Legacies links for October 9, 2023: Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Slavery in Art, Reparations and Memories

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Several people unveiling a roadside marker
The unveiling of a new historic marker in Middlebury, Vermont, to honor Frederick Douglass. source: Todd Balfour/Middlebury College

Some Reflections on Indigenous Peoples’ Day:

  • Brent Staples, “How Italians Became ‘White,’” The New York Times (October 12, 2019): LINK. Staples argues that the “federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus … was central to the process through which Italian-Americans were fully ratified as white during the 20th century.” Columbus Day — which tied Italian-Americans to the paternalistic notion that Columbus “discovered” a landmass already occupied by Native Americans — also reinforced racial categories with deep roots in American slavery.
  • Bradley Onishi, “Uncovering the (White) Christian Roots of Slavery, Native American Genocide, and Ongoing Efforts to Erase History,” Religion Dispatches (October 2, 2023): LINK. Onishi interviews Robert Jones, founder of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future (Simon & Schuster, 2023). Among other stories, the book connects “the genocide and land dispossession of Native Americans with the enslavement and oppression of African Americans throughout our history.”

Other Links:

  • Dylan C. Penningroth, “The Hidden Story of Black History and Black Lives before the Civil Rights Movement,” Literary Hub (October 4, 2023): LINK. Penningroth argues that the civil rights movement and Black history should be rethought as a moral drama for the struggle for freedom — which means that “Movement-centered scholarship is as urgent and necessary today as it was in the 1960s.” Draws from his new book, Before the Movement: The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights (Liveright, 2023).
  • Wesley Lowery, “Viola Fletcher waited 102 years for reparations. She’s still waiting.” The Washington Post (October 4, 2023): LINK (a free account may be required to access this). How the oldest survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre (1921) found the courage to tell her story after a century of painful memories. According to activist Greg Robinson, “We’re on borrowed time. Every year that we don’t get economic justice for Black people, generations behind us are being set further and further behind. If you can get it [reparations] done in Tulsa, it just sets up so beautifully for a national model.”
  • Daniel Caruth, “‘Hidden’ images reveal the legacy of slavery in American art,” KUAF Radio (Fayetteville, AR) (October 3, 2023): LINK. An interview with art historian Rachel Stevens about her new book, Hidden in Plain Sight: Concealing Enslavement in American Visual Culture (University of Arkansas, 2023). Stephens “addresses an enormous body of material by tracing themes of concealment and silence through paintings, photographs, and ephemera, connecting long overlooked artworks with both the abolitionist materials to which they were responding and archival research across a range of southern historical narratives.”
  • Suzanne Blake, “Americans’ Support for Reparations Drops,” Newsweek (October 2, 2023): LINK. “Over the course of four years, American support for slavery reparations has dropped, a new YouGov poll shows.” In 2023, just 31 percent of Americans support paying cash reparations to descendants of enslaved people; in 2019, 39 percent supported reparations.

Updates from the CIC Network:

  • “Historic Marker Honoring Frederick Douglass’s 1843 Visit to Middlebury Unveiled at Court Square,” Middlebury College (October 5, 2023): LINK. CIC member Middlebury College and the town of Middlebury, Vermont, recently honored Frederick Douglass’s tumultuous 1843 visit.
  • “Wheaton College Will Never Be the Same as It Was Before,” The Wheaton Record (October 6, 2023): LINK. “Three weeks after the release of Wheaton’s Historical Review Task Force report to all students, faculty and staff … many students are still buzzing about the report’s findings.” Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL) is a CIC member institution with strong roots in the abolitionist movement and evangelical Christianity as well as a complicated history of race relations on campus.
  • Carissa Woytack, “Oberlin Opens Underground Railroad Center,” The (Illyria, OH) Chronicle-Telegram (October 7, 2023): LINK. After nearly two decades of planning, the city of Oberlin, Ohio, has opened a new center devoted to the local history of the Underground Railroad with support from CIC member Oberlin College.