Legacies links for August 7, 2023: revisiting history, tracking the legacies of slavery

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Statues wrapped in protective plastic on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College with the headline "F&M Statue Vandalism Opens Legacy Discussion."
A statue of Franklin & Marshall College’s namesake John Marshall (an enslaver) was defaced with red paint in June 2021, which spurred more intense conversations about the institution’s early history. image source: WPMT/Fox 43

Updates from CIC members:

  • Jack Brubaker, “‘The Legacy Project’ explores slavery and diversity at F&M,” Lancaster Online (July 31, 2023): LINK. Franklin & Marshall College, a CIC institution in Lancaster, PA, has created “The Legacy Project” to explore F&M’s association with slavery, the civil rights movement, and other histories of diverse communities.
  • Melissa Smith, “The Atlanta University Center Has Long Been a Home for Robust Scholarship of Black Art History,” ARTnews (August 2, 2023): LINK. A look back at the rich history of Black artists in Atlanta, occasioned by the LACMA traveling exhibit, “Black American Portraits,” which came to the Spelman College art museum earlier this year.

Revisiting history:

  • Sydney Trent, “She cherished the home where her family fled slavery. Then a stranger bought it,” The Washington Post (August 5, 2023): LINK. A complicated tale of race, place, and history as a descendant of enslaved people tries to maintain a connection to the place where her family was enslaved.
  • Jonathan Shaw, “Tracing Slaves to Modern Descendants,” Harvard Magazine (August 3, 2023): LINK. “A genetic analysis of African Americans who labored at a Revolutionary War-era forge for the first time connects ancient DNA to living people who have shared their data in a genealogical database.”
  • Jennifer Schuessler, “At the Roosevelt Library, an Unflinching Look at Race,” The New York Times (August 1, 2023): LINK. “A new exhibition at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library explores the president’s ‘mixed’ record on civil rights—and the charged debate over racism in the New Deal.”
  • Jessica Calefati, “‘No better present’: Henrietta Lacks’ family celebrates historic settlement over stolen cells,” The Baltimore Banner (August 1, 2023): LINK. “Henrietta Lacks’ living relatives reached a settlement with the biotechnology company they sued seeking compensation for its use of cells that were taken from [Lacks] decades ago without her consent.”
  • Bennet Parten, “The D.C. Boarding House That Moved the Needle on Abolition,” Zocalo Public Square (July 31, 2023): LINK. A house that once stood at the current site of the Library of Congress was the meeting place of a “brain trust behind the first significant congressional campaign to combat slavery from the nation’s capital.”
  • Jennifer Barry Hawes, “Activists Have Long Called for Charleston to Confront Its Racial History. Tourists Are Now Expecting It,” ProPublica (July 29, 2023): LINK. As many African American tourists flock to the South, Charleston is being forced to confront its painful past—where about 40% of captive Africans arrived into American chattel slavery. 
  • Christopher Cameron, “How W. E. B. Du Bois Helped Pioneer African American Humanist Thought,” Literary Hub (July 27, 2023): LINK. The relationship between African Americans and Christianity is complex, especially in light of many churches’ historic efforts to promote, safeguard, and justify slavery.

Other legacies of slavery:

  • Sonia Hassan and Hala Ouweini, “US preterm birth and maternal mortality rates are alarmingly high, outpacing those in all other high-income countries,” The Conversation (August 3, 2023): LINK. “The number of women who died within a year after pregnancy more than doubled in the U.S. over the 20-year period of 1999 to 2019. And there are significant racial disparities in this statistic: The highest number of pregnancy-related deaths were recorded among Black women, increasing from 26.7 per 100,000 births to 55.4 per 100,000 during that same time period.”
  • Alvin A. Reid, “Removing Obstacles to Black Home Ownership,” The St. Louis American (August 1, 2023): LINK. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, looking to address racial disparities in home ownership, has announced a new $85 million program “to help communities identify and remove barriers to affordable housing production and preservation.”
  • Sam Levin, “‘Denying our humanity’: how Santa Monica decimated a thriving Black community,” The Guardian (July 31, 2023): LINK. African Americans helped build Santa Monica, California, and now a historian and community activists are looking for reparations in the form of accessible beaches and affordable living.
  • Lynzee Mychael, “The Lottery and Black Americans: Understanding the Impact and Trends,” The Michigan Chronicle (July 27, 2023): LINK. “The lottery’s appeal to Blacks is a result of a complex interplay of historical, social and economic factors. While it offers a glimmer of hope and the potential for immediate financial betterment, it also raises red flags about the regressive effects of gambling and its impact on vulnerable communities.”
  • Maya Richard-Craven, “Drought Is Hitting Black Farmers Hard,” Word In Black (July 24, 2023): LINK. Black farmers represent just 1% of all farmers in the United States, but they are being hot especially hard by climate thanks to historic inequities in land ownership.