Legacies links for October 16, 2023: the Underground Railroad, preserving the past, racial identities

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Frontispiece and title page of Phillis Wheatley's published collection of poems (1773)
The first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems (1773). source: Schomburg Center, NYPL

The Underground Railroad:

  • “Detroit Today: Forgotten Tales of the Underground Railroad,” Detroit Today (October 12, 2023): LINK. A local radio program explores the the story of Thomas Smallwood, a former slave and little known hero of the Underground Railroad. Features Roy Finkenbine, director of the Black Abolitionist Archive and a professor of history at CIC member University of Detroit Mercy.
  • Tonya Russell, “Underground Railroad’s forgotten route: Thousands fled slavery by sea,” Washington Post (October 15, 2023): LINK. Often the Underground Railroad was a sailing ship, with destinations like the “Fugitive Gibraltar” of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Preserving the Past:

  • Bill Duhart, “Preserving office of the ‘Black Doctor of the Pines’ will keep legacy alive, group says,” NJ.com (October 15, 2023): LINK. Community members in South Jersey are looking to preserve the home of Dr. James Still (1812-1882), the son of slaves and a self-trained herbalist who was denied a formal education because of his race.
  • Hilarie M. Sheets, “Alabama Sculpture Park Aims to Look at Slavery Without Flinching,” New York Times (October 11, 2023): LINK. The Equal Justice Initiative’s proposed Freedom Monument Sculpture Park, scheduled to open in 2024, will “take viewers on an unflinching and moving journey through the story of slavery, at a time when what can be taught in schools about Black history is being debated….”
  • “National Museum of African American History and Culture Acquires Major Collection of Work Attributed to Poet Phillis Wheatley Peters,” Smithsonian (October 10, 2023): LINK. The Smithsonian has acquired “the largest private collection of items to bring new context and perspective to the life and literary impact of poet Phillis Wheatley Peters (c.1753–1784), including one of the few manuscripts written in the poet’s hand.”
  • Daniel Cassady, “New York City Bill Proposes Adding Context to Public Art, Monuments, and School Names Linked to Slavery and Other ‘Crimes Against Humanity,’” ARTnews (October 9, 2023): LINK. The bill would require a city agency to identify “works of art on City property that depict a person who owned enslaved persons or directly benefitted economically from slavery, or who participated in systemic crimes against indigenous peoples or other crimes against humanity”—and then remove (or rename) the artwork, memorial, school, etc., or install an explanatory plaque.”

Racial Identities:

  • “Clifford Symposium Examines Racial Identities and Inequities,” Middlebury College (October 6, 2023): LINK. Vermont’s Middlebury College (a CIC member institution) used a recent symposium to mark the bicentenary of the college’s first Black graduate, Alexander Twilight. The symposium’s theme was “exploring constructions of racial identity and inequities facing higher education and American society today.”
  • Garrett Neiman, “How Can White Men Do Effective Antiracist Work?” Nonprofit Quarterly (October 11, 2023): LINK. “For White men who are committed to racial and gender equity, part of ‘doing the work’ is both deepening relationships across differences, and building connections with other White men who share our perspective. Affinity spaces for White men can help begin to make change—both for White men and for the social justice movements they support.”
  • “Describing Modern Day Prison Labor’s Roots in Slavery, Groups Urge Court to Uphold Rights of Incarcerated Workers Subjected to Harsh Conditions, Inhumane Treatment,” ACLU (October 12, 2023): LINK. A coalition of several ACLU affiliates and local civil rights groups have asked a federal court in Maryland to consider the “racist history of prison labor in the United States and its continuing legacy of harm to incarcerated workers in Baltimore County and in other work programs at prisons and jails throughout the Fourth Circuit,” noting that these practices directly “descend from the enslavement of Black people.”