Symbolic Annihilation and the Erasure of Slavery

This article focuses on the historical sites in America and their representations of slavery. It begins by presenting the concept of symbolic annihilation. This is made up of “rhetorical devices and practices that are found in tour that are found in tour guides’ comments, in the many artifacts in the homes, promotional literature, leaflets, and videos”. According to this article approximately 55.7% of plantation museum sites use symbolic annihilation. This concept was developed by George Gerbner, Gaye Tuchman, Arlene Kaplan Daniels, and James Benet. They presented this concept in the context of women in the media, it was later used to reference slavery. In the accounts of plantation visits, symbolic annihilation was shown in many ways. In the accounts I read, slavery was mentioned three and five times throughout the entire presentation. The few times slaves or slavery was mentioned was when they were merely pointing out what a building was or referencing who performed a certain task. According to this article this is blatant symbolic annihilation because of the irrevelant manner they were introduced in.

In my opinion, a plantation museum is supposed to teach the visitors about the history of their location. When a docent fails to mention a vital piece of our nations history, that is not okay. It is as if the caretakers or owners of these sites are still unwilling to accept the facts of what took place in our history. In reference to symbolic annihilism, it seems to me as though it’s a nice way to say that the museums are blatanly leaving out chunks of history. I personally think that something needs to be done to correct the mis-representation of our history. When children go visit these sites, they are not being told the truth. If children don’t know the truth, or if we continue to act as though it didn’t happen, our country could revert back to that terrible state and our nation as we know it could fall apart.

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The Birth of a Genre: Slavery on Film

David Blight’s “Birth of a Genre” presents an honest approach to the history of slavery on film. She begins by discussing the beginning of slavery on film. In the earliest representations of slavery, nearly every film presented slaves as loyal, “happy, contented, and well cared for” also as “joyous as a bunch of children.” This was most graciously shown in D.W. Griffith and Thomas Dixon’s Birth of a Nation in 1915. According to Blight, this film changed the way we view the history of this era today. This movie sent the message that “not only the blacks did not want their freedom, but also that emancipation had been America’s greatest disaster”. Blight then goes on to discuss more recent films that more honestly represent slavery. A few of these include Natalie Zemon Davis’ “Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision” and Orlando Bagwell’s “Africans in America”. Both of these films openly interpret what actually went on in the time of slavery. The obstacles  historians and film makers overcome include fitting one hundred years of history into a couple hour long segment. Blight concludes the article by addressing a large part of our history that is never spoken about and many people don’t even know.

The thing that struck me most about this article, is the facts that Blight discovered that we never knew. I have never heard that particular story about the origins of memorial day. The fact that former slaves went and built a graveyard around the burial grounds of white men that had fought for their slavery, is just incredible to me. Especially the fact, that I never knew before this. I am shocked at how much of our history is hidden from the knowledge of society. I can only hope that filmmakers continue to tell the truth and inform or nation of our history.

Slave Site for a Symbol of Freedom and Confronting Slavery Face to Face

These are two very similar articles in that both address the issue of how slavery should be depicted. The article “Slave Site for a Symbol of Freedom” begins by describing the area of which the Liberty Bell will be showcased. The site the National Park Service’s have chosen happens to be on the very plot of land where the Morris house, what was once George Washington’s home, once stood. The issue addressed in this article is that the National Park Service had no plan to reference or even address the fact that the founding father of our country housed many slaves on that very property. In order to satisfy the protests of the Independence Hall Association the National Park Service agreed “to add an additional interpretive panel examining the institution of slavery.” The other article takes a similar perspective in that it too comes from a representation of a historically significant town or location. The argument, however, is different. Karen Sutton works as an interpreter in the “Slave Quarter at Carter’s Grove” in Colonial Williamsburg. She discusses the issues she faces everyday in her job. There are so many different types of people who visit this site, that it is hard to receive approval from every visitor. Society today still has a hard time accepting what makes up a huge part of our nations history.

Both of these articles demonstrate the ignorance of society to our nation’s history. How a historical society can create any model of the past and completely disregard slavery is beyond me. This is the case with the Liberty Bell house. It makes no sense that an object that is supposed to represent the freedom of our nation would not even reference the freedom of the enslaved portion of our population. A simple panel should not be sufficient to cover one of the most important parts of our history. The other article reminded me of the ignorance and naivety of our society. According tho Karen Sutton, many people to this day refuse to believe and accept the accounts of what really happened. I am appalled that so many can’t accept the reality and admit to our country’s errors and move on to make our nation a better place.

The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media

  This argument is a basic summary of the racism in pop culture today. It begins by defining ideology as something that doesn’t include indivdual concepts but separation of different elements of a chain of meetings; statements that are made by individuals subconscious thoughts; also something that works to differentiate and identify groups of people. The reading then goes on to define what ideology means in a media aspect. The media presents ideology and rasicm in many ways. Hall defnes two types of racism, “overt racism and inferential racism”. Overt racism is when people or the media openly speaks or addresses any “racist polict or view”. Inferential racism is that factual or fictional representation embedded within the plot of and media form. This is often seen in television programs and movies. Hall states that “if only the extremists on either side would go away, normal blacks and whites would be better able to get on with learning to live in harmony together”. This concept is extremely visible in Hollywood today. In every “old movie” there are the familiar stereotypical characters. The “slavefigure” is always depicted as “devoted and childlike” as well as “unrelieable, unpredictable, and undependable.” Then there  is the native, a savage beast who runs wild and free threatening the “isolated white figure”. The comedian is the third character that never has a deep meaning. Hall says, “one noticable fact about all these images is their deep ambivalence – the double vision of the white eye through which they are seen”.

 This essay makes very valid points about the racist ideologies in society today. I had never taken a moment to really see the racism that is in media all around us. Nearly every movie and novel has a character to which Stuart Hall refers to. When reading this, I was very intrigued at how much of what Stuart Hall says is real. He allows you to think about things that begin socially acceptable until you look at the deeper meaning. I now will not be able to look at a movie or book in the same light. I will forever notice the ideologies that have been created in my mind by society and the media.

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