Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

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Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

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I was surprised that it had all seemed so familiar: the betrayal of freedom and the sickening despair and aching emptiness experienced after the beauty of the first days of independence had passed. It was not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that the line between the slave and the free separated Africans and Europeans and hardened into a color line. And so too was the yearning for the black promised land and the ten million trees that would repel the enemy's advance and stand in for all of those gone and forgotten.

Nearly a century and a half later, in 1951, when William Patterson, the national executive secretary of the Civil Rights Congress, and Paul Robeson presented a petition to the UN charging the United States with genocide against the Negro people, they too conceded that black folks in the United States were without a state to protect their human rights. Ellen had accompanied her master and his family on a trip to Alabama, where he went to sell a parcel of horses. Ghanaians resented the Afros for occupying positions that were rightfully theirs, having the president's ear, and presuming to know what was best for Africa. I had been talking about the despair of the post–civil rights age and wondering if it was the same kind of despair Ghanaians had experienced in the aftermath of independence. Hartman, while “crushed” to hear so little of her ancestor’s voice, turns negation into possibility, into all that can be communicated by such reticence: “I recognized that a host of good reasons explained my great-great-grandmother’s reluctance to talk about slavery with a white interviewer in Dixie in the age of Jim Crow.

He was fiercely intelligent and self-educated, so he had little patience for most academics, whom he could think circles around and whom he found tedious. As a "slave baby," I represented what most chose to avoid: the catastrophe that was our past, and the lives exchanged for India cloth, Venetian beads, cowrie shells, guns, and rum. These grand visions and beautiful promises were the ruins of another age and as remote and distant from my present as the dream of forty acres and a mule. In Accra, the landscape of anticolonialism was everywhere indicated by roundabouts named after freedom fighters and slain martyrs and boulevards endowed with the totemic power of ideals like liberation, independence, and autonomy.

Cars moved carefully on these roads, not out of concern for the goats, chickens, and pedestrians with whom they shared it but because of the large potholes. They sold strangers: those outside the web of kin and clan relationships, nonmembers of the polity, foreigners and barbarians at the outskirts of their country, and lawbreakers expelled from society. The local attitudes to their fate are at odds with the emotions of the African American tourists who come seeking consolation or connection or whatever else might be found. When is it time to dream of another country or to embrace other strangers as allies or to make an opening, an overture, where there is none?Not only did black Americans identify with the anticolonial struggle, they believed that their future too depended upon its victory. I wasn't able to dislodge the atrocities committed in wars of capture and slave raids: the elderly and infirm slaughtered by the conquering army, infants murdered by bashing their heads against trees, pregnant women disemboweled with a lance, girls raped, and young men buried in anthills and thrown onto pyres and burned alive. So I hurried up Osu Road as blind to the future Sankara had envisioned as every other beleaguered pedestrian. I was not bolstered by his words, which I had first read as a graduate student: "We must have the courage to invent the future.

They cast a harsh light on the limits of our imagination, underscore our shortsightedness, and replicate the disasters of the world we seek to escape. Mercenary soldiers, thieves, refugees, prostitutes, broke soldiers, corrupt policemen, and the desperate hard-pressed enough to try anything are out there on Osu Road too," John said. The uncanny feeling that the new days were too much like the old ones plagued only dissidents, intellectuals, and the poor. In a gesture of self-making intended to obliterate my parents' hold upon me and immolate the daughter they hoped for rather than the one I was, I changed my name. They were accused of blindly loving the old autocrat—who had by then engineered a one-party state and declared himself president for life.It’s old news for those progress-minded people focusing on Ghana’s many current social and economic woes, and it’s too painful for others who want to avoid the collective guilt of remembering the ways Africans in the former Gold Coast facilitated the slave trade. Even when otherwise undetected, I was betrayed when I opened my mouth and heard my father's Brooklyn brogue rippling across the surface of my studied speech, wreaking havoc with the regimented syntax enforced by my mother the grammarian, whose scrupulous speech was a way of masking her southern origins and blending into New York. In 1966, the police and the armed forces overthrew the government of Kwame Nkrumah and the goodwill evaporated. For those chained in the lower decks of a slave ship, race was both a death sentence and the language of solidarity.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
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