Episode 52 Walking the Dog

“The First Vote” by artist Alfred Waud, appeared in Harper’s Weekly magazine, 1867. That year, following a federal civil rights act, 105,832 freedmen, i.e. the recently emancipated enslaved peoples, registered to vote in Virginia, and 93,145 voted in the election that began on October 22, 1867. Across the South, over 700,000 Black voters cast a ballot. Soon the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, formally guaranteeing that a person’s right to vote would not be denied on the basis of color. This was part of what historian Eric Foner calls “the first great experiment in interracial democracy,” and as W.E.B. Du Bois argued in his magisterial 1935 work, Black Reconstruction, it was those freedmen who ‘shared in the capacity and thought that made it.”

Our History

86 years ago the Black activist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois published a breakthrough work of historical scholarship called Black Reconstruction, which set about demolishing the reigning story of white nationalist nostalgia framed around the storytelling conceit called the Old South. Black Reconstruction was a righteous call for America to acknowledge its great historical debt to Black Lives, and published at a time of racial violence and rigid segregation. Today, our episode, records on the occasion of yet another breakthrough publication in historical storytelling called The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. Arguably the greatest effort to tell the “big story” of Black lives in American history since Du Bois, we devote our episode to consider the lifecycles of stories, the birth, death, and rebirth of histories that break new ground and inspire new understandings of the human project, from the Dawn of Everything to the reckoning for racial justice. Our conclusion? We must not wait another 86 years for the story wheel to turn, these new stories must find a central place in the storytelling imagination of the nation, if we are ever to have the nation we wish.

Click to hear Episode 52 Walking the Dog

Sources Referenced and Items of Interest:

W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (1935)

Nikole Hannah-Jones, et al., The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story (2021)

David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (2021)

Bruce Bower, “‘The Dawn of Everything’ rewrites 40,000 years of human history,” (November 9, 2021 ScienceNews)

“I cannot do this writing without believing in the essential humanity of Negroes, in their ability to be educated, to do the work of the modern world, to take their place as equal citizens with others.”

W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (1935)

%d bloggers like this: