The Hampton National Historic Site's Angela Roberts-Burton wants to be very clear that, despite some negative reactions to the title, the "Slave for a Day" event that she conceptualized and advertised as part of a black-history educational series for the Maryland park's website was not the result of thoughtlessness about the gravity of the black experience in America. In fact, quite the opposite.
The title and advertising for the event have been called insensitive because, as one critic put it, "some things are too profound to playact," the Washington Post reports. Not to mention, the language in the release uses exclamation points to note that it was the "first time ever at Hampton!" and participants could "carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders!"
But Roberts-Burton explains that she studied the Diaspora while earning her master's degree at Howard University, and that while she knew the event pushed boundaries, the original title — which has been changed to "Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved on the Hampton Plantation" — was meant to draw attention to the event. (A free program will allow participants to experience the same type of farm labor as those enslaved in Maryland did and will end with a memorial ceremony commemorating the enslaved.)
It's definitely not sugarcoated, but that was the idea. Vincent Vaise, chief of interpretation for the National Park Service, overseeing Maryland's Hampton and Fort McHenry parks, said, "To be blunt, we could do a concert or a furniture tour — that's easy history," "These are the types of things the Park Service wants to do to make itself relevant. But when you go there [discussing slavery], we know we have to expect some people are going to react, and we should be ready for it."
Often, when we hear racially "insensitive" comments or advertising, they come from a shallow or inadequate appreciation of African-American history. And the type of eye-opening educational experience this event is designed to provide is arguably the best fix for that type of ignorance. So can we give the organizers a pass for the original name? Or is "Slave for a Day" never OK?
Read more at the Washington Post.