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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