". . . 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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Forks in the Road

The most important thing we did today was visiting the historic site of the terrible slave market, the Forks in the Road.  That it exists is due to years of agitating by the local black community.

This was the final market, retail only, not wholesale.  Hundreds of thousands of people were sold here. Planters bought here, not other traders, collecting full complements for re-sale to other traders.

There is nothing to evoke the scenes of blood, torture, sorrow and humiliation that took place there for so many years. The memorial site is open-fronted to the sight and sound of traffic flowing along the standard highway businesses geared automobiles -- tire shops and so on.  In the further distance, the area is surrounded by church steeples jutting through the tree branches.  Except -- the cowrie shells embedded without comment in the cement of the legs of the several information markers, and set flat in the grass, a stone with broken, rusting manacles and chains. So plain, simple, unassertive, so -- beyond sorrow.

I sat on a bench for a while and thought about what I was looking at.  If this had been a Holocaust memorial it would be manicured and landscaped, large and with sculpture, big sculpture.  Just to get this took years of work by African Americans.

Worse, last year Henry Louis Gates wrote and co-produced for PBS, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.  I was so excited, thinking I'd see the Forks in the Road memorial in his Natchez segment.  But no. He not only did not mention it, but when he and his companion, supposedly a local expert, talked about the Forks, it was while they walked along side a highway that isn't where the memorial is located.  Further, they shook their heads in metaphorical sorrow that there was nothing at all to see or look at that would tell someone about the Forks in the Road ....

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