Working it Out: From Emancipation to Economic Independence

After centuries of receiving no or minuscule compensation (by being hired out) for their labor, formerly enslaved people, at the stroke of a pen, were responsible for their own livelihood.

Seamstresses, servants, cooks, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and masons could ply their trade. Most, however, of this country’s enslaved workforce had been deployed to cultivate monocrops. No matter their occupation, they were responsible for negotiating wages, securing housing, paying rent, purchasing supplies, buying and/or growing their own food, clothing themselves and their families.  After centuries of laws that denied them literacy, property and ownership of their own bodies and those of their children, thousands of people were thrust into a world that did not welcome their newly acquired status.

Continue reading “Working it Out: From Emancipation to Economic Independence”

Have you heard of the #LemonadeSyllabus?

lemonade-syllabusWhen Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade was released this past April, it became an internet sensation. But did you hear about the amazing resource, titled the Lemonade Syllabus, which was inspired by it?

After many people across the world watched Beyoncé’s visual album, writer and educator Candice Benbow wanted to find a way to continue the conversation around the album’s themes of Black female empowerment and feminism. So Benbow started the hashtag “#LemonadeSyllabus” and asked that Black women around the world use the hashtag to suggest songs, books, film and poetry that were “primarily by Black women- that they believe best accompanied Lemonade and spoke to the essence of Black womanhood in its historical and contemporary manifestations.”  Continue reading “Have you heard of the #LemonadeSyllabus?”

Radical Reading for February

~posted by Diane

I’ve always been proud to have been a college student in the 1970’s when the campuses were hotbeds of protest, hippies, and monumental societal change. Those turbulent and triumphant times written about in recent children’s books allow us to relive those moments with awe. Sometimes children’s books are really best appreciated by adults, especially those of us who lived through it all. They also stand as tributes to the sacrifices and heroism deservedly celebrated during Black History Month. So for adults and children alike, here are some suggestions: Continue reading “Radical Reading for February”

Movie Mondays: African American Films you may have missed

~posted by Frank

2014 was another banner year for African American films and filmmakers, capped off by Chris Rock’s hysterical turn as star and director of Top Five and Selma, which has earned a Best Picture nod at this year’s Academy Awards as well as a nearly perfect 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes. While you’re waiting for these on DVD, check out these fine features. Continue reading “Movie Mondays: African American Films you may have missed”

Want to read more African American historical fiction?

image-of-nancy-rawles-my-jimOnce you read Nancy Rawles’ My Jim, a compelling slave story about Sadie (the wife of Huck Finn’s friend Jim), who chose to remain a slave and stay with her family on the plantation, you will likely want to read other stories like it: narratives that sweep you back in time and make you think. Most slave narratives, unlike My Jim, are the stories of men and women who strove to escape. Some African American historical fiction reveals slavery’s cruelty and harsh conditions, but very few novels feature strong, admirable slaves who chose to stay together rather than attempt personal escape.

Another painfully lyrical family story is J. California Cooper’s The Wake of the Wind, in which a homestead settled by freed slaves provides the backdrop for the story of another strong family determined to survive. Mor and Lifee struggle through the Reconstruction period — the obstacles of racial hatred and their resulting poverty— and leave strong, capable children who value their freedom and strive for justice, to keep the family together. Continue reading “Want to read more African American historical fiction?”