“Slave For A Day” Black History Program Causes Controversy
Who here would want to be a slave for a day???
The July 8 event, which park ranger and event organizer Angela Roberts-Burton said is part of the historical site’s monthly black history educational series, caused a stir on the Internet for what some believe was insensitive wording. “By no means am I trying to, or are we the Park Service, trying to assimilate the atrocities that slave African-Americans endured,” Roberts-Burton said Wednesday.
“This is just a glimpse of the hard work, being out in the heat and sun,” she said. In the initial event description on the Hampton National Historic Site website, which was online until Tuesday, Roberts-Burton used the “Slave for a Day” heading. The release also used exclamation points to note that it was the “first time ever at Hampton!” and participants could “carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders!”
The posting drew response online, including from the site Baltimore Fishbowl, where blogger Rachel Monroe wrote, “Clearly Hampton is approaching this from an education-is-good! perspective. Their hearts are in the right place. … Still, the inescapable and brutal fact of slavery was that it wasn’t for a day. … Some things are too profound to playact, it seems to me.” Anthony Fugett, vice president of the Baltimore County chapter of the NAACP and a former board member for the national NAACP, said he had no problem with the program, but agreed the title was an issue.
“The event was well-intentioned, but the name may have been inappropriate, and I’m glad to see they changed it,” said Fugett, an Owings Mill resident. “I don’t see it as a menacing event at all,” Fugett said. “Slavery is a part of the history of the country and the state of Maryland. The one thing we don’t want is for our history to be missed, and sometimes it’s good to get a perspective of a day in the life of a slave.”
Roberts-Burton said she used the language in the initial posting because she was excited for the fact that it’s the first such event at Hampton. Roberts-Burton said the free program will allow participants to experience the same type of farm labor as enslaved people at Hampton Mansion did. “Obviously, I have the backing of the National Park Service,” she said.
The July 8 event will end with a memorial ceremony conducted by the African Diaspora Ancestral Commemoration Institute, and will commemorate those who were enslaved at Hampton. Roberts-Burton, who is black, said some critics who contacted her after the event was posted suggested they just hold the healing ceremony, but she said that ceremony would be moot without knowledge of what needed healing. “We have programs on a monthly basis on the African-American experience, and most of the time people who attend are a majority white,” Roberts-burton said. “We’re trying to get more African-Americans to come to the site, but considering the city is majority black, the majority of our visitation is white.”