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Jesmyn Ward on Ta-Nehisi Coates and slavery

I just had the pleasure of reading the August 2019 Vanity Fair article on Ta-Nehisi Coates by Jesmyn Ward. It was so beautifully written that I will have to get my hands on more of her award-winning work. I’m a little intimidated, as I am with Ta-Nehisi, that the writing will be intellectually challenging and emotionally-shattering that either my head or my heart might explode! Here’s a sample of Jesmyn’s writing about the thinking that serves as Ta-Nehisi’s foundational thoughts about slavery:

“That sense of longing moves beyond couples, as parents long for children, brothers for sisters, cousins for cousins, friends for friends. Families and communities were dislocated, sold South for profit as plantations in the upper South failed, and this is the longing that Coates speaks of that undergirded millions of lives. This is the great sea that disoriented them, drenched them, and drowned them for generations. SLAVERY WAS THE ANTITHESIS OF LOVE [emphasis mine]. While love sharpens awareness of humanity, makes us focus on the beloved’s way of singing to themselves when they think no one can hear, their way of holding their head just so when they are listening intently, their way of crying when they are angry or laughing when they are sad, slavery does the exact opposite work. It dulls the awareness of humanity, reduces the enslaved to object, to tool, and to cash.”


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