America’s Closet: The Road Trip It’s Time to Take

Much of America’s history has been shoved in a closet in the very rear of the basement behind stacks of mildewed books and broken dining room chairs waiting to be fixed someday.

We know the closet is down there. We walk past it all the time, the door just slightly ajar, the old porcelain doorknob ready for the turning. But we don’t look inside. It’s too scary, too likely that there will be something in the closet that we’ll have to deal with, pick up and handle. It will be unpleasant, messy, a reckoning with our neglect.

The road trip I want to take is a slow, backroad study of American slavery.

I don’t have the first notion of how to organize such a trip, but I bet there are people who will tell me. I know that big museums and historical tours are resources, that many people have invested tremendous time and money to telling the story, and so those places should be visited and appreciated. But I want to dig deeper, get off the tourist trail. Sit on the earth that people walked, look at the same rivers, hold something in my hand that is real, even if it’s stones from an old road.

It isn’t guilt that drives me, although as a white American and a person whose ancestors in New York almost certainly owned slaves in the 1700’s, there is reason to feel guilt, for sure. What pushes me toward this exploration is a thirst for knowledge or, more honestly put, a disgust with my own ignorance. Even though I’ve done plenty of reading, there is no substitute for going, for being physically present, and seeing with my own eyes the history the road has to offer.

It’s time to pull open the closet door and sort through what’s there.


Written in response to the WordPress #Bloganuary prompt: What is a road trip you would love to take?

Photo by stephan cassara on Unsplash

5 Comments on “America’s Closet: The Road Trip It’s Time to Take

  1. Please find and read “How The Story is Passed,” by Clint Smith. It will give you a good leg up on imagining such a trip.

  2. When visiting an old plantation house and grounds in Louisiana – a beautifully restored historical visitor attraction – I asked where the slave quarters were, only to be told they had been in the area now occupied by the new toilet block and car park… to me that said it all, really, about the continued covering up of uncomfortable history into the present. Mind you we’re bad at the glorification of white history at the expense of black history here in the UK, too, where many slave owners/ traders originated. We have myriad street names and statues, and so many grand public buildings only built at all due to the enormous showy wealth created by the unpalatable truth that was the flagrant commodification of some people by other people. It’s surprisingly difficult to understand just how much hidden history there exists in the everyday world, sometimes as much by what’s actually missing from the normalised white-washed narrative as what has been preserved for posterity… 🙁

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