Be a ‘Slave for a Day’: Controversial black history event held by National Park
At Hampton National Historic Park in Maryland, “Black History Month is every month.” But this month they decided to try something new. Guests had the opportunity to be a ‘Slave for a Day’. Kids were able to do some of the things that slaves did so that they could experience them. “Work in the fields with actual hoes and scythes. Carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders.”
The announcement drew a lot of attention, especially from Baltimore Fishbowl blogger Rachel Monroe. “Clearly Hampton is approaching this from an education-is-good! perspective. Their hearts are in the right place,” Monroe wrote. “Still, the inescapable and brutal fact of slavery was that it wasn’t for a day…. Some things are too profound to playact, it seems to me.”
Park ranger and event organizer, Angela Roberts-Burton, who is African-American, told the Washington Post that she was excited because this program would be the first time event at the Parks and was trying to get a catchy title to get as many people to come to the event.
“By no means am I trying to, or are we the Park Service, trying to assimilate the atrocities that slave African-Americans endured,” Roberts-Burton said Wednesday.
“I don’t see it as a menacing event at all,” Anthony Fugett, vice president of the Baltimore County chapter of the NAACP said. “Slavery is a part of the history of the country and the state of Maryland. The one thing we don’t want is for our history to be missed, and sometimes it’s good to get a perspective of a day in the life of a slave.” But he did agree that the title was an issue.
Since Monday, when the announcement for the event was posted, the title of the event was changed to “Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved on the Hampton Plantation”. Robert–Burton changed it because they had received hundreds of calls in response to the title.
Robert-Burton, a graduate from Howard University, who has studied the African Diaspora, hopes that even more people will come to the event. And she hopes that more African-Americans will attend too.
“We have programs on a monthly basis on the African-American experience, and most of the time people who attend are a majority white,” Roberts-Burton said. “We’re trying to get more African-Americans to come to the site, but considering the city is majority black, the majority of our visitation is white.”
Recently, musician Joe Becton performed a concert detailing the evolution of blues music. Roberts-Burton said it was attended by 40 people, “and there wasn’t one African-American sitting there.”