28, NO, MAKE THAT 30, ABSOLUTELY TRUE BLACK HISTORY FACTS ON THE OCCASION OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH
In 1857, frustrated by the number of informants undermining her efforts along the Underground Railroad, abolitionist Harriet Tubman printed up 500 “Stop Snitching” shirts and distributed them throughout the South.
Black History Month was in danger of being canceled in 1981 before corporations such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola offered sponsorship.
Scientist George Washington Carver invented over 300 uses for the peanut, including peanut soap, peanut paint and peanut massage oil. He died of an undiagnosed peanut allergy in 1943.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln declared in his 1858 speech presaging the Civil War. Such a house sits at the heart of Mat Johnson’s ribald, incisive novel “Loving Day.” Bequeathed to the narrator, Warren Duffy, by his deceased father, it’s a roofless, ramshackle mansion in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia: “I look at the buckling floors. I look at the cracks in all the walls, the evidence of a foundation crumbling beneath us. I smell the char of the fire, the sweet reek of mold, the insult of mouse urine. I see a million things that have to be fixed, restored, corrected, each one impossible and each task mandatory for me to escape again.”
This week we’re celebrating the publication of novels by Kimbilio Faculty Members Mat Johnson and Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Here’s an article by Mat from BuzzFeed:
Yo, I’m a mulatto. And I have to tell you, it’s great. I was black for most of my life, which is also great, but the thing is I look white and, coincidentally, my dad’s also white (he’s great too), and after a while I needed a word that offered me a better fit, and acknowledge my father and his whole family’s impact on my life, which was also a big part of my identity. So I converted to mulatto, which I see as a subset of the larger African American experience.
I actually love the word mulatto. I love it for its rolling linguistic sound — moo-lah-toe — sliding off my tongue the way Lolita did for Humbert Humbert. But I also love mulatto for the illicit pleasure of watching the uncomfortable cringe the word sometimes elicits from others, even when I say it to describe myself: an African American novelist who just happens to look like a washed-up Latvian rugby player. The discomfort is a response I’ve encountered from black people, from white people, and even sometimes from many mulattoes — or rather, I should say, “first-generation mixed people of black and white ancestry.” That inelegant mouthful is what mulatto means, but I can’t shorten it without saying “mulatto,” because there is no other word in the English language that captures that meaning while connecting it with the larger sociopolitical history of North America.
Go ahead. Smack him one. He expects it so it would be rude not to. Besides, look at him giving you a dehumanizing stare. How dare he look at you in that manner? He thinks he’s better than you. Approach in such a way that makes you look huge, immense—a living blue wall of silence.