A People’s Song Upon the Waters

A Familial Examination of the Sea Chantey Lays Out Its African American Roots

The last time I visited my paternal grandfather, Elton Smith, Jr., at his Virginia home, it was 2018, and he was well into his 90s. As I interviewed him for a family memoir project, he sat regally on the couch, framed by a mantle of plaques, diplomas, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, family photos, and various items associated with Freemasonry. Amid all these impressive objects, what caught my attention was the understated insignia on his black polo shirt: a white anchor circled by the words “Northern Neck Chantey Singers.”

From the mid 2000s …

Caught in White Supremacy’s Web, Seeking a Future My Mother Showed Me | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Navigating the Constellation of Restraints on Black Life

Scholar Dexter Voisin on Whiteness, Colorism, and the Societal Narratives We Inherit

“The true focus of change is never merely the oppressive systems we seek to change but the oppressor that is planted deep within each of us.” —Audre Lorde

In the 1960s, …

The Black Freedom Seekers Who ‘Managed to Shape Their Own Destinies’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Black Freedom Seekers Who ‘Managed to Shape Their Own Destinies’

The Many and Varied Attempts by African Americans to Escape Bondage in the Lower Mississippi Valley Tell a Larger Narrative

The Lower Mississippi Valley begins at Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, and extends south to the Head of Passes 100 miles below New Orleans, where …

Body of Color | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Body of Color

Naima Lowe’s Installation ‘Ropes, Pinks’ Uncoils Trauma in Pursuit of Black Freedom

Consisting of three lengths of cotton and hemp rope of varying thicknesses—200 feet in all—dyed in shades of pink, “Ropes, Pinks” is an installation work by artist Naima Lowe. This …

A College Founded on an Antebellum Plantation Digs Into the Darkness of Its Past | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A College Founded on an Antebellum Plantation Digs Into the Pain of Its Past

How Sweet Briar Is Finally Remembering the Enslaved People Who Built—And Were Buried Beneath—Its Campus

Twenty years ago, an equestrian instructor at Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia stumbled over a stone in one of the horseback riding rings. It turned out to be a …