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tv   Kari Winter The Blind African Slave  CSPAN  May 31, 2022 5:30am-7:00am EDT

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like to welcome you to the third event in this year's read the revolution speakers series. i'm scott stevens and president and ceo of the museum of the american revolution right down here in old historic, philadelphia at third and chestnut streets and it is so incredible to have a live audience back together. and not only that but we are welcoming over a hundred people
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who are tuning in online and they are tuning in from alabama, georgia, kentucky, california, texas and wisconsin in addition to our usual friends along the east coast from new england all the way down to virginia this evening. so this is fabulous to be a hybrid event this evening. i'd like to start by thanking our sponsors for this evening the haverford trust company haverford trust have been. with the museum dear friends and sponsors since before the museum opened so our five-year anniversary as an institution being open to the public is april 19th of this coming year and haverford goes back even farther back than this. they've particularly been excellent partners in sponsoring to read the revolution series, which is not just the live author talks like your experiencing tonight, but by weekly email that you can sign up for with curated excerpts from books about the american revolution we have now done
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hundreds of these. so if you go to the museum's website and rev and sign up for read the revolution, you'll get a little brain food every other week now hearty thanks to two of my friends from haverford who are here tonight rob styles. who's the vice president for business development who i can't see through the lights. there. you are rob and david peppard frequent partnering crime here at the museum of the american revolution also vice president and portfol. manager so great to see you both here this evening. i'm going to for a quick commercial break now, i'd like to pitch to those of you either here tonight or those of you who are tuning on online if you can't get enough revolutionary history and can you really get enough of revolutionary history? we have during the months of march on tuesday evenings our m rev seminar every day life in the revolutionary era led by the ever affable dr. tyler putman who's actually in the back of the room seeing wave tyler.
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not only is he erudite and intelligent but a very affable fellow indeed and this will be sort of a small group experience online with readings with kind of virtual tours using virtual resources from the museum group discussions. so if you just aren't ready to go out on tuesday evenings in march as we wait to see if it'll be a lion or a lamb sign up for amrap seminar. i also want to pause to brag for a moment. you all have heard of the procedures webby awards and just this week the museum was honored with a silver level anthem award from the web east now there were yeah, so 2500 submissions from 36 countries by the way, and so that was the silver level ward and that was for our interactive experience finding freedom. and so this originated for those
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of you have been to the museum as an in gallery interactive interactive experience that explores the lives and choices of five people of african descent who lived in virginia during the tumultuous year of 1781 with support from the from the alfred m greenfield foundation we were able to put that online. it's had over half a million page views teachers are using it around the country indeed around the world and we were really really pleased to be given this very prestigious award. this was also weak when the philadelphia business journal awarded the museum a faces of philanthropy award for our partnership with comcast for our african american interpretive program. so this is for black history. on this has been a pretty good month for recognition of all the work that the museum does all months of the year.
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now finally, i'm very excited to be able to share with those of you in the audience in person and for those online you'll see some imagery of just a little tease of one of the museums newest and most exciting acquisitions. we have just brought to the museum an archive of nearly 200 original revolutionary war era documents that reflect the military service of man of african and american indian descent in the continental army. so there's a real intersection with the theme and the story that you'll be hearing about jeffrey brace this evening. in fact, there are several documents in this archive that with a little more research may actually prove to be documents that relate to this individual. so we are just in the process. of getting that collection in we plan to digitize it we plan to develop teacher resources have students learning to exercise
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their critical thinking to do research if with primary sources and again to give proper recognition to men served in the revolutionary war who helped to establish american independence, but whose lives did not include enjoying the fruits of those promises of the declaration of independence so much more to come on that on that front and so finally to get the evening kicked off, and i'm so pleased to introduce a relatively new friend of the museum perry moss who's actually joining us remotely from san francisco. now perry is the president and co-founder of a brand new internet based initiative called hip hop tv and for over two decades perry's been involved in developing new media platforms and has been a real industry pioneer in this area to celebrate an amplify hip hop culture. he's also personally very deeply inspired by and a real scholar
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in his own right of african american history. he did his undergraduate studies at san diego state university with a ba in africana studies continue to some graduate work at ucla in african-american history as well. so he's always on the look for great stories, and we've been pleased over the last couple of months to be talking with perry and his team at hip hop tv to create a kind of innovative partnership of the museum being a content provider to develop programming that will lift up some of these stories particularly people of african descent. so perry's always on the hunt for news stories, and we just sort of accidentally learn just a couple of weeks ago that he was reading the blind african slave the book that is the subject of our talk tonight. and so we really couldn't pass up the chance to welcome perry to introduce this evening's program. and so perry take it away, please. thank you scott for that great
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introduction. good evening, everyone and good afternoon for everyone who's in the midwest or on the east coast, you might see we still have some sunlight here in san francisco. um, i want to say thank you to the museum of the american revolution for this read the revolution series actually one of my colleagues in grad school was a part of the series about a year ago jessica millward. are you able to hear me? yes. fantastic and thanks for all the work you do for the for the community and in philadelphia and the greater, you know us and and audiences around the world bringing the democracy and these great stories. a to bigger audiences so as scott mentioned i've been working in hip hop for over 20
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years. he also mentioned that i went to grad school. and i originally i wanted to become a professor. i studied music and culture and the diaspora and here in the us african american culture and interesting enough slave narratives were one of my focus and i studied other slave narratives like a ellen kraft harriet jacobs, but the jeffrey brace narrative. it was usually a footnote or it was mentioned, but it wasn't red and this is the mid 90s if you're wondering when and it was about the same time that doctor winter was reading that fragile copy of the blind african slave at this special collections of the university of vermont. so personally this is all coming full circle for me, and i think it's pretty neat. now one of the programs that we have at hip hop tv that we're
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trying to get off. the ground is project 1865 to see the truth and what we do with that is we take a stories and people from the past and we use contemporary voices to bring them to contemporary audits audiences today. and that's one of the projects we're working with the museum on that scott mentioned and i think that's why they asked me to you know, introduce dr. kerry winner and i was honored and i'm excited and you know once i accepted i had to figure out well, how am i going to introduce dr. winner? i have been in academia for over 20 years and i haven't worked in a museum in over 20 years either. so i had a conversation with martha snyder from the museum. she gave me some good feedback and she suggested perry. hey focus on the work because dr. winner did incredible work to bring jeffrey braces story back to contemporary audiences and i had a i had brunch with one of my cousins cheryl samson.
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she's a historian of my family. we like to brag that we have a really big family and over 300 people at our reunions every summer and she takes the pictures the birth certificates the death certificates and everything else in between and she curates it and shares it with our family during a family reunions and personal gatherings, and it really reinforced all the work she does and it reminded me of what martha mentioned. hey focus on the work because that's really the gift that dr. kerry winter has given us and doesn't give some historical context. it also reminds reminded me of alex haley, you know all the work. he did to tell his family story and he was able to reconnect to to his family in africa, and obviously he wrote roots and it became a huge movie in the in the 80s and it also reminded me
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of the work that alice walker did to rediscovers or neil hurston, you know, she was the great writer in the harlem renaissance, but she was forgotten for 50 years and alice walker rediscovered her her grave in, florida. we discovered all her work and now she's required reading in high schools and colleges and in languages around the world. so dr. winner is an excellent company, you know her work on the blind african slave really is prodigious. from that first fragile copy that she read in the mid-90s at the special collections of the university of vermont. she began to work with other scholars other teachers. she was awarded grants to dig deeper into reintroducing or figuring out how to reintroduce jeffrey brace. she traveled to barbados london
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and libraries and collections and universities across the country and then ultimately she found a jeffrey braces family in vermont and that includes a rhonda who's on the program tonight dr. winner. she's a historian. he's a literary critic. she's a screenwriter. she's professor of american studies and the department of global gender studies at the university of buffalo. she's also served as a director of their gender studies institute. she completed her phd in english at the university of minnesota and she has a ba in english and history at indiana university. you probably know she's written books on slavery gender and history and she's published countless scholarly articles reviews keynote addresses. she's lectured across the
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country and you can tell we're really lucky to have her tonight. before i pass the mic to dr. winner know that her work really it's just not a historical body of work. it's so relevant today as we confront the disruption. with books being burned critical thought being washed away and democracy literally and figuratively under siege, so i want to conclude and hand over over everything to dr. a winner by taking one of her quotes and sharing it with you that i found on the youtube page of the university of buffalo. when we study history we often find that art is on the side of the oppressor. the focus of my research and my work as an artist. is a discover and create stories that are on the side of democracy and human liberation.
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everyone, please. join me in welcoming, dr. kerry winner. wow, thank you so much perry, and thank you so much scott and everyone hannah mike everyone who's made this visit possible? um, i've really been blown away as has rhonda and touring the museum today. it's incredibly inspiring and thank you all of you for coming both online and those of you in the room today. in this tremendously important work you're doing here at the museum. it reminded me of this quotation from the scholar robert pope harrison who observes as human beings we are born of the dead.
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of the regional ground they occupy of the languages they inhabited of the worlds they brought into being of the many institutional legal cultural and psychological legacies that through us connect them to the unborn. the central tool of enslavers and other tyrants is to attempt to sever the oppressed from their ancestors and from their descendants. for this reason oppressed people continue to be dishonored and erased in death just as they were in life. the struggle for public memory is integral to our ongoing struggle to realize the elusive dreams of the american revolution. how far we have to go can be glimpsed in the fact that according to the washington post as of october 2021 of 5,917 recorded monuments in the united
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states that mentioned the civil war. only one percent also mentioned slavery as of 2011 sorry. oh good. sorry, what's on my screen looks different than what you're seeing and that i'm not used to that. okay? as of 2011 less than eight percent of that public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the united states or of women and none of the 44 national memorials managed by the national park service specifically focuses on women and their accomplishments. museums such as this one are crucial to the process of building democracy because of the deeply researched creative and inspiring ways in which you are conveying complex truths about where we have come from and helping to light a path
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forward. so, thank you. for the past many years rhonda and i have been working with a group of descendants of 18th and 19th century anti-racist writers and activists to promote justice through public history. these remarkable women have forged connections with their ancestors in diverse ways. for example susie ryan who's a descendant of venture smith who published his life story in 1798. in connecticut, she's drawn to quilting and cooking. she tells the story. she's also traveled to west africa in connecting with her ancestors stories and right there in that picture you see one of her very small quilts, which she worked with an anthropologist to find out what was the original land that
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venture smith owned and that's a quilt representing the land in, connecticut. which the family still visits and she's the president of sisters in president of sisters and stitches joined by the cloths, which is an african-american quilting guild focused on storytelling. they also publish a cookbook and tell stories through recipes. regina mason a relentless researcher and a gifted storyteller has co-edited a book with william l andrews that's new edition of her ancestors memoir which was the first fugitive slave narrative published in 1825, and she also managed with no background in film. she managed to produce a major documentary about her ancestor and her quest to find him.
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lynn jackson a descendant of dred scott had the vision and persistence to commission and install the statue in saint louis honoring her ancestors. and has worked tirelessly to foster justice through dialogues between descendants of enslavers and descendants of the enslaved. i hope that glimpsing their work and reflecting on the life of jeffrey brace will inspire you to think about who you claim as your ancestors, and why? ralph ellison observed while one can do nothing about choosing one's relatives when ken as artists choose one's ancestors. in other words the process of creation involves choice intentionality. we state claims to the past by selecting who and what to remember to attend to to dialogue with to care about. toni morrison and her epigraph
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to beloved underscores the ethical ramifications of our choices. about who we identify with quoting romans. 9:25 morrison declares. i will call them my people which were not my people and her beloved which was not beloved. in the spirit of morrison's memorial to beloved. i invite you to remember jeffrey brace. whose birth name was barrero branch. on a sunny day in 1758. boreo is celebrated his 16th birthday by swimming and playing watersports with 13 of his friends in the nijer river. when they ascended the riverbank to head home a party of slave catchers with dogs sprang from the forest and grabbed the terrified boys. three managed to escape but the human traffickers secured the
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other 11 with ropes. gagged them and tossed them into a small boat that stank of filth and dead fish after four-day journey. they reached the atlantic ocean and transferred the boys to a large slave ship. the traders spent several more weeks gathering human cargo before the ship set sail for the british colony of barbados. over the next 50 years. barreiro branch renamed jeffrey brace survived the horrors of west indian slave breaking fought as an enslaved sailor soldier in the seven years' war endured slavery in connecticut fought in the american revolution one has manumission. married and raised a family on his own farm in vermont and joined a regional mixed-race network of anti-slavery activists. in 1810 with the assistance of a
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young white lawyer named benjamin franklin prentice and an enterprising young printer named harry whitney. he published his life story under the title the blind african slave or memoirs a bureau branch nicknamed jeffrey brace. almost 190 years later. i picked up as perry monsters said a fragile copy of the blind african slave in the special collections room at the university of vermont library, and i was riveted. i'd been studying slave narratives for over a decade and had not encountered a single mention of this extraordinary book. why i wondered memoirs by enslaved people who remembered africa are exceedingly rare. as our first person accounts a black soldiers in the american revolution of the autobiographical narratives in english recording the experiences of enslaved people before 1810. only one alluda.
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equiano's is longer than jeffrey braces. how can we account for the disappearance of the blind african slave? in the past 25 years, i've traveled far and wide and an attempt to learn more about jeffrey brace and his world. i've come to believe that his story conveys central truths about american history. that should be integral to our self-understanding. born around 1492 to a highly respected family in the region of west africa that is now called molly but roy branches captured by slave traders through him into the ranks of millions of africans were violently severed from their families cultures and indeed their entire known world. and the voyage to barbados braves bore witness to men who showed no vestige of kindness compassion or morality. men who tortured starved and murdered children as well as adults. sexual abuse was ubiquitous
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brace observes the captain and many of the officers made choice of such as the young women as they chose to sleep with them and introduce them into their several apartments. he continues to add to the horror of the scene the sailors who were not provided with mistresses would force the women before the eyes of their husbands. sexual violence was defining element of the trade a practice that white officers sailors buyers and sellers saw as a major benefit to their participation in slavery and a tool that they used to subjugate and and terrorize the people they enslaved. conditions were so horrific that as brace tells us many enslaved people died from disease mourned themselves to death or starved. he says many of the children actually died from hunger. grief depression and ptsd were leading contributors to slave
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mortality isaac wilson a surgeon aboard an 18th century slave ship that lost 155 of 602 enslaved people during the middle passage. was persuaded that two-thirds of the deaths resulted from melancholy. closer to africa than any other west indian island barbados was a central hub. in the transit in the burgeoning transatlantic economy and the first part of call for many english slave ships. seen by english monarchs as the brightest jewel in our crown of trade the island sparkled like an emerald set in blazing white sands against the aquamarine caribbean sea, but it's economic engine was violence exploitation and death. when the traumatized young boreiro brinch arrived, he and his fellow slaves were removed from the slave ship and imprisoned in what he calls a large prison or rather house of subjection where they were
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beaten and starved until all began to be subdued and to work according to strength and abilities. among other atrocities brace recalls a slave driver who responded to a young girl's attempts to protect her six-year-old brother by whipping the girl to death in front of her brother's eyes. after she died the driver turned on brace and with a large tard rope gave me about 50 stripes which cut whales in every part of my body. brace also notes that sailors continued to rape enslaved women in bridgetown as they had done a board ship in a manner that terrorized the witnesses as well as the women in presence of all the assembly he says fathers and mothers were eyewitnesses to their daughters being despoiled husbands beheld their wives in the hands of the beastly destroyers children bore witness of the brutality practice upon their mothers.
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in addition to committing rapes themselves in slaver's profited financially from enabling other men to commit rape both male and female slaveholders, encourage the prostitutions of the women they enslaved after about three months in the slave breaking prison. i'm just going to take a moment there to show you some slides. it is really powerful. this is from the public records office in london. it is really powerful to these are the original ports from the logs from the port of the the town of bridgetown where you have the commanders name. these are the slave ships and the number of slaves that are on the onboard on ship and they are the numbers go up to 600 and 2 in are as small as to here's another list. you can see barbados.
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treasury return of new -- imported from the 9th of may 1757 to 9th of may 1750 eight and then you can see on the numbers so brace believes that there were about 300 survivors on his ship. there were many artistic representations of the violence contemporaneous representations of the violence aboard ship. and this is a record that shows just the casualty of what we call the the triangular trade from africa. we import -- to the northern colonies. we export rum etc in return from, maryland, virginia, pennsylvania etc. what all the different products and human beings are just included as a product along with the others.
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so, this is bridgetown. i was just saying to mike one of the astonishing things i discovered in this research. it just really blew me away and forced me to reorient in my understanding of the world in the 18th century is that bridgetown was a much more important port for the british empire in the 18th century than any of the cities that we consider so important like, new york philadelphia boston. it was a really major transatlantic hub at the time. okay, so after about three months in the slave breaking prison brace was sold to a connecticut ship captain named isaac mills whose 44 gun frigate was engaged by the british navy for the duration of the seven years war many of you will have seen a 44-gun frigate because this is what it it looks like the us constitution. because brays had not yet
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learned english mills placed him in the charge of a british officer who trained enslaved africans and military discipline by using a rudimentary sign language. within two or three months brace found himself thrust into naval skirmishes with with the spanish and french vessels the british navy relied heavily on black labor in some naval yards. the majority of laborers were black and all of the colonial european powers viewed black soldiers and sailors as essential to their military and commercial ambitions. in part because of the high mortality rate of white sailors. the seven years' war which was also called the french and indian war was in many ways. the first world war that is to say a global struggle between european powers who are vying for control of colonies around the world. the central rivalry was between
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france and england, but in 1762 the spanish allied with the french. during the last three years of the war the period in which brace was impressed and to service the british shifted their military effort to the west indies laying siege to martinique, guadeloupe and havana. awed by the spectacle of enormous navies brace bore witness to the english capture of havana in the summer of 1762. a strategic port essential to the spanish power in the caribbean havana was more strongly fortified than any other port in the americas. the british planned to attack it with the seaborne army of more than 20,000 men including at least 500 free black men and 2000 enslaved men from jamaica. thus brace joined thousands of african men impressed into military service. early in 1762 captain mills
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vessel lost sight of the guide ship in a fog and was fired upon by a spanish vessel. during the ensuing battle braced received five wounds and in the eyes of his showed great courage. after towing the captured spanish vessel to savannah, georgia mills sailed again for havana where the british assault began on june 8th after a horrific siege in which hundreds of soldiers died from combat while thousands died from heat yellow fever malaria gastrointestinal disorders and scarcity of drinking water the spanish commandant formally surrendered on august 14th. after the war captain mills returned to commerce sailing with his crew to dublin, ireland and to many north american ports including halifax, nova scotia, saint augustine, florida, new york city, newport, rhode island and boston, massachusetts. thus jeffrey brace became
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through no choice of his own a world traveler and cultural hybrid. he liked boston where he was allowed to rest for about two months while recovering from multiple wounds. he encountered a community of in his words free african descendants who appeared to be well contented in their situation. they showered him with questions and attention and brace found himself extremely anxious to remain in boston. a hub of both the slave trade and anti-slavery agitation boston had a significant black and brown community that included many intellectually and politically active freed women and men. as well as slaves and fugitives brace may have met many impressive bostonians. this is kind of how boston harbor looked at the time. boston market praise may have
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met many impressive black bostonians including a young girl named phyllis who had been sold at the age of eight to john wheatley about a year before braces arrival. we wheatley was a prominent merchant and taylor whose clientele included the wealthiest man in boston, john hancock who is also a slaveholder phillis. wheatley likely likely helped. so hancock's posh clothes so this is a portrait of him. this is his wife and this is a portrait we have of phyllis wheatley who as you know becomes one of the mothers of african-american literature. in jeffrey bolsters brilliant work on titled blackjacks african-american -- in the age of sail. he has a portrait of how some
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black soldier about black sailors looked brace refers twice to his the close. he was given and he probably his clothes probably looked more like this. he says captain mills clothed him in a sailor's jacket and killed and a new white shirt. he had no shoes. although breastly wanted to remain in boston and fall 1763 captain mills transported him to new haven connecticut and sold him to a yankee puritan from milford. mills's hometown compared to the bustling international ports bracelet visited new haven was a small conservative town on long island sound the village proper was organized around the town green where brace would have seen three churches for yale college buildings a courthouse jail and grammar school the population of new england was only about 2% black whereas
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barbados was 85% black. all of new england colonies legalized slavery between the years 1641, massachusetts and 1714 new hampshire codifying it as an inherited racial status, although impoverished white locals and immigrants were routinely i'm sorry, although slavery did not flourish in new england the way it did in southern colonies impoverished white locals and immigrants were routinely sold into indentured servitude and africans into slavery in new haven a typical announcement. in the connecticut gazette stated samuel willis of middletown will sell several african boys and girls the lack of denigrating language in the simple announcement that boys and girls were for sale testifies to a society well-versed in the exploitation of children as well as africans. in the months following braces arrival the connecticut gazette
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announced the sale of quote a likely -- wench and child on june 15 1763 the binding out of poor white adults and children on july 4th, 1763 and the sale of quote a parcel of irish servants just imported from dublin both men and women to be sold cheap. as if historian robert cultural observes racial distinctions in america racial distinctions and colonial america were less pronounced than they would become this was not because early america had a high regard for black bondsman, but rather because many whites were also in bondage. recruited from the british lower classes frequently the irish whites held in various forms of servitude often lived lives that were little different from those of the black slaves indentured servants apprentices and --
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worked at the same occupations. that slaves did were sold. on the on auction blocks alongside imported africans and were flogged and maimed for many of the same offenses for which blacks were punished. newspapers in colonial america often cared carried advertisements for both runaway blacks and runaway whites wives and sons were also frequent runaways from the severe violence of the patriarchal family structure. in connecticut brace encountered white attitudes that ranged from pro-slavery to abolitionist and from rapidly racist to mildly egalitarian. he describes in a plain-spoken manner the sadistic treatment. he received received at the hands of yankees. suffering from multiple wounds sustained in battle enduring work brace was sold by captain mills to john burwell of milford
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a village on the long island sound built on meadows and woodlands taken from the pudetuck's pogacets pequotes and other native peoples. the land was fertile game was plentiful and the sound in the east river abounded with clams oysters blue crabs lobsters and many varieties of fish. at the time of braces arrival in a frosty october milford featured two churches. this is a rendering of one of them it still stands. so the town featured two churches three taverns two small church run libraries and four schools as well as many houses and businesses. shipbuilding was an important industry many ocean-going vessels including slave ships were built in milford shipyards, which were located on a well
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protected harbor that was navigable for the good size vessels which tied up at the wharf to load an unload milford merchants prospered by exchanging horses cattle pork beef mutton flower cornmeal and furs obtained in the indian trade for sugar ramen molasses from the west indies manufactured goods from england and wines from france. almost one in ten residents of milford was enslaved. although the overwhelming majority of connecticut residents over 95% were not slave owners at any given time 70% of connecticut's wealthy merchants owned slaves in the 18th century as did 1550 percent of wealthy farmers justices officers captains deputies ministers and deacons in short slavery was created by and for
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the ruling class the same elite that exploited the labor of white indentured servants. in the household of john burwell brace was forced to sleep on a bear hearth without so much as a blanket encountering snow for the first time. he had nothing to wear but his thin linen jacket and sailors killed given no shoes. he was forced to work outdoors and bare feet the wounds. he had received at sea broke out newly and he almost perished with cold and hunger. bruce describes burwell as a professed puritan who would read the bible and pray both at night and morning for all mankind while starving beating and torturing the many held in bondage. braces juxtaposition a burwell's religious piety with his savage and humanity anticipates the motif of christian hypocrisy that would become central to the antebellum slave narrative the congregational church to which
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the burwell family belonged was the colonies official church. and as such a collected taxes from all taxpayers regardless of their religious persuasion. like whites blacks in the 18th century, connecticut were required to attend church in most churches the seating and the church reflected the social hierarchy the social elite occupied the most prominent seats being the lowest in social rank blacks were assigned to the -- corners or -- pews. which were set in the back or in balconies? burwell abused brace so horrifically that one of his own relatives captain samuel eels told burwell that such abuse was in human and unchristian eels was so outraged that he rescued brace and brought him to his own home where he nursed him back to health. but as soon as brace was able to work again, he was sold again this time to peter pruden another zetus who whipped him
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for crying at night. brace found himself past from one exceedingly cruel milford master to another until september 1768 when he was purchased by widow mary's styles of woodbury a nearby town in the two brief paragraphs that braced devotes to the 16 years. he was enslaved by the stiles family. he asserts that the years he spent with mary's styles were quote a glorious era in my life as widow styles was one of the finest women in the world. she possessed every christian virtue. mary styles one has affection by teaching him to read helping him improve his english-speaking skills and treating him with the modicum of grandmotherly affection. the southbury this is a signature from harry styles the southbury parish where mary styles lived in proximity to her children and grandchildren with
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situated in a hilly-fertile landscape the main street built over built over an old indian trail featured a congregational church of school some stores and so on. the styles home property outlined by a stone fence was a cross the street from a cemetery built over an ancient prototuck burial ground. braces recollections of his life with mary styles suggests that like most enslaved people in new england. he was largely confined to the family's circle of domesticity agriculture and aaron's in woodbury brace lived in near dozens of people of african descent. white people often pretended that indians had vanished, but in fact several pudetuck families were neighbors of mary styles. racist laws required all blacks and slaved or free to carry a pass from the authorities or when they left home. blacks in indians were banned
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from engaging in trade or huckstering. economic activities that enabled some free people of color to claim a meager share in the in places like barbados. slaves in connecticut were subjected to a nine o'clock curfew and could be publicly whipped if they were convicted of being in the street with without special permits from their masters or mistresses. it was illegal for white families to entertain blacks milados or indians unless they were sent on business. you can see here the undermining of any kind of solidarity and friendship. a cross raised racial lines furthermore licensed shopkeepers and tavern keepers were forbidden to entertain quote any man's sons apprentices servants or -- with any drink without special order or allowance from respective parents or masters? if people of color were
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convicted of a crime, they received punishments exceeding those given to whites for example, when convicted for selling or receiving stolen property whites received 20 lashes or blacks received 30 braces memoir suggests that what he valued most during his woodbury years was mary stiles determination to educate him. she sent him to the local school along with her grandchildren, but the school master reacted to brace with hostility and violence the scene took an unusual twist when braced decided not to accept a whipping and walked out instead of sitting down. he tells us i had expected he would follow me and had determined in my own mind to give him a whipping as i verily believed the task would be easy. anger prompted me to this determination, but he did not follow me. a tall muscular young man braced apparently intimidated the schoolmaster in narrating.
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the scene brace assumes intellectual and moral as well as physical superiority. noting quote prudence kept him from following. me and vengeance melted me into pity for i pity his want of discernment and us judgment despite this triumph of sorts brace was so overcome with disappointment and pain that he sat down and wept he may have been familiar with one of the most outrageous pieces of racist legislation in connecticut. the 1708 defamation act which stated if any -- or mulatto servant or slave disturbed the peace. or shall offer to strike any white person and be there of convicted such -- or mulatto servant or slave shall be punished by whipping. in 1730 this law was strengthened. to make it illegal for any blacks mulatto's or indians to utter publishers speak actionable words. thus white people could taunt
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insult threaten an attack black people and indians with impunity knowing that any black or indian person who defended him or herself risked violent punishment at the hands of so-called justice. brace was comforted when widow styles decided to teach him herself. part of a significant minority of christian mistresses who were willing to break social convention and even the law in order to teach enslaved people to read mary styles saw it as her religious duty to enable her slave to read the bible. the congregational church expected women to remain silent in church and forbade them to preach. this teaching brace and discussing theology with him gave mary a true a rare opportunity to exercise her intelligence and display her knowledge. brace observes she was into fatiguable until i could read in the bible and expound the scriptures.
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after mary's death in 1773 braced descended like real estate to her son benjamin. she probably had little control over this inheritance because unless she had obtained a prenuptial agreement, which was extremely rare in those days a wife could neither own nor acquire property nor could she enter into a contract or write a will thus brace was forced to enter a new period of enslavement in the household of benjamin and ruth styles and their nine. children. benjamin styles was a lawyer and legislator who served several several terms as representative woodbury in connecticut's general assembly. in 1774 styles is reputation began to falter. i'm not going to go to into all the ideas. but basically he was suspected of both corruption and tory sympathies. but as as the sentiment towards the revolution began to build in
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1777 two of benjamin styles's sons nathan and david ages 18 and 26 enlisted in the continental army and jeffrey brace joined them. he was not slow to recognize the irony of fighting for american freedom. quote. i also entered the banners of freedom alas poor african slave to liberate free men my tyrants. in this observation brace highlights the fact that all not all definitions of freedom were created equal. the harvard sociologist orlando patterson who has written monumental studies of the constituent elements of both slavery and freedom as they evolved over millennia and civilizations around the globe has demonstrated that concepts of freedom emerged historically in a closed dialectical relationship with slavery in the late 18th century the authors of
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our most cherished documents failed to extricate their revolutionary values of freedom equality and democracy from their economic ideological and emotional reliance upon racialized patriarchal structures of slavery. we continue to witness the undermining of democracy today in the ways of the term freedom is deployed to justify the perpetuation of misogyny racism and rapacious economics. patterson observes that freedom has three central definitions personal freedom involves the ability to pursue one's desires without version or restraint but within the limits of other persons desire to do the same. survive sobrinal freedom is the power to act as one pleases regardless of the wishes of others. this is the definition that the founders attacked and if you saw the exhibit where king george
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statures being toppled, that's why they didn't like this idea of freedom the saw vrinal freedom the freedom of the sovereign do whatever he wanted. in the declaration of independence, they came out in complete opposition to that. to that notion so our founding documents assertive vision of civic freedom, which is the capacity of adult members of a community to participate in its life in governance a person feels free in this sense to the degree that he or she belongs to the community has a recognized place in it and is involved in some way in the way. it is governed the existence of civic freedom implies a political community of some sort with clearly defined rights and obligations for every citizen. we must reject the reduction of freedom to subrinal notions that
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narcissistic elites nations states and transnational corporations have the right to do as they please regardless of the harms. they inflict on other humans and indeed the earth itself. but to return to the story, which i don't have a whole lot left african american soldiers sailors laborers spies and guides played a significant role in the revolutionary war comprising possibly as much as 25% of george washington's army. they enlisted for a variety of reasons. the motives of free blacks arranged from economic necessity to political conviction and desire for adventure enslaved men were motivated primarily by promises of manumission some black men were hired or forced to serve as substitutes for their masters or other white men. during and after the war their fates varied widely. a contemporary observer noted a
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blank space is left on historical markers between black soldiers and white. in genuine keeping with the -- pew distinction setting them not only below all the others but by themselves even after that and it is difficult to say why they were not the last and fight. historical records indicate that 25 enslaved men from woodbury enlisted at various periods of the war and made good soldiers. again. this is a quote from a contemporary source fighting valiantly for the liberties of the country. many enslaved men from milford and other towns throughout new england also enlisted. brace spent most of the war and racially integrated. units but he may have spent there were some black and people of color units where he might have spent time while he remained in service for five
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years benjamin style's sons nathan and david performed cursory duty. they arrived in camp together on august 16th, 1777 and entered captain amos. hickok's company in the 13th regiment of militia from the state of connecticut commanded by benjamin hinman esquire. captain hickok was there cousin and colonel hinman was their uncle which may explain why their military service amounted to the nearest token nathan was discharged after only 29 days which included 10 days for travel and david was discharged after one month and seven days which included 10 days for travel. bruce did not serve alongside the stiles boys rather. he served as a private in various companies of infantry for the duration of the war. in contrast to his somber and even awestruck treatment of the seven years' war braces representation of the revolution is irreverent and sometimes even comic tongue in cheek. he describes an occasion when he
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pulled the wool over the eyes of his commanding officer colonel return jonathan miggs brace recalls that a group of soldiers left by led by samuel shaw a brave soldier but as complete a petty thief as ever graced a camp. stole a pig from a tory farmer the hostility between the patriots are wigs and loyalists sartorius randeep. most of the tories were from the upper class and most of the and they often saw the the patriots as rabble. sean is buddy's brought the stolen pig back to camp in the tory farmer came looking for it furious about the theft colonel miggs question the troops to find out how they obtain the pig brace claimed that the owner had bought it for sale, but the soldiers suspected of him of being a tory spy, and so they determined to keep the pig until the officers could question him. he relates my fellow soldiers were glad of the opportunity of confirming the truth of my
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assertion, which completely satisfied the colonel of our innocence. in addition to to showcasing braces sense of humor this incident reveals a sense of camaraderie. he felt with his fellow soldiers. in the summer of 1783 brace was given an honorable discharge with a badge of merit. samuel c. booge lieutenant who knew him later sworn in deposition that quote jeffrey brace was a faithful soldier and there was no better soldier in the army. brace returned to woodbury where i lived with benjamin styles for one more year until styles finally consented that he might go where he pleased and seek his fortune hundreds of white folk from connecticut were heading to vermont and brace joined them having heard flattering accounts of the new state the flattering accounts included the fact that vermont was the first state to
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abolish slavery, which it didn't in 1777 constitution. from a white perspective vermont was a frontier wilderness, but brace found it rich in promise. and i just i i do have a few more pages, but i want to get to rhonda and the conversation so maybe i'll just try to be a little quick here. well working at a tavern indoor set saving to start saving money to start a farm jeffrey met an african widow named susanna dublin. and who he says possessed a reciprocal of horns to slavery when she agreed to marry him brace was thrilled by the supreme joy of being united to a virtuous patient loving and prudent woman so late in his life. he was in his early 40s. through hard work and persistent
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persistence jeffrey and susanna achieved many successes, but they also suffered tremendously the most horrific thing that happened to them is too powerful white people forced suzanne's children into indentured servitude. and they jeffrey and susanna were not able to prevent that from happening in my introduction of the book i go into a lot more detail. anyway, they started a farm in southern vermont. and after seven years of harassment from a racist neighbor, they ended up needing to sell and on the when once the races neighbor threatened to indenture their own the children. they had together embrace said over my dead body and they sold their farm and moved to northern vermont and started over. things started going well for them. they were able to buy another
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farm and started they at this point they had an extended family including adults. they had their in 1804. they had their first grandson, but then in 1807 suzanna suddenly got ill and died 11 days later, which is a severe blow. so jeffrey said short was the warning but heavy the blow. i was left without an earthly companion to linger out the remainder of my days, but he did not give up. despite suffering from blindness age and poverty braced through himself into anti-slavery activism in his late 60s. he narrated his life story to benjamin prentice a white anti-slavery lawyer brace explains his determination to narrate his story as a rising primarily out of his sense of my
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duty to myself to all africans who can read to the church in short to all mankind. to thus publish these my memoirs that all may see how poor africans have been and perhaps now are abused by a christian and enlightened people. um, so he the book was really extraordinary the first and and it was the first book ever published in the small town of saint albans vermont near the canadian border and not many books have published there since but it it had a big impact, but it didn't sell much so he was still really financially struggling. there was a surprising number however of african-american activists and preachers in vermont. so in 1852 a black church elder named beautifully john lewis described brother jeffrey brace
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as a man of remarkable influence and a bible scholar whose influence helped to revolutionize the public sentiment of the state against the abomination of american slavery and to destroy prejudice against color. by the mid-19th century vermont became the most anti-slavery state in the union and john lewis asserted. i am acquainted with several brethren and whose hearts were planted the seeds of abolitionism by the simple tale of that man's wrongs inflicted inflicted by the cruel slave power. in the laden his life brace the congress passed an act to provide pensions for surviving soldiers from the revolution and raise applied for one and it took three years, but eventually he did obtain it and he was given the pension with the rears
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which totaled 328 in arrears, which was a lot of money then so that was enough to make the last six years of his life materially comfortable. jeffrey brace died in georgia vermont on april 20th 1827 he was memorialized in his old town of pulteney where the local newspaper who had an apprent a young teenage apprentice named horace greeley. published a long obituary probably written by horace greely praising praises mental powers and the powers of his memory. by mid-century the power of braces memory had achieved legendary status within vermont's abolitionist community. john w lewis asserted that braces noble pious character had a powerful influence on the public mind in vermont.
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he had a powerful and wonderful memory and although for many years during the latter part of his life. he was perfectly blind. he had the bible so completely committed to his memory that he could repeat it chapter and verse from genesis to revelations. with an accuracy truly astonishing it has been said of him that if the bible was lost and not a copy to be found on earth if a good writer would sit down with him. he could repeat it from memory so that a complete copy could again be produced. he goes on like that and concludes brother. jeffrey brace in life was useful and in death was happy. it may truly be said of him. his record is on high. fortunately for us his record is also on earth. both in the form of his precious memoir and in the lives of his physical and spiritual descendants.
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the story continues with them four great-grandsons survived. jeffrey s brace moved to springfield, massachusetts where his descendants still live including rhonda? this is his gravestone in saint albans, vermont. peter grant peter brace fought for the union during the civil war in the first black regiment the massachusetts 54th. he survived the war and lived until 1913. wyren brace was named after his african great-grandfather. wyron, and he married ellen day and abanaki woman who loved to garden. after they divorced ellen day married the youngest brace brother ethan and the man on the
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right there. -- francis is a descendant of ellen day who he remembered and from whom he inherited his love of of gardening. so and on the left is tina saint francis brace from the saint saint francis band of avanakis who's married to jim brace who's like the age of rhonda and i so the braces have intermarried with abinakis for probably 200 years. this is a photo from the 1970s a portrait of the braces the brace family that still insane opens jim who i just mentioned is the second on the from the left on the top. but you can see well, i don't know if you can see in the photo, but they range like from blonde and blue-eyed to quite dark. it's a it's i just feel like this is the american family is how i think of this.
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um, but despite the fact that they are sons and daughters of the american revolution when leo brace joined the american army in in world war two he had to fight in a racially segregated. unit in 2008 60 descendants of the braves family gathered from around new england. for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring their ancestor near the near the site of the brace farm in. in southern vermont and the brace family also has produced other kinds of patriots. oh, this is rhonda's nephew ron who unfortunately died at the age of 29, but he was in the new england patriots so i would say
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that this story of recounted today is a story of one american family, but it is also the story of the united states and of the modern world. i was walking down the street in prague. czech republic and i was astounded to come across this statue of over 200 years old depicting african men in chains upholding the foundation. it is now the romanian embassy in prague, and there's no commentary. about the horror of this image. and so i just just really want to emphasize. this is not just an american story. this is a story of the modern world and the modern economy.
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this is rhonda's brother on the left. ronald jeffrey brace the second he's the father of ron brace. he was in the new england patriots and jeffrey brace. jeffrey sylvester brace the third this is a name that stayed in the family since long before they have renew anything about the memoir. this is jeffrey brace her uncle and his son jeffrey brace. her uncle jeffrey is that we know that the original progenitor. was six foot three. and so her uncle i think looks a lot like the original jeffrey brace most likely worked lit looked and one of the most spiritual powerful moments in my life was when i met him after the book came out and they
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invited me and when we shook hands on honestly felt like a bolt of lightning coming through. so that is the end of what i could i honestly i started i was 60 pages and tried to cut it down, but i could talk to you easily for hours because there's so much i want everybody to know about this story. but thank you so much for listening. so rhonda brace is going to join me and scott for conversation with you all. gray car feel like i have to let
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that story sort of. rest for a minute rest indeed i think we're on okay. awesome. awesome. i first can i say something first? i am certainly like to thank kari so much it is because of her that we have our history. she spent a lot of time a lot of hours and she continues to be passionate about the jeffrey brace story, and i'm so glad that we connected and that we have the opportunity to just continue the legacy continue the story and make sure because it is because as she said, it's not only in american history. it's an international story. it's all of our legacy and i think that is very important for all of us to embrace it. i also want to mention that last picture with my uncle and his son. that was also the road that lead led to where jeffrey brace homestead. the original would have been in
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hope vermont. so we had the opportunity to make that check there. there are so many. remarkable moments in the story of just bringing the story to life and one of the things that i reflect on a lot kari is when when you've were started working on trying to edit and annotate and research this there were two known copies of this memoir so thinking and i think now there are four known copies how close the story came to being lost completely. yeah, and this is not a story. we're under you grew up knowing can you say a little bit about what what you all knew and then what we filled in afterwards certainly, i didn't know that my family came from saint albans, vermont. always when people asked my
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father where my where my father's family was from where were the braces from? oh, we're from vermont and folks are like blacks and vermont. yes blacks in vermont. that's where my father this family came from. we had no idea or even history we had no bibles with his history family lineage any sorts. the only thing we had mirror certificates birth certificates of jeffrey sylvester brace the great grandson of the jeffrey that was speaking of who was also my grandfather. my grandfather was jeffrey sylvester brace of and he was his his grandfather. so we had a record. indicating his birth marriage certificates things of that nature and do that. it was saint albans vermont that our family originated from but it wasn't until maybe 2004 or five the same uncle jeffrey brace. a friend of his provided an
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article from the rutland herald newspaper that spoke of a professor who had done some research on a book in this special collection section of the library. and in reading that article my uncle knew that my dad and him had very great conversations. just wondering about their lineage. and because of his name being in that paper, that's why the general man brought the paper to him because he said you have to look at this and you know my uncle's like oh, i read it later. you know that kind of thing and he ended up reading it thought it was comical brought it to my dad. you know, my father they would call my father babe. hey, babe, i want you to take a look at this. and he's cracking up thinking it's hilarious thinking it's funny and my father reads it it interesting, but the beauty of it. all is that my father had been. praying to learn more about his family lineage. and so when this came across and then i took the paper, you know,
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they're just reading it and i'm saying to myself i read it. and i said jeffrey bates. well i said that's a family name. it's been going for generations generations. and also say almonds vermont stay all business vermont is where i know that our family came from i says too much of a coincidence and i thought about the documents that we had with dates on them and reading some of the dates with kari as far as jeffrey brace. i said, you know, it's just too coincidental. i think we're just missing a couple of generations, but i'm gonna make an attempt and i looked up her her information. i contacted the kari. and i gave her the lineage that i had. and she in turn replied and told me indeed that jeffrey brace was my descendant. she was able to give me the two missing links of the two generations that i would that i was missing.
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the other phenomenal mention about that is when i contacted kari. i left a message for her. she called me back to say. you know, this is kari winters indeed. this is your these you are a descendant of jeffrey brace and my extension number is 12:27. 12:27 is my birthday. and then come to find out that curry's birthday is actually the date of when the original memoir was published. and they have that right right. so, you know it just i just like connecting those kind of dots. i got any numbers for the powerball tonight. 10 15 12 so i know and we're gonna invite you all in the audience and those online to ask a few questions well, but i i would love to hear the story of
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your family field trip to connecticut. so i had the opportunity. you heard kari mentioned mary styles, and i had to opportunity to be in contact with benjamin styles who is a descendant of mary styles. and in that conversation or hit my contact with him the i think the first time i contacted him and i questioned whether or not we could meet and at that time at that time his mom was not doing well. but anyways, we end up connecting again had the opportunity to take a trip to what is now southbury. he just was woodbury at the time but southbury when we went in 2013 i met ben styles, he and i talked he wondered if i had papers or information. i wondered if he had papers and information neither one of us had anything but the unique
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experience about that journey is his wife said, you know, then why don't you take them. down to the seller and so my mom wouldn't go but my dad and i went down there. and what is known is that that was in this cellar with a quarters where jeffrey brace would have been as a slave? so i my dad and i as we're walking down the stairs. very eerie. dank smell to us. you can see the fireplace had the cast iron. pans from cooking and we just kind of surveyed and went around the rooms, but you could almost seem like you could feel. the presence of jeffrey brace the floor is with the same rickety floors. and as we it was just an eerie feeling and the only thing i regret is not having a video camera with me at the time to be
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able to take video of it, but i did have the opportunity to take some pictures in one day. i hope to i hope to show those pictures we came back upstairs and happened to. walk back into the kitchen and look back into a room and saw an elderly woman sitting there which was the current bin styles mother, but it just put me into the mind of a mary styles. and just the whole experience just made me think about wow, first of all the greatness of her mary styles taking the time. to make sure that jeffrey learned was able to read was able to write how phenomenal was that and and then just to be in the presence of where he wants. a ladies head so currently now that that particular location is
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they sell maple syrup and christmas trees at the time we were there so, but it was a wonderful experience. i'm hoping to make my way back there again. i try to get a charter a bus trip for the family, but they were ready for that. so thank you. thank you. yes. good good evening, everyone. so we're so delighted to have such a tremendous talk tonight. we're a little short on time, but everyone in the room has the great advantage of being able to engage with kari and rhonda over the book signing table. so we're going to throw just one question to our friends on zoom and then scott's going to get the last one, but we all have all night to hang out and talk here in in real life the museum. i just wanted to give a quick shout out. we've got some great genealogical. love coming in through our online guests a lot of descendants of the brace family. we have denise dennis online who i understand you guys. got to see gershon prince's powderhorn denise is a
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descendant of gershon prince kathy, overton is online who is a descendant of a different member of the sixth, connecticut and african american soldier who served alongside jeffrey grace so really exciting reunion in the room and on the internet and i think the question we'd like to ask of both of you kari and rhonda this book is been out for about a decade and a half. it's been published. years ago, so do you care to offer any reflections on how the conversations you've had with students with researchers with family have evolved and changed in the last 15 years. you know for me, i i think back to the experience that we had of going to oxford. and being part of being part of a conference where that was the first time slave narratives were discussed to myself kari and regina mason were there and i think for that to occur.
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i thought was a phenomenal. feat because it was the first type of conference that we were featured there, but not only that it helped to broaden the knowledge of jeffrey brace across. in england, so i thought that was phenomenal. i know kari works a lot with students. and i'm certainly sure that. you know that her experience she has some experience as far as the students were concerned with that. there was really a phenomenal rhonda and regina mason are really phenomenal. that was a that unique thing about that conference at oxford university was that it brought scholars from all around the world and who also we're studying slavery in countries different historical contexts. um the most impressive comment i thought was there was a woman from nigeria who was studying slavery and she came up
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afterwards and said to rhonda and gina it never occurred to me that people could be proud of their enslaved ancestors. i'm like wow that but anyway, they were they were incredibly powerful. i would say that. the the story has never seemed more relevant that it's then it seems today the urgency of studying african-american history is so powerfully present. i've i've continued doing research. i've i've published more articles going into more depth about the different asks like about his experiences in barbados his experiences in connecticut in vermont and so on but currently i'm working on i'm
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hoping to have a four-part. tv program about his life because i really wanted to get a larger audience in the public. so i've been working on that for a while and the other thing that ronda and i both been working on is to create a network. that is focused on like to me. it's so powerful that the descendants of 18th and 19th century african american activists and authors are still alive. it just brings the history. so close and so, you know and just to see the activism generation to generation. so i've been doing a lot of work under what i would call reclaiming our ancestors and gina calls it inspired by courage to really showcase the work and the continuity of history the way as faulkner said
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the past is not dead and gone. it's not even past. so i guess that those are a few thoughts in response to that question. and i'm not sure from i just want to share this also because oftentimes for me. i know i was surprised at that find out that they were slavery in new england we often think about the enslaved being from southern states, you know, my mother came from alabama, but i don't know of any of her family who were enslaved but the whole thought of slavery for me was one that i always thought about was in the south or never in the new england area. so this when when this piece of work was introduced it also introduced to me the idea that or the knowledge that there is slavery in new england and we often hear the term of you know
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being african american and me as a young person two things. first of all, i'd never liked history. so when i was in high school, that was not my great subject we fixed year right? you fixed me. yes, i mean because you think about it you talked they talked about the revolution the civil war i didn't see myself any of that or any of those things so i didn't have any interest in it. and then the thought that here i am now faced with someone and members of my family. i learned more than jeffrey brace who have fought in. these wars. it makes sense for us to grasp onto we should never be ashamed of our history. we should never be ashamed of who shoulders we stand on. we should never be ashamed of we should be embrace it and we should share it because knowledge is power and the more we know the more we take a hold of it in the more we move forward ourselves. so i don't think that we should
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ever just let it die. but let it continue on. and rhonda those are the final words tonight. i'm not going to disneyland. thank you. thank you very much.
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