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Author Topic: Every black (and white, red, purple, or green) person ought to read this book...  (Read 613 times)

naturallybeyoutiful

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Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember
an oral history edited and with an introduction by James Mellon

From the back cover:
In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration commissioned an oral history of the remaining former slaves.  Bullwhip Days is a remarkable compendium of selections from these extraordinary interviews, providing an unflinching portrait of the world of government-sanctioned slavery of Africans in America.  Here are twenty-nine full narrations, as well as nine sections of excerpts related to particular aspects of slave life, from religion to plantation life to the Reconstruction era.  Skillfully edited, these chronicles bear eloquent witness to the trials of slaves in America, reveal the wide range of conditions of human bondage, and provide sobering insight into the roots of racisim in today's society.


From the introduction:
Human emotion, we are often reminded, is universal and timeless.  Yet few of us pause to consider that innumerable human feelings and experiences have vanished forever because the conditions that gave rise to them no longer exist.  This book is about an entire range of human feelings that can no longer be experienced; the feelings that arose from the condition of being a statuatory slave, of being owned, physically, by one's fellow man as a piece of property...

...The 29 life stories recorded here, in which racism either bristles overtly or smolders subliminally, should provoke the thoughtful reader to ask himself some difficult questions...First and foremost, what, in essence is racism? ... Furthermore, are racial reactions unpremeditated, like our sponteanous reaction to different foods, wines, or works of art?  If so, is race the only sphere of life in which we are not entitled to any personal preferences?  Are we, then to include, among racists any and all who profess to be attracted to another race, as for instance those who feel that "black is beautiful"?  And if racial feelings are not spontaneous -- if to feel racial antipathy "you have to be carefully taught" as the song goes -- then who "taught" those who feel racial attraction?

Finally, just when and where did the kind of racism pecular to America originate?  If even the earliest colonists -- those who themselves had immigrated to these shores -- already shared a pervasive conviction that black people are fundamentally inferior to white people, could American racism have originated in America? ... Thus, the slave narrativves invite us to grapple with these thorny questions and to ponder the enigma of racism in all its formidable depth, antiquity, and intransigence lends particular revelance and urgency to these life stories...."



From me:
Just meditating my way through the introduction (which is 12 pages long) was a satisfying read.  The narratives themselves, of which I have read two, leave me utterly speechless.  (The second one was from Georgia Baker, a slave to the vice-president of the Confederacy who knew Jefferson Davis personally.)  The impact of the work is further strengthened by the interspersing of real photographs of former slaves throughout the text.  I have not even fully begun to dive into the meat of the book, and yet I felt compelled to stop and invite others to do the same.  I am not really a history buff, but I have always read with interest slave narratives like those of Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and Olaudah Equiano.  I never miss an opportunity to give posthumous respect and dignity to a people whose stories most of them took to their graves.

This book is printed by Grove Press, NY, and copyrighted in 1988 by James Mellon. It can be ordered from amazon here http://www.amazon.com/Bullwhip-Days-Slaves-Remember-History/dp/0802138683 
Just thought you might want to know...
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pikey

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That looks really interesting.  I read a similar book called Remembering Jim Crow, except it was (obviously) about the Jim Crow days. 

Every year my Dad's sole contribution to our Christmas gifts are 'black' books, such as that one or 100 Black Women Who Changed America.  Growing up, I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have, but now I have a wealth of interesting books to rediscover.
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naturallybeyoutiful

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Every year my Dad's sole contribution to our Christmas gifts are 'black' books, such as that one or 100 Black Women Who Changed America.  Growing up, I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have, but now I have a wealth of interesting books to rediscover.

Wow!  What a wonderful family tradition.  I will have to be sure to do the same for my own kids on day.

I am a bit ashamed to say that there are a number of classic "black" books that I still haven't read.  The list includes The Miseducation of the Negro, Native Son, Black Boy, Up From Slavery, etc.  I'm *so* serious when I say that I'm going to use my final summer of freedom to catch up on the several titles required to keep my soul card!  ;D

btw - I pm'ed you!
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Burning Sands, Esq.

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That's wsup. I'm gonna have to pick that up.
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naturallybeyoutiful

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That's wsup. I'm gonna have to pick that up.

Yay!   ;D  Let me know what you think.
Harvard Law: What, like it's hard?