No Bench by the Road: Monuments, Memory, and the Afterlife of Slavery
In 1989, as she reflected on her magnum opus, Beloved, Toni Morrison declared "There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves.” She went on, “There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road.” And because such a place doesn't exist . . . the book had to.” Today, there are significantly more markers of slavery in the public sphere as well as new novels, films, and television shows that directly take up the history and remnants of slavery in our lives. Looking at Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad and WGN’s TV series “The Underground,” the remaking of the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana as well as considering the debates about confederate flags and monuments in places like New Orleans, Virginia, and South Carolina, this course will examine the meaning and movements behinds these contemporary engagements with American slavery today.