Archive for the ‘Violencia racial’ Category

En Estados Unidos se dedica el mes de febrero a conmemorar y celebrar la historia de los afroamericanos, tema que no es ajeno a esta bitacora. ¿Qué mejor manera de comenzar este mes que con un artículo que busca rescatar la profundidad de uno de los íconos del movimiento de los derechos civiles? En este escrito que comparto con mis lectores, la politóloga estadounidense Jeanne Theoharis nos recuerda que la labor y el legado de  Rosa Parks no se limitan a su desafío a la segregación racial de la transportación pública en la Alabama de los años 1950. La figura de Parks es mucho más grande que eso. Según la Dra. Theoharis, la Sra. Parks dedicó muchos años de su vida a luchar contra el racismo en  los estados del norte. También resalta sus simpatías con los Black Panthers y su admiración por Malcolm X. 

En otras palabras, Rosa Parks -como tambien el Dr. King- es un personaje mucho más complejo  del que los medios, los libros textos y los políticos usualmente proyectan en un esfuerzo de apropiación que busca diluir su mensaje y su ejemplo, y hacerlos así aceptables.

A  booking photo of Rosa Parks taken on Feb. 22, 1956, at the county sheriff’s office in Montgomery, Ala.

Credit…Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

The Real Rosa Parks Story Is Better Than the Fairy Tale

The New York Times   February 1, 2021 


Mug shot No. 7053 is one of the most iconic images of Rosa Parks. But the photo, often seen in museums and textbooks and on T-shirts and websites, isn’t what it seems. Though it’s regularly misattributed as such, it is not the mug shot taken at the time of Mrs. Parks’s arrest in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955, after she famously refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. It was, in fact, taken when she was arrested in February 1956 after she and 88 other “boycott leaders” were indicted by the city in an attempt to end the boycott. The confusion around the image reveals Americans’ overconfidence in what we think we know about Mrs. Parks and about the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks dominate the Civil Rights Movement chapters of elementary and high school textbooks and Black History Month celebrations. And yet much of what people learn about Mrs. Parks is narrow, distorted, or just plain wrong. In our collective understanding, she’s trapped in a single moment on a long-ago Montgomery bus, too often cast as meek, tired, quiet and middle class. The boycott is seen as a natural outgrowth of her bus stand. It’s inevitable, respectable and not disruptive.

But that’s not who she was, and it’s not how change actually works. “Over the years, I have been rebelling against second-class citizenship. It didn’t begin when I was arrested,” Mrs. Parks reminded interviewers time and again.

Rosa Parks papers give insight into the civil rights icon

Born Feb. 4, 1913, she had been an activist for two decades before her bus stand — beginning with her work alongside Raymond Parks in 1931, whom she married the following year, to organize in defense of the “Scottsboro Boys” (nine Black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women). Indeed, one of the issues that animated her six decades of activism was the injustice of the criminal justice system — wrongful accusations against Black men, disregard for Black women who had been sexually assaulted, and police brutality. With a small group of other activists, including E.D. Nixon, who would become branch president, she spent the decade before her well-known bus stand working to transform the Montgomery NAACP into a more activist chapter that focused on voter registration, criminal justice and desegregation. This was dangerous, tiring work and Mrs. Parks said it was “very difficult to keep going when all our work seemed to be in vain.” But she persevered.

Dispirited by the lack of change and what she called the “complacency” of many peers, she reformed the NAACP Youth Council in 1954 and urged her young charges to take greater stands against segregation. When 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in March 1955, many Black Montgomerians were outraged by Mrs. Colvin’s arrest, but some came to decide that the teenager was too feisty and emotional, and not the right test case. Mrs. Parks encouraged the young woman’s membership in the Youth Council and was the only adult leader, according to Ms. Colvin, to stay in touch with her the summer after her arrest. Mrs. Parks put her hope in the spirit and militancy of young people.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Young Readers Edition) by Jeanne  Theoharis: 9780807067574 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksThat evening on the bus, Mrs. Parks challenged the police officers arresting her: “Why do you push us around?” There are no photos from the arrest — no sense this would be a history-changing moment. But networks that had been built over years sprang into action late that night when Mrs. Parks decided to pursue her legal case and called Fred Gray, a young lawyer and fellow NAACP member, to represent her. Mr. Gray called the head of the Women’s Political Council, Jo Ann Robinson, who decided to call for a one-day boycott on Monday, the day Mrs. Parks would be arraigned in court.

Braving danger, Ms. Robinson left her home in the middle of the night to run off 50,000 leaflets with the help of a colleague and two trusted students. In the early-morning hours, the women of the W.P.C. fanned out across the city, leaving the leaflets in churches, barbershops and schools. Mr. Nixon began calling the more political ministers to get them on board. Buoyed by the boycott’s success that first day, the community decided to continue. The boycott succeeded in part because the Black community organized a massive car pool system, setting up some 40 pickup stations across town, serving about 30,000 riders a day, and in part because of a federal legal case challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation that Mr. Gray filed in February with courageous teenagers, Ms. Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, serving as two of the four plaintiffs.

The boycott seriously disrupted city life and bus company revenues. Police harassed the car pools mercilessly, giving out hundreds of tickets — and then, when that didn’t work, the city dredged up an old anti-syndicalism law and indicted 89 boycott leaders. Refusing to be cowed or to wait to be arrested, Mrs. Parks, along with others, presented herself to the police while scores of community members gathered outside. Mug shot No. 7053.

The Rosa Parks fable also erases the tremendous cost of her bus stand and the decade of suffering that ensued for the Parks family. They weren’t well-off. The Parkses lived in the Cleveland Court projects, Mrs. Parks’s husband, Raymond, working as a barber at Maxwell Air Force Base and Mrs. Parks spending her days in a stuffy back room at Montgomery Fair department store altering white men’s suits. Five weeks after her bus stand, she lost her job; then Raymond lost his. Receiving regular death threats, they never found steady work in Montgomery again. Eight months after the boycott’s successful end, the Parks family was forced to leave Montgomery for Detroit, where her brother and cousins lived. They continued to struggle to find work, and she was hospitalized to treat ulcers in 1959, which led to a bill she couldn’t pay. It was not until 1966, 11 years after her bus arrest, after she was hired to work in U.S. Representative John Conyers’s new Detroit office, that the Parks family registered an income comparable to what they’d made in 1955. (Mrs. Parks had supported Mr. Conyers’s long-shot bid for Congress in 1964.)


Mrs. Parks spent the next several decades of her life fighting the racism of the North — “the Northern promised land that wasn’t,” she called it — marching and organizing against housing discrimination, school segregation, employment discrimination and police brutality. In July 1967, on the fourth day of the Detroit uprising, police killed three Black teenagers at the Algiers Motel. Justice against the officers proved elusive (ultimately none of them were punished for murder or conspiracy) and Detroit’s newspapers grew reluctant to press the issue. At the request of young Black Power activists who refused to let these deaths go unmarked and the police misconduct be swept under the rug, Mrs. Parks agreed to serve as a juror on the “People’s Tribunal” to make the facts of the case known.

Credit…Michael J. Samojeden/Associated Press

“I don’t believe in gradualism,” she made clear, “or that whatever is to be done for the better should take forever to do.” In the 1960s and ’70s, she was part of a growing Black Power movement in the city and across the country. Describing Malcolm X as her personal hero, she attended the 1968 Black Power convention in Philadelphia in 1968 and the 1972 Gary Convention, worked for reparations and against the war in Vietnam, served on prisoner defense committees, and visited the Black Panthers’ school in 1980. “Freedom fighters never retire,” she observed at a testimonial for a friend — and she never did.

But this Rosa Parks is not the one most of us learned about in school or hear about during Black History Month commemorations. Instead, we partake in an American myth, as President George W. Bush put it after her death in 2005, that “one candle can light the darkness.” A simple seamstress changes the course of history with a single act, decent people did the right thing and the nation inexorably moved toward justice. Mrs. Parks’s decades of work challenging the racial injustice puts the lie to this narrative. The nation didn’t move naturally toward justice. It had to be pushed.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks – Race, Politics, Justice

The boycott was a tremendous feat of organization that drew on networks built over years. Understanding the demonization, death threats and economic hardship Mrs. Parks endured for more than a decade underscores the costs of such heroism. Most Americans did not support the civil rights movement when it was happening; in a Gallup poll right before the March on Washington in 1963, only 23 percent of Americans who were familiar with the proposed march felt favorably toward it.

Reckoning with the fact that Mrs. Parks spent the second half of her life fighting the racism of the North demonstrates that racism was not some regional anachronism but a national cancer. And seeing how she placed her greatest hope in the militant spirit of young people (finding many adults “complacent”) gives the lie to the ways commentators today have used the civil rights movement to chastise Black Lives Matter for not going about change the right way. Learning about the real Rosa Parks reveals how false those distinctions are, how criminal justice was key to her freedom dreams, how disruptive and persevering the movement, and where she would be standing today — an essential lesson young people, and indeed all Americans, need to understand to grapple honestly with this country’s history and see the road forward.

Jeanne Theoharis is a professor of political science and the author of eleven books on the civil rights and Black Power movements including “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” and “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Young Readers’ Edition,” co-adapted with Brandy Colbert.

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A la hora de explicar el arraigo y popularidad de Donald J. Trump entre millones de estadounidense imperan dos factores: el económico y el racial. El primero hace alusión a los efectos de más de trienta años de neoliberalismo “reaganiano”  sobre las clases media y baja blanca estadounidenses. Su empobrecimiento y abandono por parte de los principales partidos políticos -y en especial los Democratas- las hizo muy receptivas a la demagogia de Trump.  Las fabricas se fueron a China o a México, los estadounidense de baja nivel educativo vieron sus opciones económicas reducirse, los ricos se hicieron más ricos y  los pobres cayeron víctimas de opiáceos y de la avariacia de ciertas compañías farmaceuticas.  El esperado goteo (trickle-down) de la riqueza no llegó.

En cuanto al tema racial, es necesario reconocer que, contrario a lo que muchos pensaron, la victoria de Obama en 2008 no marcó el fin de los conflictos raciales en Estados Unidos. Por el contrario, la presencia de un negro en la Casa Blanca exacerbó los ánimos raciales y preparó el camino para el éxito del discurso racista de Trump.  Sitiéndose amenazados y preocupados por perder sus privilegios ante el crecimiento y avance de las minorías raciales, millones de estadounidense vieron en Trump el líder necesario para hacer a Estados Unidos blanco de nuevo. Con Trump en la presidencia, supremacistas blancos y otros grupos extremistas se sintieron el libertad de expresar abiertamente lo que pensaba o sentían en privado.

¿Cuál de estas explicaciones es la correcta? No creo en explicaciones simples, por lo que veo necesario recurrir a ambas para entender cómo llegamos a la toma del Capitolio el 6 de enero de 2021. Ese día, miles de estadounidenses, en su inmensa mayoría  blancos, llegaron a Washington D.C. convocados por el Presidente para cuestionar la certificación congresional de la victoria de Joe Biden. En lo que los medios identificaron erróneamente como algo inédito en la historia de Estados Unidos, los seguidores de Trump marcharon sobre el Congreso y con una facilidad pasmosa lo tomaron por la fuerza. Luego vino un despliegue de lo peor de la sociedad estadounidense.

Quienes participaron en el ataque al Congreso se hicieron parte de una tradición estadounidense, la de cuestionar los resultados electorales cuando no favorecen a un sector social o racial.

En este escrito, el periodista británico Toby Luckhurst reseña los eventos que ocurrieron en Wilmington, Carolina del Norte, cuando en 1898 una turba de hombres blancos derrocaron a una coalición racialmente mixta, que democráticamente habían ganado el control de la ciudad.

Wilmington 1898: When white supremacists overthrew a US government

Toby Luckhurst

BBC News

A mob stands outside the burnt offices of the Wilmington Daily Record

The mob burned down the offices of the Wilmington Daily Record a caption

Following state elections in 1898, white supremacists moved into the US port of Wilmington, North Carolina, then the largest city in the state. They destroyed black-owned businesses, murdered black residents, and forced the elected local government – a coalition of white and black politicians – to resign en masse.

Historians have described it as the only coup in US history. Its ringleaders took power the same day as the insurrection and swiftly brought in laws to strip voting and civil rights from the state’s black population. They faced no consequences.

Wilmington’s story has been thrust into the spotlight after a violent mob assaulted the US Capitol on 6 January, seeking to stop the certification of November’s presidential election result. More than 120 years after its insurrection, the city is still grappling with its violent past.

Short presentational grey line

After the end of the US Civil War in 1865 – which pitted the northern Unionist states against the southern Confederacy – slavery was abolished throughout the newly-reunified country. Politicians in Washington DC passed a number of constitutional amendments granting freedom and rights to former slaves, and sent the army to enforce their policies.

But many southerners resented these changes. In the decades that followed the civil war there were growing efforts to reverse many of the efforts aimed at integrating the freed black population into society.

Wilmington in 1898 was a large and prosperous port, with a growing and successful black middle class. Undoubtedly, African Americans still faced daily prejudice and discrimination – banks for instance would refuse to lend to black people or would impose punishing interest rates. But in the 30 years after the civil war, African Americans in former Confederate states like North Carolina were slowly setting up businesses, buying homes, and exercising their freedom. Wilmington was even home to what was thought to be the only black daily newspaper in the country at that time, the Wilmington Daily Record.

300+ Unfair politics ideas | african american history, black history,  history facts“African Americans were becoming quite successful,” Yale University history professor Glenda Gilmore told the BBC. “They were going to universities, had rising literacy rates, and had rising property ownership.”

This growing success was true across the state of North Carolina, not just socially but politically. In the 1890s a black and white political coalition known as the Fusionists – which sought free education, debt relief, and equal rights for African Americans – won every state-wide office in 1896, including the governorship. By 1898 a mix of black and white Fusionist politicians had been elected to lead the local city government in Wilmington.

But this sparked a huge backlash, including from the Democratic Party. In the 1890s the Democrats and Republicans were very different to what they are today. Republicans – the party of President Abraham Lincoln – favoured racial integration after the US Civil War, and strong government from Washington DC to unify the states.

But Democrats were against many of the changes to the US. They openly demanded racial segregation and stronger rights for individual states. “Think of the Democratic party of 1898 as the party of white supremacy,” LeRae Umfleet, state archivist and author of A Day of Blood, a book about the Wilmington insurrection, told the BBC.

Democratic politicians feared that the Fusionists – which included black Republicans as well as poor white farmers – would dominate the elections of 1898. Party leaders decided to launch an election campaign based explicitly on white supremacy, and to use everything in their power to defeat the Fusionists. “It was a concerted, co-ordinated effort to use the newspapers, speechmakers and intimidation tactics to make sure the white supremacy platform won election in November 1898,” Ms Umfleet said.

White militias – including a group known as the Red Shirts, so named for their un

iforms – rode around on horseback attacking black people and intimidating would-be voters. When black people in Wilmington tried to buy guns to protect their property, they were refused by white shopkeepers, who then kept a list of those who sought weapons and ammo.

Red Shirts pose at the polls in North Carolina

Enter a captioThe Red Shirts militia intimidated and attacked blacn

Newspapers meanwhile spread claims that African Americans wanted political power so they could sleep with white women, and made up lies about a rape epidemic. When Alexander Manly, owner and editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, published an editorial questioning the rape allegations and suggesting that white women slept with black men of their own free will, it enraged the Democratic party and made him the target of a hate campaign.

The day before the state-wide election in 1898, Democratic politician Alfred Moore Waddell gave a speech demanding that white men “do your duty” and look for black people voting.

And if you find one, he said, “tell him to leave the polls and if he refuses kill, shoot him down in his tracks. We shall win tomorrow if we have to do it with guns.”

The Democratic party swept to victory in the state elections. Many voters were forced away from polling stations at gunpoint or refused to even try to vote, for fear of violence.

But the Fusionist politicians remained in power in Wilmington, with the municipal election not due until the next year. Two days after the state election Waddell and hundreds of white men, armed with rifles and a Gatling gun, rode into the town and set the Wilmington Daily Record building alight. They then spread through the town killing black people and destroying their businesses. The mob swelled with more white people as the day went on.

Wilmington Coup 1898 | Downtown Wilmington, NC

As black residents fled into the woods outside the town, Waddell and his band marched to the city hall and forced the resignation of the local government at gunpoint. Waddell was declared mayor that same afternoon.

“It [was] a full-blown rebellion, a full-blown insurrection against the state government and the local government,” Prof Gilmore said.

Within two years, white supremacists in North Carolina imposed new segregation laws and effectively stripped black people of the vote through a combination of literacy tests and poll taxes. The number of registered African American voters reportedly dropped from 125,000 in 1896 to about 6,000 in 1902.

“Black people in Wilmington didn’t think that something like this would ever happen,” Prof Gilmore said. “There was a Republican governor in the state, their congressman was a black man. They thought that things were actually getting better. But part of the lesson about it was as things got better, white people fought harder.”

Deborah Dicks Maxwell is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] in Wilmington. Born and raised in the town, she didn’t learn about the attack until she was in her thirties.

“It was something that those who are here [in Wilmington] knew but it was not widely talked about,” she told the BBC. “It’s not in the school curriculum like it should be – no one wants to admit this happened.”

It was not until the 1990s that the city began to discuss its past. In 1998 local authorities commemorated the 100th anniversary of the attack, and two years later set up a commission to establish the facts. Since then the city has erected plaques at key points to commemorate the events, and has created the 1898 Monument and Memorial Park – something Ms Dicks Maxwell described as “small but significant”.

Given what the city has gone through, it’s no surprise that its residents and historians who have covered its past drew parallels between the 1898 insurrection and the attack on the US Capitol this month. Ms Dicks Maxwell and her NAACP branch had for months after the US election been highlighting what they saw as the similarities between what happened in Wilmington and how politicians today in the US were trying to undermine the election results.

“Earlier that day we had a press conference denouncing our local congressman for supporting Trump, [saying] that there would be a possible coup and that we did not want another coup to ever occur in this country,” she said. Just hours later the mob marched on the US Capitol.

Christopher Everett is a documentary maker who made a film about the 1898 insurrection, Wilmington on Fire. When Mr Everett saw the attack on the Capitol he thought of Wilmington.

“No one was held accountable for the 1898 insurrection. Therefore it opened up the floodgates, especially in the south, for them to… strip African Americans’ civil rights,” he told the BBC. “That’s the first thing that came to my mind after the DC insurrection – you’re opening the door for something else to happen, or even worse.”

The 1898 attack was not covered up. University buildings, schools and public buildings throughout the state were all named after the instigators of the insurrection. Men would later claim to have taken part in the attack to boost their stature in the Democratic Party. As the decades passed, history books started to claim the attack was in fact a race riot started by the black population and put down by white citizens.

“Even after the massacre, a lot of these folks who participated in and orchestrated the insurrection became immortalised – statues, buildings named after them, throughout the country, especially in North Carolina,” Mr Everett said.

CWilmington insurrection of 1898 - Wikiwandharles Aycock – one of the organisers of the white supremacy electoral campaign – became governor of North Carolina in 1901. His statue now stands in the US Capitol, which rioters entered on 6 January.

Mr Everett is now filming a sequel to his documentary to examine how Wilmington is grappling with its past. He said many local leaders are working to “bring the city of Wilmington back to the spirit of 1897, when you had this Fusion movement of white folks and black folks working together and making Wilmington an example of what the new south could have been after the civil war.”

“Wilmington was a model for the white supremacy movement with the insurrection,” he said. “But now Wilmington could also be a model to show how we can work together and overcome the stain of white supremacy as well.”

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Acaba de ser publicado el número 19 de la revista digital Huellas de Estados Unidos. En esta ocasión incluye una sección con la opinión de varios expertos latinoamericanos sobre el posible resultado de las elecciones presidenciales en Estados Unidos. Este  número incluye además, una interesante selección de artículos entre los que llaman poderosamente mi atención dos trabajos sobre las relaciones internacionales de Argentina y Estados Unidos. También destacan un ensayo de Sven Beckert sobre el algodón y la guerra civil, y el trabajo de Diego Alexander Olivera examinando el pensamiento político de los hermanos Kagan. Felicitamos y agradecemos a los editores de Huellas de Estados Unidos.


Huellas de Estados Unidos / #19 / Octubre 2020

Edicion 19

Haz click para descargar en formato pdf









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Comparto una nota periodistica escrita por Jaume Pi del diario La Vanguardia sobre una de las rebeliones de esclavos más importante de la historia estadounidense.  En 1831 un esclavo llamado Nat Turner dirigió una sangrienta rebelión de esclavos que fue duramente reprimida. Como bien señala el autor, esta y otras rebeliones de esclavos confirman la falsedad de quienes aún hoy alegan la bondad del regimen esclavista que fue fundamental en el desarrollo económico de Estados Unidos.

Screen Shot 2020-07-23 at 1.16.24 PM

Nat Turner: la rebelión del esclavo predicado

Jaume Pi

La Vanguardia 

7 de julio de 2020

Uno de los argumentos de los defensores del sistema esclavista en los EE.UU. fue que era un modo de vida garantizaba la paz social. Se sostenía que la misma población negra vivía conforme y feliz a este orden y que dicha jerarquía favorecía la convivencia entre razas. Esta visión idealizada se mantuvo incluso después de la proclamación de emancipación de Abraham Lincoln (1863) y es la que se refleja en la popular novela Lo que el viento se llevó, de Margaret Mitchell (1936), y posterior adaptación cinematográfica (1939).

Sin embargo, esta imagen no se sostiene en los hechos históricos. El periodo esclavista en EE.UU. no fue, ni mucho menos, una etapa pacífica. Resultó convulsa y conflictiva. Los afroamericanos sometidos nunca aceptaron de buen grado su condición y se estima que se produjeron hasta 250 rebeliones de esclavos entre 1619 y 1865 en el país, desde las célebres revueltas cimarrones en las colonias españolas en los siglos XVII y XVIII hasta las numerosas insurrecciones de principios del XIX en pleno crecimiento del movimiento abolicionista.

La rebelión de Nat Turner es considerada una de las más sangrientas e impactantes de aquel periodo. Turner, un esclavo que había podido aprender a leer y escribir gracias a la supuesta benevolencia de sus amos blancos, utilizó sus capacidades y su posición como predicador para liderar una insurrección que durante 2 días puso en jaque el condado de Southhampton, Virginia.

Fue un levantamiento violento, que conmocionó a la región y todo el país, y que provocó una reacción igualmente represiva y virulenta contra la población negra. Su impacto posterior implicó el endurecimiento de las leyes de los estados del sur contra los negros (tanto esclavos como hombres libres), una situación que se fue tornando insostenible hasta el estallido de la Guerra Civil (1861-1865).

Nat Turner nació el 2 de octubre de 1800. Nació esclavo, hijo de esclavos, en la plantación de su amo Benjamin Turner, de quien, como era costumbre, tomó el apellido. De bien pequeño demostró que tenía altas capacidades y, de forma excepcional, sus propietarios le enseñaron a leer y escribir, especialmente la Biblia y textos religiosos. La primera infancia de Nat fue relativamente feliz: era el niño preferido de sus dueños blancos, que le exhibían a las visitas como una rara atracción.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Plantation slaves gathered outside their huts, Virginia, America. Photograph c1860. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Plantación de esclavos en Virgina, en una fotografía tomada alrededor de 1860
 UniversalImagesGroup / Getty

Cabe puntualizar el contexto de la Virginia de ese entonces. En contra de lo que ocurría en el profundo sur, los propietarios no eran necesariamente crueles con sus siervos, que en algunos casos disponían de vacaciones o tiempo de ocio. Por lo tanto, tratos como los que obtuvo Nat no eran tan extraños. Sin embargo, llegada la adolescencia, ese privilegio se esfumó de forma abrupta. Cuando el joven tuvo la edad para ponerse a trabajar en los campos de algodón, fue apartado de sus estudios y tratado como un esclavo más.

La influencia de la religión tuvo un impacto brutal en Turner. De muy pequeño, su entorno familiar ya le atribuía unos poderes extraordinarios, fruto de una supuesta ancestral herencia africana. Él mismo se vio como una especie de elegido, asegurando que recibía mensajes o señales de Dios. Gozaba así de un gran prestigio entre los suyos, que le consideraban un líder y que le reconocían su inteligencia superior. Al mismo tiempo, conservaba la buena consideración de sus dueños, que veían en él la figura perfecta para evangelizar y tranquilizar al resto de esclavos.

Mantuvo su buena reputación de negro dócil probablemente como una estrategia para elaborar mejor su plan de insurrección. Sus motivos pudieron ser muchos: desde el desengaño por haber perdido su condición privilegiada hasta la toma de consciencia de la inmoralidad e injusticia del sistema esclavista. Todo ello aderezado por sus ideas religiosas. Dejó escrito que en la primavera de 1828 se había convencido de que “el Todopoderoso” le había encomendado “una gran misión” y que esperaba una señal para llevarla a cabo.

En torno a 1830, fue comprado por Joseph Travis, quien admirado por su buena fama, le permitió realizar reuniones religiosas en las que Turner comenzó a trazar sus planes. El predicador fue especialmente cuidadoso. Para evitar traiciones internas, se rodeó de un reducido grupo de fieles. Unas 4 o 5 personas a lo sumo que se intercambiaban la información a través de canciones y prédicas.

1831: Slaves rebelling in Virginia during the revolt led by Nat Turner. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Litografía que muestra la rebelión de Nat Turner y su posterior neutralización por parte de las milicias del Estado de Virginia MPI / Getty

En febrero de 1831, Nat Turner interpretó un eclipse solar como la señal que estaba esperando. La noche del domingo 21 de agosto de 1831 comenzó la rebelión cerca de Cabin Pond, en el distrito Cross Keys de Southampton. Armados solo con hachas y cuchillos, el objetivo de Turner y de sus seis hombres era tomar Jerusalén, que así es como se llamaba la capital del condado. Su plan era sembrar el pánico en un ataque relámpago e intentar reclutar el máximo número de armas y combatientes por el camino.

Comenzaron adentrándose en la finca del dueño de Nat, al que ejecutaron rápidamente. Al mismo tiempo, convencieron a los esclavos para que se sumaran al grupo para seguir en la lucha. Este fue el modus operandi de los rebeldes durante esos días: recorrían la región, entraban en las casas, mataban a los dueños blancos, y trataban de convencer a los esclavos negros de que se unieran a la causa.

xiste cierta controversia sobre cómo fueron aquellos ataques. Las crónicas del momento hablan de masacres despiadadas y de todo tipo de atrocidades contra hombres, mujeres y niños, movidas por la sed de venganza de un “fanático religioso”. Lo cierto es que no hubo mucha piedad por parte de los insurrectos, como tampoco la habría posteriormente por parte de los propietarios blancos. Turner aseguró que la matanza indiscriminada solo se llevó a cabo inicialmente para generar alarma y añadió que, por ejemplo, evitó los ataques a “pobres blancos” por considerarlos también víctimas de aquel sistema.

Fuera como fuera, unas 70 personas blancas fueron asesinadas en apenas dos días hasta que la rebelión fue sofocada. Tras el shock inicial, los propietarios blancos comenzaron a organizar grupos armados y se produjeron intercambios de disparos en varias granjas. En las siguientes 48 horas, el grupo siguió liberando y reclutando esclavos -entre 50 y 80 personas se unieron a la lucha- hasta que los propietarios recurrieron a la infantería del estado que, mucho más numerosa en efectivos que los rebeldes, acabó por sofocar el levantamiento. Nat Turner pudo escapar.

SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, VA - APRIL 09: The Porter house is seen at dusk on Tuesday April 09, 2019 in Southampton County, VA. In 1831 a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner in Southampton County. Turner was found guilty and hung. The Porter family were warned about the insurrection and left before Turner and his followers arrived. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Ruinas de una de las granjas del condado de Southampton que fueron atacadas por Nat Turnet y sus seguidores en 1831. The Washington Post / Getty

Ruinas de una de las granjas del condado de Southampton que fueron atacadas por Nat Turnet y sus seguidores en 1831. The Washington Post / Getty

La respuesta de las autoridades a la revuelta fue la de una cruenta represión. Con el líder de la rebelión todavía vivo, se optó por dar un mensaje ejemplarizante a la población negra. Los 16 rebeldes capturados fueron condenados a muerte por el tribunal del condado, y centenares de negros fueron linchados y ejecutados sin juicio por sus propietarios, incluso sin haber tenido nada que ver con la rebelión. Las noticias del levantamiento se propagaron rápidamente más allá del Southampton y las atrocidades contra los afroamericanos, fueran esclavos u hombres libres, se extendieron por el resto de Virginia y por los estados del sur.

El cabecilla de la insurrección sobrevivió semanas vagando por el condado sin que fuera capturado, hasta que se entregó a las autoridades el 30 de octubre de ese 1831 tras ser avistado por un granjero. El 11 de noviembre fue ahorcado en Jerusalén, Virginia, tras ser condenado por rebelión. Su cuerpo fue descuartizado y despellejado, en un intento de hacer olvidar su legado. Si se saben tantos detalles de su vida es porque él mismo se los dictó a su abogado de oficio, T.R. Gray, quien poco después de la ejecución publicaría Las confesiones de Nat Turner.

The Faculty Lounge: Was Nat Turner's Lawyer Gay?

El episodio del levantamiento de Nat Turner conmocionó no solo el condado de Southampton sino todo el país. EE.UU. vivía en aquel entonces un intenso debate sobre la idoneidad del sistema esclavista. Cabe matizar que los contrarios a la esclavitud eran partidarios de una abolición gradual y generalmente, más allá de consideraciones morales, esgrimían argumentos económicos. Sin embargo, la rebelión de 1831 tuvo un efecto contraproducente y el debate terminó abruptamente en el sur en favor de los defensores de la esclavitud, que se entendió como un elemento identitario de los estados sureños.

Además, el miedo a nuevas insurrecciones provocó el endurecimiento de las leyes. El Congreso de Virginia prohibió enseñar a esclavos, negros libres o de “raza mixta” a leer o escribir. Igualmente limitó las reuniones de esclavos y las congregaciones de las iglesias negras, imponiendo que al menos un blanco estuviera presente en este tipo de encuentros para evitar nuevas revueltas.

La nueva legislación también recortó derechos civiles de los negros libres e incluso de blancos favorables del abolicionismo, movimiento que en el sur quedó borrado de la noche a la mañana. Curiosamente fue entonces cuando en el norte tomó mayor impulso: ese mismo 1831 se fundó la New England Anti-Slavery Society, la primera asociación abolicionista de los EE.UU. Una irreconciliable división entre el sur esclavista y el norte antiesclavista se estaba gestando, una situación que acabaría por ser insostenible y desencadenaría la Guerra de Secesión.

La rebelión de Nat Turner es uno de aquellos episodios clave en la historia de los afroamericanos, aunque también de las más controvertidas. Turner es visto como un héroe, sobre todo porque su caso demuestra que la esclavitud nunca fue aceptada por sus víctimas. Sin embargo, existen muchas críticas contra dicha idealización por el componente extremadamente violento del suceso.

La historia alcanzó una gran popularidad a raíz de la publicación en 1967 de la novela Las confesiones de Nat Turner, de William Styrton, obra inspirada en el texto de Gray y presentado como una narración en primera persona del predicador. La obra ganó el premio Pulitzer, como en su momento lo había hecho el clásico de Mitchell. Asimismo, en 2016, el director Nate Parker rodó The Birth of a Nation, un filme basado en el libro de Styrton y que se llevó el primer premio en el festival Sundance

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Acabo de leer una fascinante nota sobre un episodio que desconocía y que confirma la profundidad de la lucha por los derechos civiles en los Estados Unidos. Se trata de un escrito de Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din publicado en la página del National Museum of African American History and Culture. Titulado   “Hidden Herstory: The Leesburg Stockade Girls“, el trabajo de la Sra. Salahu-Din relata la historia de quince niñas afroamericanas de entre 12 y 15 años que, en julio de 1963 fueron encarceladas en Atlanta por retar la segragación racial. Las llamadas Leesburg Stockade Girls se negaron a sentarse en los asientos de la parte posterior de un cine, como les “correspondía” según ley, y por ello fueron arrestadas.  Encarceladas por casi tres meses, las niñas fueron liberadas el 15 de setiembre de 1963. La valentía de estas chicas demuestra que la lucha a favor de los derechos civiles fue un movimiento amplio en el que los niños también hicieron su aportación.

Hidden Herstory: The Leesburg Stockade Girls

Tulani Salahu-Din

I never fully realized the monumental role that massive numbers of children played in civil rights protests. Law enforcement arrested and jailed children by the thousands for days, and sometimes months, and their involvement helped to enable one of the greatest legal and social assaults on racism in the 20th century—the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Leesburg Stockade Girls are an incredible example of these courageous, young freedom fighters.

You may ask, “Who were the Leesburg Stockade Girls?” In July of 1963 in Americus, Georgia, fifteen girls were jailed for challenging segregation laws. Ages 12 to 15, these girls had marched from Friendship Baptist Church to the Martin Theater on Forsyth Street. Instead of forming a line to enter from the back alley as was customary, the marchers attempted to purchase tickets at the front entrance. Law enforcement soon arrived and viciously attacked and arrested the girls. Never formally charged, they were jailed in squalid conditions for forty-five days in the Leesburg Stockade, a Civil War era structure situated in the back woods of Leesburg, Georgia. Only twenty miles away, parents had no knowledge of where authorities were holding their children. Nor were parents aware of their inhumane treatment.

A month into their confinement, Danny Lyon, a twenty-one year old photographer for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), learned of the girls’ whereabouts and sneaked onto the stockade grounds to take pictures of the girls through barred windows. After SNCC published the photos in its newspaper The Student Voice, African American newspapers across the country printed the story, and the girls’ ordeal soon gained national attention.On August 28, 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC,  these children sat in their cell bolstering their courage with freedom songs in solidarity with the thousands of marchers listening to Dr. King’s indelible speech on the National Mall. Soon after the March on Washington, during the same week of the bombing of the five little girls at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, law enforcement released the Leesburg Stockade Girls and returned them to their families.

Their story was part of the broader Civil Rights effort that engaged children in a variety of nonviolent, direct actions. In Alabama, for example, thousands of youth participated in the 1963 Children’s Crusade, a controversial liberation tactic initiated by James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After careful deliberation about the merit of involving children in street protests and allowing them to be jailed, Dr. King decided that their participation would revive the waning desegregation campaign and would appeal to the moral conscience of the nation.

On May 2, 1963, in response to an invitation from Dr. King, roughly a thousand students—elementary through high school—gathered enthusiastically at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and joined a civil rights march throughout the streets of Birmingham. By day’s end, law enforcement had jailed over 600 children.

The next day the number of children doubled. However, the training classes provided by SCLC leaders could not have prepared the children for the violence they would encounter. The Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor directed the use of fire hoses and attack dogs on the children, and people in America and around the world witnessed this brutality. Authorities arrested nearly 2,000 children—one as young as four years old.  These protests continued throughout the first week of May, with over 5,000 children being jailed.

Within days, SCLC and local officials reached an agreement, in which the city agreed to repeal the segregation ordinance and release all jailed protestors.  Ultimately, the activism of thousands of African American children in 1963, including the Leesburg Stockade Girls, provided the momentum for the March on Washington and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year.

The history of children’s Civil Rights activism continues to be important to tell. The Leesburg Stockade Girls realize this importance, and they are documenting their story. In 2015, as the keynote speaker at a commemorative event for the Leesburg Stockade Girls at Georgia Southwestern State University, I engaged with ten of the surviving women, who shared recollections about the day of their arrest. Remarkably, these women still possess a collective spirit of resistance to social injustice, and they are beginning to embrace their place in history.

As we reflect on their story and the broader history of youth activism, let us consider:  How might children today play an equally significant role in promoting racial equality in the United States?
Written by Tulani Salahu-Din, Museum Specialist, National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Chicago, 1919

Este año conmemoramos el centenario de uno de los episodios de violencia racial más vergonzosos de la historia estadounidense, el llamado Red Summer. En 1919,  se registraron en Estados Unidos 89 linchamientos y 25 motines raciales en un periodo de siete meses.  El peor de estos motines duró trece días en la ciudad de  Chicago y causó 38 muertes y 537 heridos, dejando a mil familias sin casa. El regreso de miles de veteranos negros de Europa fue visto por muchos blancos como una amenaza contra el orden racial predominante. Los veteranos negros regresaron pensando que sus sacrificios en defensa de la nación serían recompensados con un trato más justo de parte de su sociedad. Desafortunadamente, sus expectativas no se cumplieron, pues a su regreso continuaron siendo víctimas del racismo y la discriminación. Sus justos reclamos fueron respondidos con violencia.


Turba de hombres blancos tratando de secuestrar a un negro.

Se desconoce el número exacto de afro-americanos que fueron asesinados durante los siete meses que se extendió la violencia en su contra. Se sospecha que fueron cientos. Tal nivel de violencia inspiró al poeta afroamericano Claude McKay su famoso poema “If We Must Die”.

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

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