of God? The presentation of the Word will reveal the truth.

The Prayer Warrior, Not the Foot Soldier

What audiences will not see in this film is the majestic Black, female soldier that we have come to love in modern-day society. In fact, the women in this film are meek in comparison, however their strength comes in the form of prayer and support. This image may irritate some and make you wonder why the women are praying instead of picking up weapons and strategizing.

However, it is important to remember that the woman’s role during the days of American slavery was to sit back, observe and continue to be a constant support for the men in their lives.

As time went on, the revolutions to follow gave birth to many strong women who bore even stronger children and the victory continues amidst our battle on both the physical and spiritual battlefield.

 “They’re killing people everywhere for no other reason at all but being black.”

This line in the film will make the audience shutter at the reality of the history and our present circumstances in the fight to show that Black lives do, in fact, matter. Although it is not meant to address the current movement, it is clear that the director, Parker, wanted to make the correlation.

The film shows what punishment looks like for the concept of freedom, and this same concept is something that Blacks pay for repeatedly despite their individual success and our community’s history of overcoming obstacles.

As a community, African Americans have greatly contributed to the evolution of the American landscape and some would argue that punishment is given as envious punishment. This same theme is carried throughout the film.

So Why See Yet Another Slave Film?

With films like Amistad, 12 Years A Slave and television series like “The Roots,” many of these stories are about surviving slavery and not the brutal fight to be free. Although the story is a carefully paced depiction of Nat Turner’s life, it pieces together the ancestral grit, new philosophy, and spiritual awakening that makes the oppressed ask, “When is enough is enough?”

We are living in a time where we are most certainly free and, somehow, still at war in an effort to show our worth. While it is not implied that we revolt in the form of violence against injustice, it is a reminder to stand up for our God-given right to be free and treated justly.