". . . 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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Zora Neale Hurston's 123rd Birthday Gets a Google Doodle

Here is is.  Of course, googling Google, brings it up too.  Better, clicking Google's Doodle brings up links to this great African American writer that provide all the necessary information as to why Zora Neale Hurston rates a Google Doodle.

Today, one cannot help but wishing one could hear Ms. Hurston speak of this novel, or, this one, from last year, or, that one, from 2008, and those who wrote them?

Nice white ladies, still profiting from slavery and Jim Crow. I think about this all the time, in connection with The American Slave Coast, though we have been told frequently there is no comparison to spending years studying, researching this as history and writing fiction as a white person, in which, when African Americans speak or write, they write and speak their own words, as recorded in primary documents they made, not words put in their mouths by the white person. Whereas African Americans have told me that white people writing African Americans usually make them feel as through they're hearing a white singer sitting there on stage, moaning, "I always got trouble 'cause I'm a black-skinned man."

On the other hand, one of the links above goes to a site titled "Strange Fruit," an homage, presumably to Billie Holiday and the song Billie Holiday made famous. "Strange Fruit"  was written by a white Jewish American Communist, Abel Merrenopol.

In another instance, this time fiction too, the mystery series by white writer, Barbara Hambly, featuring Benjamin January, a free man of color in the New Orleans of the 1840's, has a feel that feels right: it is adventurous, it is always perilous for January and his loved one just because of who they are, even when they are free.  However, Ms. Hambly has lived in New Orleans; she's an historian in her day job, so she knows how to learn the past, how people live and speak.  As well, Benjamin January, his wife and most of the other people of color we encounter in this series are generally at least as well-educated as the white people in the novels, if not more educated.  They spend a lot of time in the company of white people too, particularly January, who is a professional musician, since his real day-job, that of a Parisian-educated physician isn't making him the sort of money a white Parisian-educated physicians would make in New Orleans.  For one thing the white doctor could / would treat well-off white patients, while this isn't going to happen for January.

Still, I keep going back to examining my conscience here.  If I were an Adams, at least an Adams of the generation of John Quincy or before, I'd be praying about this all the time.

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