The Hampton National Historic Park in Maryland, takes Black History Month very seriously. So much so that they refuse to contain the celebration to its scheduled 28 days in February, and observe Black history “every month.” In accordance with their tradition, the park has decided to allow visitors to be a “Slave for a Day” on July 8.
Park ranger and event organizer Angela Roberts-Burton—a Black woman—thought the promotion would be a good learning experience for those yearning to be treated like slaves. “By no means am I trying to, or are we the Park Service, trying to assimilate the atrocities that slave African-Americans endured,” she said. “This is just a glimpse of the hard work, being out in the heat and sun.”
According to an announcement which has since been re-worded on their website, this is the “first time ever” that the park has tried the slave-inspired excursion, which allows patrons to “carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders!”
Roberts-Burton claims to have received 50 emails complaining about the exclamation points and wording used in the advertisement.
Anthony Fugett, vice president of a local chapter of the NAACP, defended the plan, but blasted the execution. “The event was well-intentioned, but the name may have been inappropriate, and I'm glad to see they changed it,” he said. “I don't see it as a menacing event at all. Slavery is a part of the history of the country and the state of Maryland. The one thing we don't want is for our history to be missed, and sometimes it's good to get a perspective of a day in the life of a slave.”
With a background that includes extensive studying of the “African-diaspora” and a master's degree from Howard University, Roberts-Burton created a Facebook page to defend herself, noting that the “people who are complaining about this are people who don't even come here.”
For now the event is still scheduled to take place, but given the response to Adida's “slave shackle” sneakers, a college educated woman like Roberts-Burton should have expected the backlash.
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Photo: Themes in American History