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Like I asked before, DG, what is the colour of brains? Deny people learning or opportunities makes you superior or does your ability to inflict death or injury do that? Sh*t, they go back to heaven, the spirit or energy world, before you and unlike you, they are no longer concerned with the physical demands of a body! No need for food, drink, clothing or shelter or fing or jealousy! And you're still here looking on, interfering to help only where necessary!

Hooray for death! It's unappreciated!

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Illuminating the Whole American Idea

This article is part of β€œInheritance,” a project about American history and Black life.

This article was published online on February 9, 2021.

In 1862, an abolitionist from Philadelphia named Charlotte Forten decided to go south to the Sea Islands of South Carolina. She was taking up an important mission: teaching Black children, newly liberated by the Union Army, how to read. Two years later, she would describe for readers of The Atlantic the exhilaration she felt as she traveled to her post.

Charlotte Forten (Interim Archives / Getty)

We thought how easy it would be for a band of guerrillas, had they chanced that way, to seize and hang us,” she wrote in our May 1864 issue, β€œbut we were in that excited, jubilant state of mind which makes fear impossible, and sang β€˜John Brown’ with a will, as we drove through the pines and palmettos. Oh, it was good to sing that song in the very heart of Rebeldom!”

Forten’s writing is vivid and modern and beautifully descriptive. She takes her readers to a remote and brutal stretch of the Confederacy, and she renders her subjectsβ€”the persecuted, resilient people of South Carolina’s rice and cotton plantationsβ€”Β­fully human. (Forten, in fact, was one of the first to call the melancholic state of mind that she discovered among the formerly enslaved β€œthe blues.”)

For us, Forten is notable not only for her moral urgency but because she was the first Black woman to write in our pages. In the first decade of The Atlantic’s existence (the magazine was founded in 1857), it was the abolitionist Brahminsβ€”Emerson, Lowell, Stowe, Holmes, Longfellowβ€”who were most publicly exalted. And then, of course, came the giant, Frederick Douglass, who did immortal writing for The Atlantic. But Charlotte Forten, a Black woman who deserves to be remembered, has been mainly forgotten.

She came to my mind, though, during a conversation with Gillian B. White, one of our managing editors. Gillian was describing to me an idea, a way to use The Atlantic to fill in the blank pages of Black history. One of the questions that arose was Are we doing enough? Historically, this magazine has made many contributions on matters of race: Not only Douglass but W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington found a home for their writing here. When Martin Luther King Jr. sought a national audience for a letter he wrote while held prisoner in the Birmingham jail, he turned to The Atlantic. And The Atlantic featured on its cover the most influential article published in America in the past decade, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s β€œThe Case for Reparations.” But if we are to live up to this legacy, we have more to do. Gillian’s idea was to revive what we began to call β€œlost Black history.”

β€œFor so many Black Americans, history is a dead end,” she told me recently. β€œI look at my daughter and my niece and my nephew and wish I had more of their history to share with them. I really want them to see themselves represented in the story of this country and to know that America has always been ours, too. And yet Black people are left out of so many commonly shared American histories.”

Out of these conversations, and conversations across our staff, The Atlantic’s β€œInheritance” project was born. The articles in this issue of the magazine represent the first fruits of this continuing effort, which you will see manifest itself in print, on our website, and everywhere The Atlantic makes journalism.

We open this issue with a legend (and an Atlantic contributing writer), Anna Deavere Smith, who recounts her own coming to consciousness on a sheltered, mostly white college campus in the 1960s. Danielle Allen, the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard and a regular Atlantic contributor, revives the memory of one of the nation’s earliest and most dogged abolitionists (Allen’s article will be published on February 10). Clint Smith, one of our newest staff writers, and the author of a forthΒ­coming book, How the Word Is Passed, offers a close study of the ways in which America reckons with slavery, and guides us through the archives of a New Deal–era initiative focused on preserving the memories of the formerly enslaved. And our senior editor Vann R. Newkirk II writes movingly about the history of the Voting Rights Act through the prism of his mother’s own experience of American democracy (Newkirk’s essay will be published on February 11). These stories, and other stories being published on our website, are part of an ambitious, never-ending effort to fulfill The Atlantic’s mission: to illuminate the American idea, and to help build, through our writing, a more perfect union.

Vann Newkirk’s mother died in November at the too-young age of 56, as Vann was working on the article that appears in these pages. Vann’s colleagues and friends are honored to dedicate this issue of The Atlantic, one devoted to the importance of memory, to the memory of Marylin Thurman Newkirk.

This article appears in the March 2021 print edition with the headline β€œThe Atlantic and Black History.”

Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi;center,top&resize=980:*These three women (Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi) are the founders of Black Lives Matter. The organization, which was started in 2013 as a recation to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, has put a global name to the ever-evolving cultural movement that Black lives deserve the equal respect, human treatment, and level of livelihood that is experienced by their white counterparts. They act as an inclusive, nonviolent space to enforce these ideals on both a national and local scale through protest, policy, and social media campaigns. Cullors, Garza, and Tometi were each named on Time's 2020 most influential people in the world list.

Robert Sengstacke Abbott (1870 - 1940);0.0306xw,0&resize=980:*

Without Abbott's creative vision, many of the Black publications of todayβ€”such as Ebony, Essence, Black Enterprise, and Upscaleβ€”wouldn't exist. In 1905, Abbott founded the Chicago Defender weekly newspaper. The paper originally started out as a four-page pamphlet, increasing its circulation with every edition. Abbott and his newspaper played an integral part in encouraging African Americans to migrate from the South for better economic opportunities.

26 Black Americans You Don't Know But Should, --These hidden figures deserve to be celebrated.

Music and Television;center,top&resize=768:*

Entertainer Nat "King" Cole poses for a portrait in circa 1950.
Michael Ochs ArchivesGetty Images

26 Little-Known Black History Facts You May Not Have Learned In School

These span various topics that will inspire you to take your research beyond Black History Month.

1 Althea Gibson

18 History-Making Black Women You Probably Didn't Learn About In School

By Ayana Lage and JR Thorpe, Updated: - Originally Published: -

Althea Gibson

Unless you're a longtime tennis fan, you may not be familiar with Althea Gibson, who was the first Black woman to compete at Wimbledon in 1951, according to the International Tennis Hall Of Fame, opening doors for Black athletes everywhere. And she didn't just compete β€” her victories are legendary. She went on to win singles titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958, and the Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year those same two years in a row.

In 2016, Serena Williams recognized her accomplishments when she tweeted, "Althea Gibson paved the way for all women of color in sport." And though Gibson is most famous for her tennis skills, that wasn't the only sport she played. Gibson became a professional golfer in 1963, just years after winning her tennis titles.


18 History-Making Black Women You Probably Didn't Learn About In School

Any time of year is an excellent one to learn about Black women in history who accomplished incredible things, but have been neglected by historians β€” particularly those who've been excluded from your high school or college curricula. Beyond Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, there are thousands of Black women who broke barriers β€” in sport, medicine, literature, politics, and every other sphere β€” and deserve much greater recognition.

According to the National Council for the Social Studies, not knowing about these extraordinary Black women is common. "Only one to two lessons or 8–9 percent [sic] of total class time is devoted to Black history in U.S. history classrooms," the organization says. They recommend curriculum "from a Black perspective with topics specifically geared towards the Black experience" to help improve the superficial knowledge many kids are left with after Black history lessons.

History isn’t fixed in textbooks; it’s a continual process of discovery you can take part in no matter what your knowledge base is. Even if you're done with school, you can still learn, which where this list of 18 Black women you should know about comes in. From civil rights activists, to poets, sports stars, and state leaders, knowing these women’s stories is essential β€” and long overdue.


18 History-Making Black Women You Probably Didn't Learn About In School

By Ayana Lage and JR Thorpe, Updated: - Originally Published: -
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