Thursday, September 27, 2007

Avengers of the New World

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution
by Laurent Dubois chronicles the remarkable history of the first and only successful slave revolution in the Americas. Because the people, places, and events are not familiar to me, I had to slowly read and try to absorb all of the foreign information. I was also constantly turning back to try and figure out references that didn't make sense to me. However, my effort was well rewarded. I have a little understanding of the rich history of Haiti.

Dubois carefully sets the stage for the success of the Haitian Revolution and perhaps why it was never duplicated. First, was the importance of a few French plantation owners passing on property to their mulatto children which ensured that there were wealthy and educated free people of color. Men like Julien Raimond worked tirelessly to expand rights for free people of color, even though he didn't fight to extend the rights to all people of color.

The effect of the French Revolution, playing out during this time, which stressed "
Libertie, Equalitie, Fraternitie" also must be factored into account. There were men in positions of power who believed these ideals applied to not just the French but the slaves in far away Saint-Dominigue, current day Haiti. Their voices must have encouraged those embroiled in the fight.

During its struggles with Spain for control of this valuable island, France allowed slaves and free men of color to fight on its side. This provided the slave insurrectionists with valuable military and leadership experience. Many of these well trained men would then turn around and fight against the French people.

Another factor which can not be minimized is the climate of Haiti. From the time of Christopher Columbus to the present, the crushing heat and disease devastated scores of people of European origin while the people from Africa seemed to thrive in the climate.

The struggle for independence involved so many other important factors and timing that just could not be repeated. In addition to the deep resolve of the Haitian blacks and the arrogant miscalculation of Napoleon Bonaparte, the pragmatism of the insurrectionist leaders guided the revolution from its 1791 slave revolts to its successful conclusion in 1803. Toussaint Louverture, Henri Christophe, and the first president of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines achieved liberty for the black people of Haiti. By creating a society in which all people were granted freedom and citizenship, the Haitian Revolution forever changed the world.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

"Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity
by Beverly Daniel Tatum strives to encourage dialogue about racism. It certainly succeeded with me. I found myself quoting from the book and discussing with my husband many of the ideas that left me confused, intrigued, or saddened.

Beverly Daniel Tatum starts out with her definition of racism. She believes that racism is a "system of advantage based on race" and racism is "more than individual beliefs and attitudes". This puts her in direct conflict with many others who include the presence of prejudice in their definition. Her point of view was valuable to me because it helped me see the power of white privilege and the role of white privilege in our world.

I found her section on black identity helpful. She included several stories of young children expressing their opinions on color. Her own child was asked by a playmate if he was brown because he drank chocolate milk. While this story caused me to smile, it also illustrated the natural curiosity of children and the awareness of differences; the need to catalog those differences. Discussion should not be stifled. Difference is not bad. It just is. Kids should feel free to observe and share.

The author is a professor and has taught classes on racism. She frequently shares stories from those classes and her broad experience shows in her writing. I'm not ready to embrace her stand on affirmative action and I question some of her conclusions. However, I would recommend this book to all. Not just those who have an interest in racial injustice. We all need to understand the impact racism has on our culture and be willing to learn from each other.

Field trip fun

One of the joys of homeschooling is going on field trips. It's just so easy to pick up and go when the day is beautiful. We had a day like that this week and it turned out to be one of our great trips.

We have been studying the French and Indian Wars and we read about the battle at Fort Anne in 1710. Well, that spiked my interest because we are only 90 minutes away from the fort and we have never visited. So... why not? Also, it has been rare for us to visit a fort that actually experienced battle. So... even more reason to visit.

The small museum and guide were pleasant and informative. The fort was picturesque. The sky was blue. The air was warm. It was just Kaylin, myself and several senior citizens out for a day of exploration. We loved it!

We also took the time to visit Port Royal, just a short drive away. This was the 2nd attempt the French made at settling in this area. The first was at St. Croix. This one was slightly more successful but still didn't last long. The fort was built in 1605 and burned by those rascally English in 1613. The reconstructed fort is really well done and worth the visit. Thank you Parks Canada for investing our dollars so well. We had a great day and learned a lot.