“Nobody Knows My Name”: Remembering the Middle Passage and Confronting America’s Amnesia about Slavery and its “Aftermath” by Chadra Pittman, Founder & Executive Director of The Sankofa Projects, Monday, May 15, 7 pm. Admission is free and open to the public.
For centuries, the history of enslaved Africans was buried under skyscrapers, asphalt, and America’s amnesia. Ten to twenty-thousand unnamed skeletal remains of African men, women and mostly children lay in the heart of Wall Street in lower Manhattan while millions of other human beings drowned in the Atlantic Ocean during the massacre on the Middle Passage. While we may never know their dreams, what they hoped for or know their actual given names, what we do know is that the inhumane terror imposed on those Africans during slavery was brutal and the aftermath is still being felt today.
As a Former Public Educator for the world-renowned 17th century African Burial Ground to Creator of Sankofa’s Remembrance Ceremony in Hampton, VA, Chadra Pittman has spent nearly three decades giving voice to the untold history of Africans across the Diaspora. Her sacred and scholarly work has been rooted in resurrecting memory, honoring Ancestors, and confronting America’s denial of this history. Through her lectures, publications, and Remembrance ceremonies, she has created archives and safe spaces for the community to gather, attempt to heal and collectively remember what the world has tried so desperately for us to forget.
According to Pittman, “Slavery is American history; it’s International history and the Middle Passage is a neglected chapter that needs to be told.” She has long contested that “The history of slavery remains incomplete if you do not tell the truth of what happened on the Middle Passage. To only speak about what happened to Africans once they disembarked the enslavement ships in 1619 is only a part of the story; for you disregard those who never made it off the ships alive.”
In this lecture, Pittman will take you on an anthropological, historical journey through time from Hadar, Ethiopia to Hampton, Virginia, from the barracoons to the belly of the ships, exploring the construction of race, the hierarchy of humanity, scientific racism, from a 17th century cemetery to and the massacre of the Middle Passage. She will evoke the work of Ancestors James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, Sonia Sanchez, Sterling Stuckey, and Toni Morrison and will draw correlations from history to what Saidiya Hartman refers to as “…the afterlife of slavery.”
In a time, such as this, when books are being banned and Critical Race Theory is under attack and being debated across the nation, we must do the necessary work to change mindsets, reverse the denial and awaken the amnesia regarding these painful and horrific parts of American history. Novelist James Baldwin reminds us, that “Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it…” The time is now to create a new world where all our stories have a place to be seen and heard and create real change which is inclusive for generations to come.
The Sankofa Project's 2023 Day of Remembrance Ceremony takes place at Fort Monroe on Saturday, June 10 at 11 am. Admission is free.