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Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

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By the nineteenth century, the Africa envisioned by blacks in the Americas had everything to do with a future in which our subjection would end and the race would be redeemed. Even when otherwise undetected, I was betrayed when I opened my mouth and heard my father's Brooklyn brogue rippling across the surface of my studied speech, wreaking havoc with the regimented syntax enforced by my mother the grammarian, whose scrupulous speech was a way of masking her southern origins and blending into New York.

A personalized approach to history that pushes me to read more and will have me pondering for some time. For Mary Ellen, there was no longer a future in being an African American, only the burden of history and disappointment. I had to use the bathroom, but I was too scared to venture down the hallway, so I peed (that is, I tried to) in an empty water bottle.She makes us feel the horror of the African slave trade, by playing with our sense of scale, by measuring the immense destruction and displacement through its impact on vivid, imperfect, flesh-and-blood individuals — Hartman herself, the members of her immediate family she pushes away but mulls over, the Ghanaians she meets while doing her field work and the slaves whose lives she imaginatively reconstructs from the detritus of slavery’s records. Torn from kin and community, exiled from one's country, dishonored and violated, the slave defines the position of the outsider.

It belonged to the Old Garveyites who assembled every August in Mount Morris Park to celebrate Garvey's birthday and who wore their United Negro Improvement Association uniforms no less proudly half a century later. When the path home disappeared, when misfortune wore a white face, when dark skin guaranteed perpetual servitude, the prison house of race was born.Telling the truth risked fueling the racism that could see Africa only through the Kurtzian lens of horror, warring tribes, filth, pestilence, famine, and AIDS. My direct way of speaking sounded sharp-edged and angular when compared to the tactful evasion and obliging indirection of the local English idiom.

Written in prose that is fresh, insightful, and deeply affecting, Lose Your Mother is a "landmark text" (Robin D. Unlike the concentration camp, the gulag, and the killing field, which had as their intended end the extermination of a population, the Atlantic trade created millions of corpses, but as a corollary to the making of commodities. Malcolm X visited and lectured in Ghana in an effort to build the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Eloquent, thoughtful, and deeply affecting, Lose Your Mother is a powerful meditation on history, memory, and the Atlantic slave trade. Hartman has found a most compelling narrative voice that enables the dreaded Middle Passage and the tomb of slavery to speak to a new generation of readers.For Hartman, the dream she finds in Ghana is "an elsewhere, with all its promises and dangers, where the stateless might, at last, thrive. On the anniversary of Sankara's assassination, I didn't respect his memory with a moment of silence or think of the makeshift grave in which his body had been dumped or shed a tear because another path to Utopia had been blocked. The old forms of tyranny, which they had endeavored to defeat, were resuscitated and the despots lived long and vigorous lives. In 1787 Prince Hall didn't believe so when he petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts, along with seventy-three other black men, requesting that the state repatriate its black residents because he thought it doubtful that they would ever experience anything other than racism and inequality in the white man's country.

The Amsterdam News expressed a similar sentiment: "The independence of Ghana breaks another link in the powerful chain that…enchained the black man…It is not so much a question of color that we rejoice over Ghana as it is a question of freedom. When I moved out of the guesthouse at the end of the week, I doubted whether my way of seeing things had any footing in reality.It’s old news for those progress-minded people focusing on Ghana’s many current social and economic woes, and it’s too painful for others who want to avoid the collective guilt of remembering the ways Africans in the former Gold Coast facilitated the slave trade. No doubt he remembered his grandfather, whose land had been stolen by a white neighbor upon his death, forcing his wife and children off the property. The Iberians can be credited, according to one historian, "for restricting bondage, for the first time in history to peoples of African descent. In Lose Your Mother, Saidiya Hartman traces the history of the Atlantic slave trade by recounting a journey she took along a slave route in Ghana. She was also wearing of feeling like a stranger, homeless within the home, the continued statelessness.

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