Friday, June 19, 2015

CHARLESTON, JUNETEENTH AND "NO MORE AUCTION BLOCK FOR ME"

by Alexander Billet

Wednesday’s abominable act of racist terrorism (and yes, we must call it terrorism) casts a strange kind of shadow over this Juneteenth. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white supremacist who opened fire on Emanuel AME -- a church of powerful symbolism to the Black community in Charleston and, to a degree, throughout the south -- chose the date of his attack to fall on the 193rd anniversary of the suppression of Denmark Vesey’s rebellion, which was planned at that same church. Clearly this violent racist gets the importance of symbolism, at least on some instinctual level. That the 150th Juneteenth -- a holiday marking the ultimate end of slavery -- falls just days afterward reveals both how much remains unfinished a century and a half later and how sick this unfinished business makes this country. How unfinished? Not too far from where Mother Emanuel is located, the Confederate flag flies on the state capitol, the very same flag that Roof had on his truck, right under the words “Confederate States of America.” That should provide all the answer we need.

For the past two years I’ve been researching the history of the gospel hymn “No More Auction Block For Me.” A hypothesis I’m working with has been that this is possibly the most influential and yet unrecognized song in American history. I could very well be proven wrong on the “most influential” front, but what seems irrefutable is that this is a song that has had a massive impact on American popular music. Its recorded origins, predictably, go back to the institution of the first Black regiments during the American Civil War. An early iteration was sung as a marching song by these same regiments. It’s very likely that there were earlier versions, possibly sung in secret by slaves themselves, but the Civil War is when the song first made itself into recorded history...


Read more at: Red Wedge Magazine

0 comments:

Post a Comment