Monday, August 23, 2004

A Somber Commemoration

An article in the BBC online covers the UN designated day for the remembrance of slavery as a global system.
The UN's cultural organisation, Unesco, proclaimed 23 August as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

Not too far from Illinois in Ohio, a museum is going up to remember the Underground railroad as well as other relics of the U.S. slave system.

Learning of this day of commemoration reminds me of an experience I had as a kid. My family went on a weekend trip to Cave-In-Rock when I was 10. On our way there we stopped at the Old Slave House, also known as Hickory Hill. Yes, Illinois was supposed to be a free state. However, in southern Illinois a man named Crenshaw had a reverse Underground Railroad operation in which he captured free "black"* persons to enslave and captured persons escaping slavery to sell back into the system. This is the story most often told along with the haunted house stories of the estate.

What I remember as the most horrific part of the story (because it was something I had never heard of or conceived of before), aside from seeing the quarters in which enslaved persons were kept, was that Crenshaw kept some of them to "breed" more persons to sell. I was forced to imagined little babies being born specifically for slavery. Apparently, this place has been closed down since 1996, but it left quite an impression on me and my understanding of the horrible details of the system that kept people in slavery. These kinds of details are to be remembered about the system of slavery.

At the same time, there are those that should also be remembered and understood in today's labor system, even as we remember the past.
*I use quotes to reiterate the social construction of "race".

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