Excerpt from American Histories by John E. Wideman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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American Histories

by John E. Wideman

American Histories by John E. Wideman X
American Histories by John E. Wideman
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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American Histories
A PREFATORY NOTE

Dear Mr. President,

I send this note along with some stories I've written, and hope you will find time in your demanding schedule to read both note and stories. The stories should speak for themselves. The note is a plea, Mr. President. Please eradicate slavery.

I am quite aware, sir, that history says the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in the United States of America in 1865, and that ensuing amendments extended to former slaves the precious rights and protections our nation guarantees to all its citizens regardless of color. But you should understand better than most of us, Mr. President, that history tells as many lies as truths.

The Thirteenth Amendment announced the beginning of the end of slavery as a legal condition in America. Slavery as a social condition did not disappear. After serving our nation for centuries as grounds to rationalize enslavement, African ancestry and colored skin remain acceptable reasons for the majority of noncolored Americans to support state-sponsored, state-enforced segregation, violence, and exploitation. Skin color continues to separate some of us into a category as unforgiving as the label property stamped on a person. Dividing human beings into immutable groups identifiable by skin color reincarnates scientifically discredited myths of race. Keeps alive the unfortunate presumption, held by many of my fellow citizens, that they belong to a race granted a divine right to act as judges, jurors, and executioners of those who are members of other incorrigibly different and inferior races.

What should be done, Mr. President. Our nation is deeply unsafe. I feel threatened and vulnerable. What can I do. Or you. Do we need another Harpers Ferry. Do we possess in our bottomless arsenal a weapon to demolish lies that connect race, color, and slavery.

By the time this note reaches your desk, Mr. President, if it ever does, you may be a woman. No surprise. Once we had elected a colored President, the block was busted. Perhaps you are a colored woman, and that would be an edifying surprise.

This note is getting too long. And to be perfectly honest, Mr. President, I believe terminating slavery may be beyond even your vast powers. My guess is that slavery won't disappear until only two human beings left alive, neither one strong enough to enslave the other.

Anyway, please read on and enjoy the stories that follow. No strings attached. No obligation to free a single slave of any color, Ms. or Mr. President.

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Excerpted from American Histories by John E Wideman. Copyright © 2018 by John E Wideman. Excerpted by permission of Scribner. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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