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netmouse: (Photographer Anne)
[personal profile] netmouse
Last week I traveled to DC on a group excursion I arranged with timed passes to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Our timed Entry was 12:45 and we toured the Capitol building first so we were a bit rushed with lunch and getting there on time. Our group was part people from the NAACP exec, part people from Crispus Attucks Association and the Goodridge Freedom Center, and then also two local museum members, who had arranged the capital tour and also for us to tour the NMAAHC with the head of Collections, who apparently doesn't actually give tours, so it was a very special opportunity.

I'm still processing my reaction to the museum. The outside is gorgeous. The inner lobby had a couple art pieces installed in it that just left me feeling puzzled as to their point or connection to anything else, and in talking to other members of the group, that reaction seemed shared. We spent a bunch of time on the bottom floor, which has to do with the beginning of the colonies and slave trade. I feel like I could have taken a full day to go through each floor, and still not have seen and heard all there was to see and hear. They have a couple of whole cabins that have been relocated into the museum. They have a Tuskegee airplane. There is so much. A lot of it I have already studied in the past 6 years, but some of it was still new.

My friend Serena and I spent some time in the gift shop. Lots of books. Some odd things. Like, they have a book of paper dolls of Michelle Obama and her clothes, but the representations of her and her fashion do not do either justice. I commented on that to Serena, and she agreed and felt it was clearly not the work of an African American artist. There were several odd notes like that. There were places in the historical displays were I was sorry they left things out. Only so much space, right?

I will have to go back a few times to take it all in, and plus it is going to change. There was a whole exhibit hall that's not open yet. Lots to see.

Speaking of seeing, Here are some pictures from the trip

Date: 2017-05-12 07:00 am (UTC)
spikethemuffin: (Default)
From: [personal profile] spikethemuffin
I like this entry and your photographs. Have I been an asshole about recommending Stitched from the Soul: Slave Quilts from the Antebellum South lately? It is a very good book, especially to lend to those who don't think white privilege is a thing or those who really appreciate that it totally is.
spikethemuffin: (Default)
From: [personal profile] spikethemuffin
I did not remember the bit about quilts as signals for the Underground Railroad! This does seem a rather dicey method of communication, way too vulnerable to alterations by weather and passers-by at first glance. However, I wasn't there and don't know a lot about American culture at that time.

As to controversy, well, I ought to study that more, and hear the arguments given against it, but it seems a bit counter-intuitive to say that a slave class did not participate in any ubiquitous activity that was counted boring, hard on the body (seriously, hand-quilting sucks if it's not your passion), and put scraps of would-be waste together to make useful objects in a scarcity economy. Certainly, the narratives and materials in the actual quilts cited in the work I mentioned seem to support the idea that slaves quilted, both for themselves and their masters. The repetitive theme of, "we made a thing, and we liked the thing, and our masters took the thing and were dicks about it," had a deeply authentic ring of, "same shit, different day," told in dozens of different stories from different angles, even without cultural background noise like Alice Walker's "Everyday Use." (A nod to Walker's liberation-shaming: problematic but hilarious, and a nod to the fact that as a white person, I don't really have the right be commenting upon these aspects of the work, go here.) If you have sources readily available that run counter to it, it would be keen of you to share, but I am not challenging you, nor is it your job to do the intellectual labor of filling in the gaps in my education.

Now, I agree, the whole things rings of the chirpy feminism of Mary Hedges' quilt narratives on the surface. (Her idea that women had artistic and emotional lives and used such media as were available to and approved for them in cultures is so very charmingly seductive and resonant to me, I must regard it with suspicion.) However, there is a gravity in the sources Fry cites that belies this. Your scholarly world is not such that I find the need to defensively counter the idea that history is solely the story of white men and their weaponry, and that any idea that women or PoC's existed before 1970 (save as terroir for true vintage of that sweet historic autumn pressing) or that any voices were marginalized or not given a platform mere PC bullshit. This is, as the kids use to say, totally a thing where I have stood. (Not to say that you don't run up against it... merely stating that I've rolled over and been the chill feminist way too much, and now must fight my way out of that corner before I get ANYWHERE in any conversation.) I find this book a useful light to shine in the crannies of the idea that only things that got written down and received a shiny gold star from the premodern intellectual dead white European male hegemony. (Not that I have anything against dead white European males, you understand: I am terribly fond of them. But saying you understand human history because you've studied their narratives is like saying you have totally been to Chicago; you have spent whole DAYS at O'Hare...)
spikethemuffin: (Default)
From: [personal profile] spikethemuffin
"... as if the novel were claiming this was a fact..." Sweet Gautama Buddha on a marzipan pedestal, that's a terrifying take... did the people who reported this to your friend then demand to pull upon the other leg to see if it had bells on?

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