I passed this mural in Atlanta this week and paused to really think about roots. My social studies class did a big unit on the miniseries Roots when it first aired in the 1970s. The teacher divided us into debate teams regarding the issue of slavery and the debate ended quickly as we decided slavery was bad. We thought we stood on high moral ground because we were Northerners. It wasn’t until years later, after I moved to the South, when I learned more history and how the North was complicit in slavery in the USA in so many ways (hello, textile manufacturers and insurance companies).
I was back home in New York City last week and fell upon the African American Burial Ground National Monument while Traveling at the Speed of Bike on Citibike. I’ll just leave this photo here of one of several historical markers by the monument as a reminder that there is no high moral ground on this issue in U.S. history. No region was “better.”
Today, Juneteenth, now a national holiday, is not Black History. It is not a Southern celebration of the day the last enslaved people found out they were free. It is American History. It is a celebration for everyone of the unity and inclusion of people who in many unrecognized and unrewarded ways provided the forced labor that built this country.