Why this year's Black History Month is pivotalRoundup
tags: racism, African American history, Black History Month, Peniel Joseph
Peniel Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of several books, most recently "Stokely: A Life."
2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of 19 enslaved Africans, brought to mainland English North America for the first time. The Africans who disembarked in Jamestown were captives stolen first by Portuguese slave traders and then by English pirates who sold them into bondage in what would become the United States of America. This scene ultimately set the stage for more aggressive entrees into a global slave market by England and, over time, America.
Jamestown, and its subsequent legacy, represents the racial origin story of what would become our nation. The subsequent four centuries have produced a long struggle for citizenship, equality and freedom for African-Americans that continues into the present but remains rooted in the nation's original sin of racial slavery.
In 2019, slavery's aftermath hovers over contemporary American race relations in deep and profoundly disturbing ways -- including how textbooks attempt to ignore the unsavory parts of this history, going so far as to characterize enslaved Africans brought to American shores as "workers" in a misguided effort to sanitize this painful chapter in our national story.
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