One of the true bummers about the fabric of reality and the nature of spacetime is that time travel isn’t possible. But humanity’s urge to experience the past and foresee the future is a strong one, and since when have we ever let something like scientific impossibility or astronomical odds stop us? Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. In lieu of a literal time machine, humans, clever creatures that we are, invent, recreate and reimagine history while also crafting and projecting the future through storytelling.
In this blog series, we’ll travel through time in the fictional dimension. Each post will recommend works of fiction set in a specific historical (or future) time and/or place. Explore different perspectives of the past and forecasts of the future in Stacks to the Future.
Today’s Destination: The American South, 1619-1865
On June 19th, we celebrate Juneteenth, a day that marks the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were finally freed, despite the fact that they had been freed two years before by the Emancipation Proclamation. According to Juneteenth.com, the delay was due to the way the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced – or in this case, not. Enslaved people were typically liberated with the advancement of the Union Army. Because Texas was on the frontier of the Confederacy, it was not until 1865 that Union Army General Gordon Granger announced General Order Number 3, which finally abolished slavery in Texas.
This time we’ll explore a larger time frame: 1619-1865, the era of American slavery. During this time, (primarily white) European colonists and eventually (primarily white) Americans enslaved primarily African people and their descendants. The legacy of American slavery lingers today, not only within generational memory but also in our politics, economy and our very national landscape. The fight for Black lives endures.
This installment of Stacks to the Future celebrates Juneteenth by featuring fictionalized narratives – all by Black authors – taking place during the era of American slavery. I have also provided a list of non-fiction readings if you are interested in exploring history beyond these stories.
You can find these titles either in person in our library stacks or in our digital collection. Title descriptions are provided by the publisher.
Explore the Era Through Nonfiction
Uncover the history of Juneteenth in the essays of Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth (2021).
Discover a new origin story for American slavery beginning not with the birth of America in 1776 but rather in 1619, the year the first enslaved Africans were brought to America in The 1619 Project: a New Origin Story, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman and Jake Silverstein (2021)
Explore the intersection of history, food and Black American identity in The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty (2017)
Encounter first-hand narratives and perspectives of American slavery in The Great Stain: Witnessing American Slavery by Noel Rae (2018)
Navigate Black masculinity, its history and frontiers in We real cool: Black men and masculinity by bell hooks (2004)
Imagine a strange world as insidious as our own in the television series Watchmen (2019), a sequel to Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name. Watchmen offers a glimpse at an alternate world where, despite the existence of real-life superheroes, the reality of racism and America’s history of racial violence lurks just as close to the surface as in our own time.