On October 30, 2015, we, the descendants of authors of slave narratives, gathered at the University at Buffalo at the invitation of Professor Kari Winter to participate in a groundbreaking workshop to reconnect with our ancestors bringing “new voice” to their important 18th and 19th-century stories.
For the most part, we were strangers meeting for the first time. Nevertheless, by the time the workshop was over, we felt a special kinship bound together spiritually by the extraordinary deeds of our ancestors. We were moved by each other’s collective story and mission to carry forward the legacies of our families. We promised to support each other’s work knowing that if we did not, the legacies of these men and women risked being lost to time. After all, who, but the scholars study this rare genre of American Literature and what can we learn from these risk takers today.
Once word got out about this historic gathering, we made headlines in The New York Times. Some of us appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and the popular Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross followed by a panel discussion at the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center in New York City. We learned that collectively we had power and people were listening to our stories.
We—The Descendants of the Slave Narratives—are uniquely positioned, if not obligated, to carry forward the largely forgotten work of our ancestors. At this moment in time, in the 400th year of the first ship landing of Africans in British Colonial America, there is no better time to trumpet awareness about this watershed in our history and to encourage the entire nation to, reflect, reclaim and honor, the history of a people who have contributed greatly to the American story.