Recovering the Stolen Histories of American Slaves

The Tragedy of Treating People as Property Has Left Only Scattered Scraps to Hint at Their Cultures and Communities

For the past eight years I’ve been living with 72 people. These 28 men, 25 women, 12 girls, and seven boys are long dead—they were Africans sold into captivity and shipped to America in the mid-1700s. It’s generally accepted that a factual account of their experience—like almost all Africans enslaved in America—is beyond recovery. Even Roots blended fact and fiction into something its author referred to as “faction.”

But thanks to laborious archival research and the linking of two rare and important documents, I’ve been able to shed new light on …

More In: African-American

Life Lessons From South L.A.’s Most Influential “Rag Man”

Renowned Artist John Outterbridge Has Spent Decades Mining His Surroundings for Material

John Outterbridge has spent more than eight decades noticing, saving, and recombining parts of his surroundings. It’s an artistic method. His sculptures bring together different found materials, and the resulting …

The South Los Angeles Future Will Be Shared

In a Stronghold of African Americans and Immigrant Integration, New Identities Emerge Rooted in a Sense of Place as Much as Race

The typical story of neighborhood change, often called ethnic succession, is one in which an incoming ethnic group “takes over” and wipes away the past. But that does not capture …

Jackie Robinson’s Life Was No Home Run for Racial Progress

America Loved the Baseball Star on the Field, Not Off It

Jackie Robinson’s story brings together two American obsessions: sports and freedom. This is why we never tire of his tale. Yet in the way that the story has been handed …

Selma’s Best Supporting Role

The Film May Have Focused on Martin Luther King, But Diane Nash Was the Reason He Was There in the First Place

If you watched the film Selma, you met Diane Nash when you saw her driving with Martin Luther King, Jr., into the Alabama town early in 1965. King’s organization, the …