Hello Ms Zellars,
There is obviously a deep misunderstanding between us. Perhaps, speaking off the cuff, I did not express myself clearly enough. But I reject your accusations, and as we seem to be so far apart in our understanding of the history of slavery in Quebec, I think it is pointless to continue this discussion.
On Monday night, February 16, I organized a panel that invited Frank Mackey, local historian on slavery in Montreal. His comments regarding the failures of Black Montrealers to document their own history and the distinctions between slavery in Quebec and elsewhere, as well as his insistence on the term, “the Blacks,” was stunning. I drafted this letter and sent it to him following.
Dear Mr. Mackey,
This letter begins with words of respect. Your commitment to studying and documenting Black life, history, and slavery in Quebec and Montreal, in particular, is for me, as a scholar, beautiful to witness. As I mentioned to you, I have invested many, many hours–weeks even–scouring your endnotes, sources, and re-reading sections of Done with Slavery. I have relied heavily on this book for its attention to detail and rich use of primary source materials, many of which are generously included in the book. Simply, the book is invaluable to those of us that study Black life and the history of slavery here. For this, I thank you.
On Monday night, during our panel, I spoke to you about my body, specifically how my body felt when you made comments about Black people bearing a responsibility for the erasure of Black history in Quebec. I want to remain with the body now as I write this letter, because my life’s work—both personal and academic– has shown me that my body is a perfect place to speak from, despite it knowing the boundaries of both destruction and joy.
“I argue that enslaved women entered the [Civil] War already abandoned– as outside war. Despite pro slavery narratives of Black loyalty, Black women’s resistance to slavery had already marked them as inside war…as enemies of the state. The War elaborated that position. Their flight, fight did not go unmarked as Confederate forces targeted them for torture, massacre and re-enslavement.”–Duke historian, Thavolia Glymph
I have been thinking of these words, taken from a 2011 lecture, by historian Thavolia Glymph for the last few days. Speaking, she names three Civil War battles I know little about, save for their names, their memorials, their state parks—Mark’s Mills, Goodrich’s Landing, and Miliken’s Bend. Her words depict the landscape of violence that was these famous battles between 1863 and 1864, the gratuitous color of red nothing new, in particular. I imagine, through her descriptions, the families of Black plantation women and children at Goodrich’s Landing bolted inside of cabins for the sole purpose of live incineration. In this lecture as with the bulk of her work, she sorts out Black women, names them, then speaks of the ways in which their bodies were used and disposed during these campaigns or placed intentionally on plantations by Union officials who knew well in advance that Confederate soldiers would attack those same plantations with the intentions of either killing or re-enslaving Black women who had sought asylum and safety.