Tag: George Washington

Washington and Lee University Replaces Slaveholder’s Name On Building With John Chavis’, the 1st Black U.S. College Graduate

Bust of John Chavis at Washington & Lee University (photo via columns.wlu.edu)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the Board of Trustees at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, will make changes to two of its buildings, Robinson Hall and Lee Chapel, after a student and faculty committee issued a report on how the university’s history is represented on campus. The committee was created after White supremacists rallied at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville last year.

Robinson Hall was originally named for John Robinson, a founder of the university. When Robinson died he left his estate, farm, and 73 slaves to the college. In 1836, the college sold the slaves and used the money to build Robinson Hall.

The board decided to rename the building Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from the university’s predecessor – first Liberty Hall Academy, then Washington Academy – in 1799.

Additionally, the university will make changes to Lee Chapel. The university will replace the portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms with new portraits of the two men in civilian clothing.

Also, the doors to the statue chamber in Lee Chapel will be closed during university events. However, Lee Chapel will keep its name. Robert E. Lee is buried below the chapel.

GBN Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 With Closer Look at Memorial in D.C.

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by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief

In April of 2017, I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of a business trip. Once in Washington D.C. and at the National Mall, I was thrilled to learn that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was only a ten-minute walk away, so after my work was done, I headed over. Photos don’t do it justice, but it is an awesome space, and one I’d encourage every American to visit it if ever in our nation’s capital.  It’s the quotes that strike you first – the aesthetic beauty of the words coming out of the granite, then the meaning, then the context of each one of them. Like the MLK we know publicly, it is equal parts solemn, potent, righteous and wise.

I’ve since read that the grounds of the Memorial, which opened to to the public on August 22, 2011, cover four acres and includes the Stone of Hope, a granite statue of Dr. King carved by sculptor Lei Yixin. The inspiration for the memorial design is a line from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”  In a word, it is formidable. MLK stands as a beacon of strength, hope and possibility, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and inequity and injustice. Reflecting upon the man, his journey and his words is of course doable from anywhere in any space, but there is something incredibly special about being to do it where he is honored in the same area as other lauded architects of this country such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

There are fourteen quotes around the memorial – above are photos of the ones that I was able to get clear photos of before it started getting dark on my day. Enjoy and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington

512y-xth0ilarticle by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

MOUNT VERNON, Va. — The costumed characters at George Washington’s gracious estate here are used to handling all manner of awkward queries, whether about 18th-century privies or the first president’s teeth. So when a visitor recently asked an African-American re-enactor in a full skirt and head scarf if she knew Ona Judge, the woman didn’t miss a beat.

Judge’s escape from the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1796 had been “a great embarrassment to General and Lady Washington,” the woman said, before offering her own view of the matter.“Ona was born free, like everybody,” she said. “It was this world that made her a slave.”

It’s always 1799 at Mount Vernon, where more than a million visitors annually see the property as it was just before Washington’s death, when his will famously freed all 123 of his slaves. That liberation did not apply to Ona Judge, one of 153 slaves held by Martha Washington.

But Judge, it turned out, evaded the Washingtons’ dogged (and sometimes illegal) efforts to recapture her, and would live quietly in New Hampshire for another 50 years. Now her story — and the challenge it offers to the notion that Washington somehow transcended the seamy reality of slaveholding — is having its fullest airing yet.  Judge is among the 19 enslaved people highlighted in “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon,” the first major exhibition at Mount Vernon dedicated to the topic (it runs through 2018, check link above for details).

She is also the subject of a book, “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)
Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Most scholars who have written about Judge’s escape have used it as a lens onto Washington’s evolving ideas about slavery. But “Never Caught,” published this Tuesday by 37 Ink, flips the perspective, focusing on what freedom meant to the people he kept in bondage. “We have the famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” Ms. Dunbar, a professor of black studies and history at the University of Delaware, said in an interview in Mount Vernon’s 18th-century-style food court. “But decades before them, Ona Judge did this. I want people to know her story.”

Research on slavery has exploded in the two decades since Mount Vernon, Monticello and other founder home sites introduced slavery-themed tours and other prominent acknowledgments of the enslaved. “Lives Bound Together”  was originally going to fill one 1,100-square-foot room in the museum here, but soon expanded to include six other galleries normally dedicated to the decorative and fine arts, books and manuscripts.

An installation about Ona Judge, often referred to by the diminutive Oney, in the exhibition “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” (Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

The exhibition makes it clear just who poured from the elegant teapots and did the backbreaking work on the 8,000-acre estate. But integrating the harsh reality of slavery into the heroic story of Washington — “a leader of character,” as the title of the permanent exhibition across from the slavery show calls him — remains unfinished work, some scholars say. Continue reading “BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington”

The NAACP Challenges President-Elect Donald Trump to “Act With Moral Clarity” in Statement on 2016 Election

(photo via naacp.org)
(photo via naacp.org) 

BALTIMORE, MD – NAACP National President and CEO Cornell William Brooks issued the following statement regarding the results of the 2016 presidential election:

“Even as we extend our congratulations to President-Elect Donald J. Trump, the NAACP, as America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, must bluntly note that the 2016 campaign has regularized racism, standardized anti-Semitism, de-exceptionalized xenophobia and mainstreamed misogyny. Voter suppression, as the courts have declared, has too become rampant and routine.

From the day that General George Washington accepted the people’s charge to become their first commander-in-chief, to the day that we elected Barack Obama as our country’s first African-American president, America has come together to ensure a peaceful transition of power. This most recent presidential election must meet this distinctly American standard. President-Elect Trump’s victory speech avoided a divisive tone and thus invoked this standard.

During this critical period of transition, we are now calling upon the next president to speak and act with the moral clarity necessary to silence the dog-whistle racial politics that have characterized recent months and have left many of our fellow citizens snarling at one another in anger and even whimpering in fear. The more than 120 million Americans who cast ballots in this election – as well as the more than 100 million more eligible voters who declined to vote – deserve no less.

The NAACP stands ready to work with a new administration to realize the racial justice concerns that not only compelled millions of people to go to the polls on Election Day but also inspired millions to protest in the streets in the preceding days and months. Depending upon the new administration’s fidelity to America’s ideals of liberty and the NAACP’s agenda for justice, we will either be at its side or in its face. We will not let this election distract or dissuade us; the NAACP will continue to stand strong at the frontlines, advocating for voting rights, criminal justice reform and equality for all.   

This election comes as a surprise to many, an affirmation to some and a rejection to others, and yet it is also a defining moment for the NAACP and the nation. Let us come together as a country – come together with the principled and practical unity that the needs of our nation and the need to govern demand.

Our beauty as a country shines brighter than the ugliness of this election. It is up to all of us to reveal the beauty of who we are as a people as we yet see the possibilities of the nation we can become.” 

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and its six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

THEATER: Broadway Newbie Anthony Ramos Rips Up the Rules in ‘Hamilton’

“Hamilton” star Anthony Ramos (Photo: Courtesy of Anthony Ramos)

With ticket prices upwards of $1,500 and advanced sales of $57 million last November, “Hamilton” is an official Broadway juggernaut. Helmed by certified genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical mixes rap, R&B and pop to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton’s ascent from penniless orphan to chief architect of the American financial system. The twist, if you haven’t heard, is that a person of color plays nearly every major character—including Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

Miranda, who plays Alexander Hamilton, has said that “Hamilton” is “a story about America then, told by America now.” By casting people of color as the founders of our nation, “Hamilton” forces audiences to engage with bodies and voices that would have been categorically marginalized in colonial times.

“Hamilton” also sheds light on lesser-known figures of colonial America, including proto-abolitionist John Laurens. Laurens is played by Anthony Ramos, a 24-year-old Puerto Rican actor and singer from Brooklyn, New York. Ramos also plays Philip Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son. Here, in this edited and condensed interview, Ramos talks  about making his Broadway debut in a blockbuster show and his journey from the tough Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick to The Great White Way.

What’s the significance of having performers of color tell the story of the Founding Fathers? 

You ever look at a painting like, “Wow, that’s so good, but I really can’t wrap my brain around why this thing that is so obscure feels so right?” “Hamilton” is that kind of painting. No one’s ever seen anything like it, and I think it’s one of the boldest pieces of art ever to hit. It’s also honest because “Hamilton looks like how we look like now.

Can you explain more?

Lin could have written a show and had the Founding Fathers be all White men, but at the same time, the show’s about Alexander Hamilton. A lot of people didn’t know whether or not Hamilton, who grew up in the British West Indies, was half [Black]. They had no idea. So it’s only right to have the rest of the cast embody that. Daveed Diggs, who plays Thomas Jefferson, is half Jewish and half Black. Phillipa Soo,* who plays Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, is Irish and Chinese. Lin and I are Puerto Rican. Having men of color play the Founding Fathers shows that anyone could have done what they did. This is showing our public what it would have looked like if things were different.

Continue reading “THEATER: Broadway Newbie Anthony Ramos Rips Up the Rules in ‘Hamilton’”

‘Ask A Slave’ Web Series Creator Azie Mira Dungey Uses Satire To Educate the Ignorant About Slavery

ask a slave

Playing the role of a slave woman at one of the country’s top-tourist destinations, actress and comedian Azie Mira Dungey learned first hand how ignorant many Americans are about the institution of slavery.  For two years, Dungey worked part-time at George Washington‘s Mount Vernon mansion in Mount Vernon, Va., often portraying one of the slave women who worked inside of Washington’s home. The role required her to read countless books on the plantation’s history over a two month period before she started the job.

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Once she stepped into character, Dungey realized that she was more than just a recent New York University graduate milling around in a short-term gig until Hollywood called; instead, Dungey believed that she was something of a griot of Black history and took her role very seriously.

And her job wasn’t easy. Often, Dungey has had to answer challenging questions from mostly White tourists — all while staying in character.

During an exclusive interview with NewsOne, Dungey recalled the time someone asked, “What’s your favorite part of the plantation?” (Her answer: “My bed”) Then there was the guy who asked, “How did you get to be the house maid for such a distinguished Founding Father? Did you see the advertisement in the newspaper?”

(Her answer: “Did I read the advertisement in the newspaper? Why yes. It said, ‘Wanted: One housemaid. No pay, preferably mulatto, saucy with breeding hips. Must work 18 hours a day. No holidays. But, you get to wear a pretty dress. And, if you’re lucky, you might to get carry some famous White man’s bastard child.’ So, you better believe I read that, ran over and said, ‘sign me up.’” ).

But not all of the obtuse questions came from White people.

After speaking to an older Black man about a runaway slave who attempted to flee Washington’s plantation, the man seemed shocked at the slave’s attempt at freedom. “He was like, ‘Wait a minute, why did he want to run away?’” Dungey recalls the man asking. “‘I thought that George Washington was a good slave owner.’”

“I just looked at him, like, Are you serious?… You can be the nicest in the world but people don’t want to be your slave. And the man was like, ‘Yeah, that’s true.’”

As aforementioned, though, as comical as some of the questions were, Dungey never broke character. Dungey was committed to ensuring that she conveyed the reality in which her character lived. In her role, Dungey realized that she may be one of the few people from whom they can get some sense of how Blacks lived during a very repressive period in American history.

“History is our narrative,” she said. “It shapes what we think of ourselves and our society. How it is controlled, and whose stories get told (or not told) has a strong effect on culture, and even on public policy. Black history is not a separate history or a less important one. Misconceptions about Black history and the modern Black experience is really dividing us politically and socially. If we don’t understand racism and where it comes from, how can we end it? How can we weed it out? We have to be critical of these things to make true progress.”

She left that job late last year and has since moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, but the two-year experience motivated her to turn the hilarity of the tourists’ ignorance into the YouTube web series “Ask A Slave.” As “Lizzie Mae,” Dungey sits in front of a TV and answers viewers’ questions about slavery and George Washington.

All of the questions are ones tourists actually asked while she was working at Mount Vernon.

Watch Episode 1 of “Ask A Slave” here:

Since going live with two videos Sept. 1, the first episode has garnered more than 301,100 views, while the second episode has more than 119,000 views. It’s not a bad start at all, especially considering that Dungey raised the funds for production herself.

Watch Episode 2 of “Ask A Slave” here:

Back in April, she raised $3,000 through the crowdsourcing site GoFundMe to shoot six episodes, which will be published on YouTube each Sunday. The series was directed by Jordan Black, creator of the improvised comedy web series “The Black Version.”  The first two episodes have gotten positive reviews from JezebelMadameNoire, as well as other sites, with Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman calling it “the best web series since “Drunk History.”

Continue reading “‘Ask A Slave’ Web Series Creator Azie Mira Dungey Uses Satire To Educate the Ignorant About Slavery”

President Barack Obama To Publish Children’s Book

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, a publishing phenomenon even before he won the White House, has a new book about to hit the shelves — profiling inspirational historic Americans for children.

“Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters” is a 40-page picture book and will have an initial print run of half a million copies when it is released on November 16 — not coincidentally two weeks after congressional elections.
Obama penned the book before he was elected and proceeds from its sale will go to a scholarship fund for the children of US soldiers killed or disabled in wars abroad. The president’s publisher, Random House, praised the work as an “inspiring marriage of words and images, history and story.” “‘Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters’ celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans — the potential to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths,” the company said in a press release.

The book celebrates figures including the first president George Washington, and Jackie Robinson, who broke down barriers by becoming the first African American baseball player in the major leagues. The title is taken from the lyrics of “My Country, ‘Tis of thee” an early American patriotic song. Obama’s previous books, the autobiographical “Dreams from My Father” published in 1995, and the political manifesto “The Audacity of Hope” which came out in 2006, have been huge international bestsellers. They have also secured Obama’s financial future. The president and his wife Michelle declared a joint gross income of 5.5 million dollars for 2009 alone — almost all of it based on royalties from his books.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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