American history X: How Kinsey exhibit at Gantt Center fights the ‘myth of absence’

“Any Person May Kill and Destroy Said Slaves,” reads an arrest proclamation from 1798. Issued for “Jem” and “Mat” by Warren County, N.C., it may as well have been a death sentence. Even if Jem and Mat, two escaped slaves, were able to get to the North to a state that had abolished slavery, they would still be in danger. A clause in the U.S. Constitution guaranteed the right of a slave owner to recover his or her “property,” and the Fugitive Slave Act signed into law by George Washington in 1793 that made it a federal crime to help an escaped slave.

The document is part of The Kinsey Collection: Where Art and History Intersect, which is showing at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture until October. The more than four centuries’ worth of art, historical documents, photographs and artifacts that Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have gathered in more than 40 years of marriage shine a light on what can’t be denied or extinguished: African-American sacrifice and achievement is part of American history, not just African-American history.

Shades of prejudice hurt — but can’t stop — ‘Dark Girls’

The discussion didn’t start with “Dark Girls,” which recently aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). But the documentary has brought talk about “colorism,” discrimination on the basis of skin color, into the open, something that co-director-producer Bill Duke noted in an interview Thursday morning. He remembered an African American woman in New York, who asked him why he was, in her words, “airing our dirty laundry.” Duke’s answer: “With all due respect, because it’s stinking up the house.”

How America’s original affirmative action is still going strong

George W. Bush used to joke about it, his mediocre record at Yale, his less-than-diligent efforts throughout his educational career. So many laughed along at every bit of the persona he played into – the incurious certainty, the attempts to pronounce “nuclear” and the confident attitude throughout it all. But few questioned his right to take that place at Yale, another at Harvard and the privileged path that led to the White House.

That is how America has always worked, with the rich and the ones with the last names that matter usually stepping to the front of the line. It’s a system that has overwhelmingly benefited whites and males and, to look at the boards of Fortune 500 companies, still does.

Yet, you don’t see the righteous indignation or a spate of lawsuits to rid higher education of the curse of legacies. Voices are rarely raised to demand that elite colleges and universities take the thumb off the scale for families with a fat checkbook or a name on a campus building. There is not a suggestion that “they” don’t belong.

When Abigail Fisher was refused admittance at the University of Texas, she didn’t think that because she didn’t earn her way into the top 10 percent of her high school class — a bar that in Texas would have gained her automatic admission – that just maybe she should have studied harder.

Keeping it Positive: Find Your Roots


 

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  More people are using their spare time to trace their family lineage. The Harvey B. Gantt Center is helping people in Charlotte do the same.  Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates is the inaugural speaker for the 2013 Gantt Symposium. The event is Thursday, June 27th surrounding Dr. Gates’ “Finding Your Roots”. The discussion will explore individual lineage and American history. Mary Curtis shares what audiences can expect.

Authentically black and Catholic – with something to say about Pope Francis

It was a funny though welcome text message, congratulating me on “my” new pope. From 3,000 miles away, my friend knows how much my Catholic faith means to me and wanted to share the good news. Though she was raised Baptist and doesn’t really practice any religion now, she understood. What did I think of Pope Francis? Wait and see, I told her. The church is wading through earthly and spiritual challenges, and this conservative pope likely won’t rock the theological boat. But I said I was impressed by his humility, his commitment to social justice and his Jesuit pedigree.

It felt good to be a part of the discussion during such an important transition, in a church that has not always been so welcoming to black Catholics.

For Beverly McIver, art is life — and the other way around

The subject of an HBO film and a Charlotte exhibition at the Mint Museum Uptown — which closes Jan. 6 — McIver opens up about her work, family and more.