Redoshi- An African-American Woman Kidnapped from Her Homeland and Forced into Marriage

Redoshi is an African woman who was brought to America against her will and forced into slavery. Researchers believe Redoshi was likely born in the 1840s in modern day Benin. At about 12 years of age, her father was killed. Redoshi was taken from her homeland and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Clotilda. The middle passage was a difficult, dangerous and traumatizing experience for the men, women and children aboard. It was typical for African men to be shackled below deck with shackles so painful that they often left welts and weighed the wearer down. Women were sometimes shackled or roped together above or below deck. Sometimes they weren’t roped. Sometimes they were raped by the crew members aboard the ship. Children were also often abused aboard ship.

After enduring the Middle Passage, Redoshi was bought by a man in Alabama where she was forced to work. Redoshi was forced into marriage as a child with an enslaved man. After emancipation, she lived with her daughter into the 1930s.

What makes Redoshi’s story unique is that she was on the last slave ship to come into the United States, she was a woman and she lived so late into the 1930s that video of her exists.

Civil rights activist, Amelia Boynton Robinson wrote a memoire about Redoshi in the 1930s. Zora Neale Hurston also researched Redoshi.

My grandmother was born in the 1920s. My grandmother would have been a teenager while Redoshi was still living. Redoshi’s life overlapped with my grandmother’s life and my grandmother’s life overlapped with mine and my mother’s. Often when people reference antebellum slavery in the United States, it’s spoken of as if it’s ancient history. Truth be told, my generation (millennials) are only a few generations removed from being legal property. In fact, my Great Aunt (who lived to be 101) remembers seeing the relatives of the family that enslaved our family in South Carolina. As a child, she didn’t understand what the connection with this white family was. It wasn’t until she was older that she understood that they were the relatives and descendants of the family that had enslaved her own. That same white family were also her cousins and Great Uncles.

Many African women who were forced to endure the Middle Passage were made voiceless, but research has revealed some of what Redoshi went through.

Many of the racial stereotypes that are pervasive today have their roots in slavery, such as the Jezebel and Mammy.

Slavery doesn’t seem so distant in this context.

 

This story came into the news recently after Dr. Durkin, a researcher, published a paper about Redoshi.

 

 

 

My 2019 Reading List

My 2019 Book List

A small end table with novels Parable of the Sower, Boys in the Boat and Wives and Daughters on it. An upside down tea cup is also on the table.

  1. How Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories-  A collection of short stories by N.K. Jeminson  “spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo Award-nominated short story ‘The City Born Great,’ a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.” More

  2. Code Girls: The Untold Story of American Women Code Breakers of World War II– A story of the American women who helped to win  WW2 by breaking codes and overcoming gender stereotypes.

  3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This book has been on my list for years. I’m going to actually read it this year. I’ve read some of Adichie’s other books and loved them. You can read a post by Abagond about Americanah. 

  4. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones–  This is a novel recommended by a friend. I will likely read it in spring or summer. “Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding.” Read more.

  5. Amy Snow by Tracy Rees- A novel about a young girl who is adopted into an aristocratic family and treated as an outsider. The story is set in the year 1831. 

  6.  Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers– A story about the history of African-American paratroopers in WW II. A photo of a giant man in 19th century attire. He towers over a city.

  7. Gulliver’s Travel- A classic story about a ship surgeon’s journey. 

  8. Rose Madder by Stephen King-The story of a young woman who leaves an abusive relationship and attempts to start fresh in a new place. She must constantly be on the lookout for her husband, a police officer, who she fears will stop at nothing to track her.

  9. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler- Another novel that’s been on my list before. “Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, war, and chronic shortages of water, gasoline, and more. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.” Read more. 

  10. The Boys in the Boat-“The improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.” Read more.

  11. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell- “When a widowed father of 17-year-old Molly Gibson decides to marry again, her life turns into chaos. Molly has to learn to live together with a bossy stepmother and uncontrollable stepsister, deal with dark family secrets, experience the ardent passion and become a victim of love intrigues.” Read more. 

  12. The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker– A novel about what it would be like if everyone went to sleep an didn’t wake up and not from death. If a mysterious sleep disease wreaked havoc, what would the world be like?

Here are the books that I read in 2018:

A young, African-American woman is sitting at a desk reading a book with a cup of tea.

  1. Brown in Baltimore: School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism – A nonfiction book about the history of de-segregating Baltimore City Public Schools, white flight into the private schools in Baltimore and how liberal, laissez-faire racial policies contributed to modern day segregation in Baltimore city. A post will be coming out soon. ****

  2. Cold Running Creek-A novel about Native and Black women who grow up in the antebellum era and must struggle through the Civil War. ****

  3. The Black Girl’s Guide to being Blissfully Feminine- A nonfiction book by Candice Smith Adewole, who is a feminine arts educator. The book explores the concepts of Black femininity and masculinity. ****

  4. Somewhere In France- A novel about a young, affluent woman of genteel background, who falls in love with a middle-class man during the Great War. They must struggle to be together, despite their difference in backgrounds and the First World War . *****

  5. Enemies in Love by Alexis Clark- A nonfiction book about a Black nurse and German POW who fall in love during WW2. They are caught between Jim Crow in the United States and Nazism in Germany and must love each other through it all.

  6. Lays in Summerland by John Willis Menard (see my blog post here)

  7. Property by Valerie Martin- A novel about a young, white plantation lady named Manon who lives in 1812 Louisianna. Her husband is a brutal, lascivious and manipulative slave owner. Manon, who is a bit self-absorbed, must deal with her husband’s brutish behavior and come to terms with her own jealousy.

  8. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard- A memoir by Jaycee Dugard, who is a childhood survivor of kidnapping, sexual abuse, and other trauma. The memoir tells the story of her experience as a prisoner of a vicious man who steals her innocence and childhood.

  9. Embarrassing Confessions of a Marine Lieutenant – A somewhat raunchy, but interesting story of a Marine officer’s experience in the military. It is mainly for the military reader. Each chapter pays homage to servicemembers who have been lost either in combat or by their own hand. It underpins a real crisis of suicide within the veteran community. It also highlights the complete gap between the civilian population’s understanding of what it can be like to be in war or even in the military and the experience of servicemembers. Years ago about 40% of young, eligible men served in the military, today it’s about 4%.  I stumbled upon this book when researching the Marine Corps.

  10. Various nonfiction, home keeping books such as At Home with Madame Chic, Complete Book of Home Organization, Complete Book of Clean, Hello Glow:150+ Easy Natural Beauty Recipes for a Fresh New You – Books mainly about cleaning, organizing and making your own cleaning and beauty products.

  11. The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman– A children’s story, which is based on the true story of Sarah Roberts, a girl who challenged segregation in Boston schools. The story is set in 1847, years before Brown vs. Board of Education. The story does an excellent job of highlighting how Sarah Robert’s case was a precursor to Brown v. Board of Education.

  12. This Is The Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson- A children’s story about the great migration. It highlights the travel of the author’s family from the American south to the north.

  13. White Like Her by Gail Lukasik – A true story about the author’s mother, who passed for white. The author grew up believing her mother was white. While researching her family’s history, she discovers that her mother was actually of an African-American background. The author goes on a journey of self-discovery and traces her family history.

Happy Kwanzaa & Merry Belated Christmas!

white christmas tree at home for blog

Happy Kwanzaa and Merry Christmas!

It’s been a while. As 2018 comes to a close, I wanted to share a poem from the book, A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories, which is a collection of  Christmas stories written by African Americans from the 19th and 20th century. The works of notable African American writers, including WEB Dubois, Langston Hughes, and Alice Moore Dunbar, are included in this book.

Historically, Christmas has not included the experiences or voices of African-Americans, which is partly why Kwanzaa came into being.   A Treasury of African American Christmas stories was compiled and edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas. It is truly a unique book, which I was gifted for Christmas. It’s a wonderful treat for any holiday, including Kwanzaa or a birthday.

The following poem is by Mary Jenness, 1920s:

A Carol of Color

“I may not sleep in Bethlehem,

Your inns would turn me back

Because, said Balthazar, unsmiling,

‘My skin is black.’

‘I may not eat in Bethlehem,

Your inns would frown me down,

Because,’ said Melchior, uncomplaining,

‘My skin is brown.’

‘Alone I ride to Bethlehem,

Alone I there alight,

Because,’ cried Gaspar, all unheeding,

‘My skin is white.’

Not one, nor two, but three they came,

To kneel at Bethlehem,

And there a brown-faced Christ-child, laughing,

Welcomed them.

For me, this poem represents inclusion and God’s unconditional love for people of all colors and backgrounds.

I think it is fitting that the second principle of Kwanzaa, is Kujichagulia, which is about self-determination and defining ourselves. How fitting that this poem defines Christ as brown-skinned and loving as the savior of all.

What does this poem mean to you?