Saturday, June 6, 2009

Toni Morrison: A Bench by the Road

Last July Toni Morrison led the way to memorializing the enslaved Africans who entered the North American colonies and the U.S.A. by establishing a site for remembrance at Sullivan's Island at the entrance of the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. (Here is Felicia R. Lee's New York Times article on the event, "Bench of Memory at Slavery's Gateway").

"It is never too late to honor the dead," Morrison is quoted as saying. "It's never too late to applaud the living who do them honor."

An estimated 40% of all enslaved Africans who entered the U.S. were landed at Sullivan's Island.

Our standard high school history textbooks tell us about Ellis Island (you can find my great-grandfather's name in the records there), and latterly have included mention of Angel Island in San Francisco Bay (which was used primarily as a detention center, given the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882--so Angel was a kind of mirror-opposite of Ellis). Now we need to be sure Sullivan Island is included too. Ellis, Angel, Sullivan: three points on a compass, with the fourth along the country's broad southern tier, all while we continue to seek our True North.

No comments: