Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the by Salamishah Tillet

By Salamishah Tillet

Greater than 40 years after the most important victories of the civil rights flow, African americans have a vexed relation to the civic delusion of the U.S. because the land of equivalent chance and justice for all. In websites of Slavery Salamishah Tillet examines how modern African American artists and intellectuals—including Annette Gordon-Reed, Barbara Chase-Riboud, invoice T. Jones, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kara Walker—turn to the topic of slavery so that it will comprehend and problem the continuing exclusion of African american citizens from the founding narratives of the U.S.. She explains how they reconstruct "sites of slavery"—contested figures, occasions, thoughts, destinations, and reports regarding chattel slavery—such because the allegations of a sexual courting among Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the characters Uncle Tom and Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, African American tourism to slave forts in Ghana and Senegal, and the criminal demanding situations posed by means of reparations pursuits. via claiming and recasting those websites of slavery, modern artists and intellectuals offer slaves with an interiority and subjectivity denied them in American heritage, sign up the civic estrangement skilled by way of African american citizens within the post–civil rights period, and envision a extra absolutely learned American democracy.

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Extra resources for Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination

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Instead of representing slavery as the foil to American democracy, contemporary African Americans foreground slavery as the mnemonic property of the entire nation, and not, as Charles Johnson posits, the exclusive intellectual property of blacks. ”33 In turn, contemporary narratives on slavery transform this founding moment of slavery as the primary trope through which to articulate a post–civil rights African American belief in the restorative and curative possibilities of American democracy. 34 Their new narratives on slavery are radical mnemonic strategies that privilege the idea and ideal of democracy, yet all the while remaining skeptical of its materialization.

By exhorting his “fellow citizens” to understand that “America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself false to the future,” Douglass’s critical patriotism enables him to become the model citizen, one who does not repudiate but reifies, does not dismantle but reengages the meta- discourse of American democracy. Similar to Douglass, post–civil rights African American cultural producers depict the coupling of slavery and freedom as ironic and constitutive. However, unlike Douglass, contemporary black writers and artists do not disaggregate slavery from the narrative of American democracy.

Gordon-Reed structures Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings around the five characters most relevant to the investigation of the relationship: Madison Hemings, alleged to be one of Jefferson’s slave sons; James Callender, who first reported the story; the Randolphs and the Carrs, two white families with blood ties to Jefferson; and Jefferson and Hemings themselves. Sifting through Jefferson’s historiography with a lawyerly precision, the author investigates why and how Jefferson scholars have repeatedly allowed their own partiality and preconceptions about the statesman to infect their historical writings.

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