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AfriGeneas Writers Forum

Re: Our Past, Our Present, Our Future

Dear Spivey:

Thank you for your thoughts on some authors' viewpoints on writing about African Americans and their history.

You've touched on several subjects that many of us first accepted as absolute truth. We now can read many authors’ works that have a "different take" on our 600-year presence in the New World. The sterling research published on the pages of Afrigeneas corroborates or disputes a writer's viewpoint on our American legacy.

Reading your second paragraph that quotes a passage about slavery gently reminds us to re-read the published research of respected authors about Africans in the Americas. A few years ago, Afrigeneas interviewed historian Dr. Midlo Hall about her Afro-Louisiana database. (You can find the interview in the Afrigeneas library). Since then Midlo Hall written a book entitled "Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links." This book coupled with her other research, disputes the popular belief that enslaved Blacks were deliberately grouped in disparate ethic groups to confuse and subjugate slaves. Please read David Paterson's review on the Afrigeneas Book Forum:

Therefore the erroneous summary of the outcome of slavery, as quoted in the passage:
"they were forced to invent a culture that united them, and that culture became the historical context within which their modern-day descendents should be viewed."

We all know that we were never forced to invent our culture. Africans, whether enslaved or free, were active participants and a documented force in shaping the Americas. This claim of an " invention of our history" is not only a sad commentary on black writers who perpetuate this myth, but it's also a dangerous and useful vehicle in the hands of racists who deny our heritage. Equally catastrophic are black writers who've deliberately invented or massaged our history. Their betrayal of our legacy erodes the credibility of our ancestors and authors who've diligently researched the African American experience.

Black Americans are indigenous to this country and nowhere else. They continue to make a connection to mother Africa, but many are focused on their centuries-old legacy in the Americas. I've often wondered why black Americans rush to find an African village looking for an illusive griot or princely ancestor before researching their family history. Why ignore a probable ancestor who fought bravely as a soldier or seaman in the US Colored Troops in the Civil War? who were part of the migration that opened the West? whose ancestors share the African/Native American legacy in Oklahoma? whose ancestors were explorers and language interpreters? whose enslaved and free ancestors fled to the Caribbean, The Bahamas, Mexico and the West? whose ancestors fought bravely in both World Wars? whose ancestors shaped the early black church, black communities? whose legacy includes sophisticated whalers and mariners who sailed throughout the Americas and the world and brought back news of wars, conflicts, and emancipation long before it was published in American newspapers?

Our mission at the Afrigeneas Writers Forum is to help everyone to record those histories.

The outcry from '60's to even today's writers who claim "the 'Man' kept us from our history" is played out. A wealth of books and articles written by historians of all colors from last and today's century have been and are accessible to everyone.

Spivey, your statement is very compelling and should be a special bookmark for Afrigeneas Writers. " What tremendous obstacles these people were able to overcome, only to have their achievements sidelined by the current debates such as who is 'black' enough, who has a 'plantation' mentality, or what the meaning of 'African American' is."

Many of us will echo your words and shrug off criticisms of what one believes is a valid African American. The research over the centuries proves that there is no one rule of thumb about our ancestors' rich history.

When I first joined the Afrigeneas family, I composed my own philosophical tag line about our history:

"History never lies, only the people who interpret it."

Thank you again for your comments and observations.

Write Away

Messages In This Thread

Our Past, Our Present, Our Future
Re: Our Past, Our Present, Our Future
Re: Our Past, Our Present, Our Future

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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