It’s a long thread but interesting. The term “maroon” comes from the Spanish meaning, “untamed.” It is not, as one might think, a reference to skin color. In my historic fiction manuscript, three characters run away to a maroon community in Cane Creek. This was a real place in the swamps west of Charleston.
From The 1619 Project, EPISODE TWO: “Rape was so prevalent during slavery that today 1/4 of the genetic makeup of Black Americans can be traced back to Europe through the paternal line.”
Colonial governments made descent of children of enslaved women matrilineal in order to ensure that any children they bore were slaves (even the mixed race children, say, of their owner).
The episode goes on to examine the lopsided health care that contemporary Black women receive, tying the shameful conditions directly back to slavery.
FACT: Black women die in childbirth at THREE TIMES the rate of white women.
FACT: Black infants die at TWICE the rate of whites babies, a discrepancy that disappears when the OB is Black.
FACTS: Black patients are under-treated for pain, as if there were biological differences between Black and white people. Furthermore, their life expectancies are shorter and they’re often blamed for their health issues.
Slave owners always had an economic interest in the reproduction of their slaves, but after Congress banned the importation of Africans in 1808, it became an even more important way to preserve and build wealth.
In the amazing novel WASH, by Margaret Wrinkle, the white slave owning protagonist hires out the enslaved character named Wash for the purpose of procreation. Keeps meticulous records. Is paid for the “exchange.” One of many poignant moments occurs towards the end when Wash burns that ledger and lets those flames then take a barn down.
I know from my research that in South Carolina in the mid-eighteenth century, slave owners believed that breeding Africans with Native Americans would produce stock better adapted to winters.
And BTW, another source of wealth for early colonizers as to round up, kidnap, and sell Native Americans to slave markets in the West Indies. Native Americans were not favored as slaves in South Carolina because they had family in the area and knew the landscape better than anyone, heightening the chances of their escape.
Today’s idiosyncratic tour of racism, reactions to racism, and/or the history of racism swings through a twitter thread.
Yesterday a WW (that’s “white woman” from now on) posted her horror at learning that, at some point, George Washington killed all his slaves’ dogs. Her tweet is circled in yellow below.
Here’s one possible source for this fact — a Frontline episode on PBS.
Even though I’ve read about some of the most horrific forms of torture employed by slave owners and have had to really think about the heartless mercantile interests of slave owners trafficking in black bodies, I also recoiled at the dog-killing.
Does this mean I care more about dogs than about the enslaved?
Of course not.
I thought Washington’s dog-killing was an extreme and sadistic act meant to deprive his slaves of the comfort and companionship of their pets. The Frontline article though seems confirming of the tweeter’s assertion — that he was acting out of economic self-interest. The dogs were killing his livestock, perhaps?
Anyway, I didn’t spend a lot of time reading the comments because I knew the dumping on the WW would, in this instance, bother me. It’s NOT EITHER / OR.
And BTW, sometimes it’s evident that people DO care more about pets than the people involved. Take the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It seemed then that there was a lot of attention paid to the stranded animals and maybe not enough attention paid to the ravages of New Orleans’ largely Black parishes. Also, that the recovery effort was so botched could have been viewed through a lens of racism and generally wasn’t.
Another EITHER / OR that I’m thinking about and will come back to post about sometime soon is: how the fact that race is a scientific fiction across the board (not just for white people, in other words) can coexist with our profound acknowledgment that race as a social construct is profoundly and persistently problematic.
Collages are 2022 creations made to visual prompts from Paris Collage Collective.
Dogs passed: four. Finn reaction: zero. Numbers of times we crossed the street: twice.
Unidentified growth spotted: one. I found it on an oak sapling. It’s perhaps not good. Something parasitic?
We walked in front of two boys for a long block. One looked to be about twelve and wore a wrist cast (skateboarding injury, perhaps?) He told Siri to set a timer for 44 minutes. What? You can do that? Even though I knew about voice commands, it blew my mind. As soon as they split away, I told Siri to set a timer for 44 minutes. It worked. Mind blown again.
[Remedial, I know, but it just goes to show how beneficial it is to be around tweens when it comes to upping your technology skills].
The first pings of rain fell and we spied another growth we didn’t recognize (below).
Oh! I said. The enslaved used Jimsonweed to treat worms. I know this but can’t resist asking Siri to do more tricks and confirm.
Siri: Search Jimsonweed and worms.
It started to rain.
Siri: Search slave medicine worms Jimsonweed.
I didn’t get the confirmation I wanted but learned all kinds of cool stuff; how Jimsonweed has hallucinogenic properties; how there’s a history behind the name, as there is to most things.
The sidewalk was dotted with raindrops as we rounded the block to home.
Once inside, I googled the weed without Siri’s help and found what I was looking for.
The chart above is from an article about medicine employed by the enslaved. Vermifuge is an agent that treats parasites.
Also, found this article, excerpt above.
Time for that second cup of coffee. Hope you are enjoying this Monday wherever you are.
K and I went to Charleston five years ago to celebrate my 60th birthday (Did you say FIVE YEARS AGO?)
One of the places we toured was Boone Hall Plantation.
I was reminded of the tour this morning because as I was driving to pick up my new glasses I listened to most of an NPR interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones talking about her enormously influential 1619 Project.
In the interview, Hannah-Jones talks about the anodyne history offered in public schools. How much is missing. How Black history is American history is Black history. And how certain words either romanticized slavery or further demeaned the enslaved.
One of those words was “plantation.” It’s a word that calls to mind Tara of Gone with the Wind. It makes us think of long, beautiful live-oak-lined allees (which Boone Hall has), instead of snake-infested rice fields and all kinds of human misery. The better term, she suggests, is “labor camp.”
When K and I arrived at Boone Hall, they were setting up chairs for an outdoor wedding. I was appalled and said so on Facebook. There I was schooled by a local docent / historian who said that without the income produced by such affairs, many significant historic sites would’ve been turned into condos and golf courses. Okay, but still.
A Boone Hall employee sitting on a chair outside the first of many slave dwellings proudly announced that Boone Hall was “the second most romantic setting for a wedding in America.”
Without thinking, I said, “What’s number one — Auschwitz?”
If I’d been thinking, of course, I would have named an American setting. Perhaps Riker’s Island?
That’s it. That’s the memory.
Small add on — the first time I ever saw an eagle was at Boone Hall.
This popped up on my Instagram feed moments after I posted.