Hyperallergic Talks Black Gotham with Founder Kamau Ware #BlackHistoryMonth
Looking forward to April for the Spring 2018 season of walking tours! Interview from Hyperallergic:
Elena Goukassian: When you were beginning the Black Gotham tours, where did you find your research materials? Which archives did you go to? What are the good books?
Kamau Ware: The first thing was just getting the contours. I started getting books right there in the Tenement Museum’s visitor center. They were hiding in plain sight. When I left the tour where the child challenged me, one of the first things I did was pick up Slavery in New York. It was my first set of essays about black people in New York going back to the 1620s. And then I got Gotham, Jill Lepore’s New York Burning, The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto, Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster.
I was seeing that in 1741, black people and a handful of Irish and English people wanted to have a revolution and change the political landscape that they lived in — prior to the Founding Fathers organizing. Then I’m hearing about black people owning land. It began to feel like this epic, unknown narrative. Not one particular set of histories, but this entire universe of information that New York City was at the epicenter of. Black people fought with George Washington. Black folks resisted the British before George Washington was even born. Black folks built the foundations of New York City before there was a New York City. They resisted slavery every moment they possibly could, and that becomes the culture of rebellion in this hemisphere.
I thought of that little girl at the Tenement after reading all those books. Where are the black people? You can’t see them. They’re in the margins. Even in a book about black people, like Slavery in New York, you’ll flip through the book and see mostly white people. The pictures of black folks are so few, especially before 1800. That has to be resolved at some point in time, because 200 years from now, you might say we never existed.
Where are the black people? We’re here. Let’s be the past. Let’s use design to make it look old and create this graphic novel, these artifacts, these assets that can even live outside the graphic novel, that tell the story. This is part of how we remember.
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