My first Bits & Bobs of the new year and it falls on Black History Month. I have a certain ambivalence when it comes to Black History Month. Is it really celebrated or is it ignored? Black people are out there making History everyday, but it goes largely unnoticed. Most Black people will say "Hey, I know my history, I got this." We are creatively,inventively, politically & Environmentally making History everyday. Maybe Black History Month will spark curiosity in those unaware of our History to ask: Who invented the potato chip, Stop lights,the watch, the mailbox? Where did the phrase "The Real McCoy" come from?
Enough ranting. This week I'm writing about some of my favorite Books & movies by & about Black people.
I just finished reading RED RIVER by Lalita Tademy:
Lalita vividly tells the ancestral story of the Tademy family, whose history is intertwined with one of many darker days in Americas History: The Colfax Massacre of 1873.
Following the first election after the Civil War in which Black men were allowed to vote, tensions arose between the mostly Black Republicans, who won the election & the white Democrats. Fighting erupts when a handful of Black Republicans refuse to give up the hard won Colfax Parish Courthouse. More than 300 armed White men, which included the White League, the precursor to todays Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia converge on the Courthouse.
The White militia come armed with a cannon. Some Blacks upon seeing that they are out gunned & out manned decide surrendering is the best option. When one of the leaders of the White Militia is accidentally shot by one of his own men, the Whites respond by shooting the Black prisoners. The leaders of the Black Militia were singled out for execution. The killing ends with 150 Blacks murdered & 3 whites killed. The Government succeeds in changing the view of the Massacre by calling it the Colfax Riot as a testament to what happens when unruly Blacks are given the chance to govern.
Within this horrible chapter of history Lalita Tademy manages to cull from the tragedy, stories of resilience, hope, bravery & determination.
The story she tells is not an isolated story. Many like it are dotted throughout America's History. Some you might want to read or watch a cinematic retelling of are: ROSEWOOD or THE BURNING or a fantastic movie chronicling 110 years in the life of a woman who was born a slave;
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN & Mr. & Mrs. Loving, which is my all time favorite movie. The true story of Mildred & Richard Loving an interracial couple who are arrested for marrying in Virgina and challenge Virginia's miscegenation laws all the way to the supreme court. WENCH the true story about a Post Civil war Retreat in Ohio where wealthy white men bring their enslaved Black mistresses.
My hope is that every month we will all be a little more curious about the lives of people who look nothing like us, but are like us in all the ways that really matter & that their History is our History.