September 15, 2011
The Issac Royall House
15 George Street
Public transportation: Take the #96 bus from Harvard Square (Red Line);
or the 101 from Sullivan Station (Orange Line).
The Issac Royall House is offering a tour for NIAAS participants after the session for a $5 donation.
Please RSVP if interested to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on The Issac Royall House, visit www.royallhouse.org
Hosted by Network for Immigrants and African Americans in Solidarity (NIAAS)
September 15, 2011
Our session was held at the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, MA. Built in 1732-1737, the Royall House and Slave Quarters is one of the finest 18th century buildings in New England. The Slave Quarters is the only such structure in the northern United States. Both the buildings and grounds are a National Historic Landmark. Together they tell the intertwined stories of liberty and bondage, independence and slavery, as they have been played out not only in Colonial times but throughout U.S. history.
We started the session with a brief synopsis of Warmth of Other Suns – a book about the experience of African Americans going through the Great Migration. People were leaving the South to escape humiliation, the constant threat of violence, and the denial of basic liberties.
Using his ‘Travel Museum,’ NIAAS Advisory Board member and historian Joel MacKall provided an overview of African and African American history through photographs, a timeline and different artifacts.
References of African and African American history that arose during the session include:
MAAFA – Swahili word for the “great tragedy” – represents the period from the 1440s to the present. It refers to people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture. It is like a “tree without roots”
African Domicile – When Africans were part of a village jurisdiction, pre-European invasion.
Fugitive Slave Act- were laws passed by the United States Congress in 1793 and 1850 to provide for the return of slaves who escaped from one state into another state or territory.
Chattel slave = nigger. The term nigger assumed natural defects in the person.
Sun-down towns – certain places that black people can’t be in after dark.
Significance of the sugar cane industry: Growing and harvesting sugar cane was a big impetus to bring Africans to the U.S. Many white American families became extremely wealthy from the trade and invested in the major industries of today.
Declaration of Independence – Europeans had to decide if they wanted to become American citizens. From that decision emerged the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, etc.
Constitution Amendments – there’s nothing in there that gives black people a choice whether they want to be American or not. 14th- Citizenship Rights; 15th-Race No Bar to Vote; 16th-Status of Income Tax Clarified
The Great migration- was the movement of 6 million blacks out of the Southern United States to the Northeast happened during 1920′s.
Haitian Independence: On January 1, 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence. Through this action, it became the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere and the first free black republic in the world. Haiti’s uniqueness attracted much attention and symbolized the aspirations of enslaved and exploited peoples around the globe.
Reverse Migration: In the early 1970s the migration trend of the previous five decades began to reverse: African Americans were returning to the South. After decades of mounting migration north and west, the rates had actually begun to slow in the 1950s. But it was not until the late 1960s that the number of African Americans moving to the South eclipsed the number leaving. Since then, black migration to the South has continued to grow.
Resistance: we explored many examples of resistance throughout history and how African Americans of all classes took part. For example, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, richer African Americans posted bail for working class people who were arrested for speaking up.
Many immigrant participants were amazed on how little they knew about African American history and slavery. Many mentioned that even what they had learned was often erroneous. Also, Immigrants discovered many similarities to their own stories coming from the south to the north. They mentioned commonalities such as family disintegration, abuse, disenfranchising, inhumane treatment, unjust incarceration. But also they found inspiration in the common threads of courage, determination, fearlessness and self-sacrifice for a greater cause shared by both African Americans and immigrants in their journeys.