Photographer, Jeanine Michna-Bales has documented the route of the Underground Railroad,. The images were shot at night to remind viewers that enslaved Africans seeking freedom traveled under cover of darkness. Despite the fact that true freedom remained out of reach, hundreds of Black slaves made the 1,400 mile journey from the cotton plantations of Louisiana in the USA, sometimes as far north as Ontario, Canada. See the photo-essay in Through Darkness to Light | VQR Online
by Harold Adrian Beckles
“..Well is one trip/[chorus] de Caribbean man/on de same ship/[chorus] de Caribbean man/an’ is one race/[chorus, as above]/in de same place …,” are the words that mark the distinctive antiphonal dynamics of a highly popular calypso of some years past, as its Trinidadian performer made an appeal for Caribbean peoples to embrace a heightened intercultural Pan-Caribbean awareness that would be founded upon a greater popular agitation for regional re-federation at the political level. The question that emerges here, becomes this one: ‘What is this “one trip .. on de same ship,” when it is taken as the animating force that energizes the writings of a James Baldwin placed in conjunction with those of his West Indian peers Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott?’ To a significant extent, the answer, as it applies to these three writer-academic, New World Africans, is, the sea. For, according to St. Lucian-born poet and playwright Derek Walcott, “The sea is History” (derek walcott: poems 237). The West Coast of Africa, Brathwaite’s “painfields” of the Caribbean, and the terminal ‘human marketplaces’ of the American southlands, were points that triangulated the European colonial powers’ operation of The trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. These geographical points also serve to interweave the contemporary voices of these three writers of the Americas, across the abyss of memory within which their common ancestral spirits, in turn war against racial amnesia to awaken their sons and daughters to a purposeful vision for their people’s future.