We can’t – and shouldn’t – hide from history

Betsy PickleOpinion, South Knox

Anderson Cooper had a story on “60 Minutes” Sunday about the last ship to haul enslaved Africans to the United States. The year was 1860. Slavery was still legal, but subjecting other people to slavery and transporting non-Americans to the U.S. as slaves was outlawed in 1807.

Both the white Alabama businessman who financed the trip and the ship’s white captain knew they were breaking the law. The businessman started the venture as a bet.

Some 110 human beings – men, women and children – were forced to live in a cramped hold – about 5 feet high – for two months. They slept and ate where they defecated. They were naked.

Upon reaching the Gulf Coast, the ship, the Clotilda, was towed up the Mobile River. After the Africans were offloaded, the vessel was set on fire and sunk. The perpetrators intentionally hid their crime.

The Africans became the “property” of various white men in the area. After Emancipation, the survivors started Africatown, the only community in the country founded by formerly enslaved people. At one point, it was a thriving burg of 12,000. It’s now a National Historic District and home to about 2,000 in the northern part of Mobile.

The family of the businessman who paid for the bounty of the Clotilda remains wealthy and wouldn’t comment for the “60 Minutes” story. They still benefit from the labor of people their ancestors enslaved.

This is the kind of story Gov. Bill Lee and the state legislature don’t want our kids to learn about in school. They want you to think that 350 years of the slave trade was no different from Europeans immigrating to the United States in pursuit of a better life.

Billionaire Lee inherited his daddy’s business. Meanwhile, Black Americans of African descent have a 350-year disadvantage in accumulating wealth.

That’s what these old white men don’t want our children to know.

I was driving through the Colonial Village section of Chapman Highway and noticed a new coffeehouse is coming to South Knoxville. The name is Commonplace, and it’s in the old credit union building on the east side.

Nothing indicated when it would open, but it struck me that summer isn’t the most seductive time for coffee drinking. Then again, what do I know? I don’t drink coffee, iced tea, energy drinks, sweetened soft drinks, celery juice, protein drinks, kombucha, purified water, tonic water or even beer.

I like to support local. Maybe they’ll serve ice water. Good luck, Commonplace!

Father’s Day and my birthday fall within the same week, and often on the same day, it seems. My dad passed away in 2008. I’ll always miss him, but thinking of his quips still makes me laugh.

Here’s one of his go-tos for dining out:

Server: “How is everything?”

Dad: “I don’t know. I haven’t tried everything.”

(Me: groan.)

I hope you have a good relationship with your dad and get to see him on Sunday. If you’re not close, I wish for you a way to heal the divide. They don’t stay with us forever.

Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.


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