". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday!

To Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln!

Also, this the 100th birthday of the founding of the NAACP.

And in New Orleans:

[ "Today, Plessy versus Ferguson becomes Plessy and Ferguson when descendants of opposing parties in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court segregation case stand together to unveil a plaque at the former site of the Press Street Railroad Yards.

Standing behind Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson will be a large group of students, scholars, officials and activists who worked for years to honor the site where in 1892, Treme shoemaker Homer Plessy, a light-skinned black man, was arrested for sitting in a railway car reserved for white people.

People often think that his ancestor held some responsibility for the legalized segregation known as "separate but equal," said Keith Plessy, 52, a longtime New Orleans hotel bellman whose great-grandfather was Homer Plessy's first cousin. In actuality, Homer Plessy boarded that train as part of a carefully orchestrated effort to create a civil-rights test case, to fight the proliferation of segregationist laws in the South.

Keith Plessy first learned about his relationship to the case from his teachers at Valena C. Jones Elementary School, who called him to the front of the room as they discussed the case. But his textbooks simply listed the name of the case and its result: a half-century of "separate but equal" schools, drinking fountains and buses.

Phoebe Ferguson, 51, a documentary filmmaker, left New Orleans in 1967 but moved back after discovering her great-great-grandfather's role in the infamous legal fight.

Judge John Howard Ferguson ruled against Plessy from his bench in Orleans Parish Criminal Court. The judge was born in Massachusetts and had strong ties to abolitionists, she said. So she doesn't think he was a racist.

Still, Phoebe Ferguson can't quite get over the powerful impact his decision had on the black community, which would endure a half-century of government-sanctioned segregation. "That a part of my family started Jim Crow is kind of a load to carry," she said. "I wish I could change that."
" ]

Full story here.


K. said...


So, the descendants met, shook hands, and the world kept right on spinning. Imagine that. When you get right down to it, racism is amazingly stupid and ignorant.

Be sure to read Paul Palmer's comment on my review yesterday of Grant's Memoirs. I could have doubled the length of the review, but it was already long by blog standards. What a great book.

Foxessa said...

Grant's Memoirs are a towering achievement of American literature, north, central and south.

I can get angry so much more quickly about the lies that are still perpetuated about him, since I read The Personal Memoirs. I hadn't quite realized that people think Clemmons wrote them until I read your friend's account of what his father taught.

But then at Thanksgiving dinner of 2007, we ended up in a very long argument with an American history teacher who all his career has taught his students that the Spanish never governed New Orleans. He's a college professor, so OF COURSE he was right and we were wrong.

But he, at least, had the class to e-mail and apologize and express his shock that he'd been teaching the wrong facts for so long. He went and, um, googled, when he got home. But he's never wanted to see us again, which has caused a problem since he's the bil of the wife of Vaquero's best friend -- well we all 4 are best friends.

Love, C.

Frank Partisan said...

I enjoyed the Plessy versus Ferguson story.

At my blog I had an argument with a rightist, who was afraid about future generations of Muslims. Each generation makes its own imprint like Plessy and Ferguson's offsprings.

In Florida the strong anti-Cuba forces, are the grandparents. That reminds me I saw Che Part I.

Foxessa said...

Ren -- The two parts have been enjoying a very long run here, at the IFC theater on 6th Ave. But I find the auditoriums of the Independent Film Center so dreary -- and then spending that much time sitting, I cannot make myself do it.

Even though more than one friend worked a lot on the films, including one who wrote the Spanish language dialog.

I'll probably see them like everything else, on dvd. I just don't have what it takes to do anything else it seems.

Love, C.