Slave for a day? Wow, Hampton National Historic Site “Slave for a Day” event drew a lot of criticism for its insensitive implication. The press release also stated participants could “carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders.” Um, really Park Ranger Angela Roberts-Burton, you didn’t think anyone would object? The event release was removed from the Hampton National Historic Site’s website on Tuesday.
Clearly Ms. Roberts-Burton’s heart is in the right place…educating others about the American experience, which unfortunately included slavery, but the way she went about it was just insensitive. I am tracing my family history right now and I know the end point will be a slave and a slave owner, but I don’t want to relive that experience to the point of wearing a yoke on my shoulders. Yeah, when I think “slave for a day,” being packed like sardines on a stinky, nasty ship comes to mind, along diseases, rapes, lynchings, beatings, back-breaking work in the blazing sun and branding like cattle come to mind. Sorry, carrying water is the least of the slave experience in the country and the world.
The event, now under the heading “Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved on the Hampton Plantation,” is scheduled for July 8th, though it still references carrying water with a “yoke on your shoulders.” The reality for me is that we can never experience what our ancestors went through, so being a slave for a day is actually an affront to their legacy. There’s no glory in the whole slave experience in this country. Many women and girls were raped by their slave owners and their sons. They were denied basic rights and, above all, their dignity and freedom taken. So, please, excuse me if the whole “slave for a day” thing is insulting.