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The [Wednesday] Papers

While conservatives melt down over the New York Times's 1619 Project, there is a critique I suppose you could say comes "from the left," if I must use that binary for the sake of discussion, which pains me because perhaps the critique actually comes from "history," not partisanship, but a critique nonetheless that pre-existed the project itself.

To wit:

In 2017, the Smithsonian reposted an essay at Black Perspectives by Davidson College colonial history professor Michael Guasco titled "The Misguided Focus On 1619 As The Beginning Of Slavery In The U.S. Damages Our Understanding Of American History."

"The year the first enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown is drilled into students' memories, but overemphasizing this date distorts history," Guasco wrote.

Privileging that date and the Chesapeake region effectively erases the memory of many more African peoples than it memorializes. The "from-this-point-forward" and "in-this-place" narrative arc silences the memory of the more than 500,000 African men, women, and children who had already crossed the Atlantic against their will, aided and abetted Europeans in their endeavors, provided expertise and guidance in a range of enterprises, suffered, died, and - most importantly - endured. That Sir John Hawkins was behind four slave-trading expeditions during the 1560s suggests the degree to which England may have been more invested in African slavery than we typically recall. Tens of thousands of English men and women had meaningful contact with African peoples throughout the Atlantic world before Jamestown. In this light, the events of 1619 were a bit more yawn-inducing than we typically allow.

I think Guasco is saying it's even worse than we think - but also that using 1619 as a starting point posits the English as the settlers and the slaves as the alien outsiders, when in fact the truth is more complicated than that.

"In that light, the most poisonous consequence of raising the curtain with 1619 is that it casually normalizes white Christian Europeans as historical constants and makes African actors little more than dependent variables in the effort to understand what it means to be American."

I'm not expert enough in the matter to adequately analyze Guasco's work, and I've barely dented The 1619 Project, but I am interested in Guasco's contribution. Surely, it seems to me, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who headed up the Times project, is quite familiar with Guasco. Does she address it in her work? I don't know yet!

Anyway, Time magazine, hardly a source I would trust with this material to be sure but here goes, interviewed Guasco for a piece posted Tuesday titled "The First Africans In Virginia Landed In 1619. It Was A Turning Point For Slavery In American History - But Not The Beginning."

"People don't tend to want to think about early U.S. history as being anything but English and English-speaking," echoes Michael Guasco, historian at Davidson College and author of Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World. "There is a Hispanic heritage that predates the U.S, and there's a tendency for people to willingly forget or omit the early history of Florida, Texas and California, particularly as the politics of today want to push back against Spanish language and immigration from Latin America."

While this doesn't strike me as the main point of Guasco's Smithsonian essay, the person he's echoing told Time this:

The 400th anniversary being marked this month is really the 400th anniversary of the Anglo-centric history of Africans in the U.S., says Greg Carr, the Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Dating the history of Africans in North America to 400 years ago "reinforces this narrative of English superiority." But, he argues, remembering the Spanish and indigenous sides of the history is more important now than ever, as "the people [officials] are closing the border to are [descended from] people who were here when you came."

Time itself states: "That said, something did change in 1619. Because of the central role of the English colonies in American history, the introduction of the transatlantic slave trade to Virginia is likewise central to this ugly and inescapable part of that story. In addition, the type of race-based chattel slavery system that solidified in the centuries that followed was its own unique American tragedy."

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Guasco tweets at length in a series of threads about 1619.

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From Guasco's university bio:

"I specialize in early American history, the American Revolution, the colonial Atlantic world, and the history of slavery. My research addresses the foundation and development of racial slavery in Anglo-America. My book, Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), describes how slavery shaped the way Englishmen and Anglo-Americans thought about and interacted with the world in the years before plantation slavery became commonplace in England's American colonies. I am presently at work on a new project: a multi-generational study of the Pleasants family of Virginia and the tradition of dissent in colonial America and the early United States."

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Is This Land Our Land?
Not everyone sees Woody Guthrie's iconic song as an anthem for inclusion.

Eerily similar to the Guasco's 1619 critique!

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ChicagoReddit

Someone's lost parakeet? Fullerton station inbound to loop. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

El Chino Del Rancho - El Grande de Chicago (feat. Auténtico Paraíso de Durango)

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Classic Beachwood

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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Sorry, no Twitter delight today, only disgust.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Available for parties.



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Posted on August 21, 2019


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