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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HipHops' "Peculiar Institution"


HipHops' "Peculiar Institution" That Doesn't Honor Kenneth Stampps' Passing

July 21, 2009

On July 10, 2009 we lost another great Civil Rights leader and historian, Kenneth Stampp. The author of "The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South," a book - one of it's kind in 1956 because it was written by a white academic - who successfully challenged the paternalistic views of slavery that had prevailed for the previous 100 years. Such stereotypes as the smiling-happy mammy, faithful Uncle Tom, and the benevolent plantation masters, just to name a few.
He changed the way slaves were viewed and discussed in books. He showed that slavery was in fact the "most profound and vexatious social problem" in America. This book coupled with the social climate of America in the late 1950s, forced into America's classroom the removal of the happy-go-luck lies taught of the docile slaves and loving masters. It challenged fantasies of rosy painted and lily-faced whites being tended to by their loving and caring black help. Something African-Americans historians, like W.E.B. DuBois and Eric Foner, had challenged countless times before: the effects of slavery and racism cannot be ignored and how "his-story," if not challenged, can rewrite and destroy the accurate accounts of history.
Stampps' legacy is further honored by his esteemed understudy, Pulitzer Prize winner and historian, Leon Litwack who said in his conclusion of Stampp that "the voices of slaves could no longer be denied." In 1965, Stampp also participated in the civil rights marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King and shortly afterwards he wrote "The Era of Reconstruction, 1865 - 1877." In which the focus was on the "Radical Republicans" and their efforts to keep African-Americans from joining American politics during the Reconstruction Period that followed the Civil War.
Both books I have had the pleasure of reading while studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara and San Diego State University. And I recommend other recent works of his that are not limited to but include, "The Imperiled Union" (1980) and "American in 1857: A Nation on the Brink," (1990).
So to me, Stampps' legacy is worth much more to our renege movement we call HipHop and deserves an honorable mentioning to say the least. In that it takes people like Stampp who gave us a voice to challenge what American says about HipHop and how its being enjoyed today. HipHop is not all about sex, guns, and money. It is also about the plight of people, their growing pains and life struggles to be perceived as just human. Just as a people...with a voice that deserves to be heard no matter what color, young or old.
Go to your library and pick up a book. I mean an old, stinky book that is out of print. Take an interest in your history, in yourself. In order to know where you're going you need to know where you've been. Know ya history! Knowledge is power, but with applied knowledge you have unlimited power!
Namaste.

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