The singing slave
In his letter last week, Amoja Sumler effectively illustrated some of the difficulties of interpreting the antebellum period in Arkansas history. The museum presented the "happily singing" slave and the mistreated slave as two of any number of possibilities concerning the experience of enslaved people. We definitely hope that the visitor hears a subtext in the singing and recoils from any suggestion of abuse. We try to walk the fine line of acceptability to visiting families, while making the uncomfortable point that the institution of slavery required at least the threat of force. But we do not want to drive our visitors away from the museum or from history, so we will take Mr. Sumler's criticisms seriously, as we do all visitor comments.
As a member of the Board of the Historic Arkansas Museum, I read the letter from Mr. Sumler with interest. I did want to point out that last year at HAM, we presented and inaugurated one of the first Slave Memorials in the United States. In what can only be called one of the most moving performances of HAM's history, the cast and others Mr. Sumler refers to, presented a Slave Memory, while the actual known names (researched from the County Real Estate Records) were read aloud. Then candles were lit round the memorial by the descendants of both slaves AND slave owners that actually owned and worked the land that the Museum sits on. This memorial is there for all time for people to see. I was grateful to be part of putting it together and honor their memory.
From the web
In response to the March 21 cover story, "The Battle of 10th and Main," about the homeless in Little Rock:
I personally think the numbers [of homeless] are higher than you are talking. The committee [on the homeless problem] has not even bothered for two years? We are talking about thousands homeless; how are they taking census when the homeless are not there to respond? Granted there are a few soup kitchens and you all are throwing money into day resources. Most all shelters is a place to sleep and then back on the streets until another night, and then you're lucky if there is room in these places you speak of to sleep again the next night. I think it's great what they do, but it is not solving the problem of homelessness, and sitting around for two years doing nothing and knowing the problem is so bad in this town is ridiculous. I often wonder do they think of the way homeless have to survive and could any one of them do the same. I think not! Maybe go sleep around back alleys and then understand. But yet here we have corporations running in here tearing down neighborhoods to put their high dollar condos in when the state could be fixing its own problem of the homeless by refurbishing the places that are here. The condos may be good for the rich but as usual the poor pay that price. Why keep throwing money in to give people scraps when you have the power to give them a place to hang their hats?
In response to the March 13 cover story, "Make Way for Progress," on the Little Rock Technology Park Authority's plans to level a neighborhood for the park:
Leave the neighborhoods alone and put the Technology Park in at War Memorial Park. A golf course is not much to lose when there are other golf courses nearby: Rock Creek, Western Hills, Rebsamen, Pleasant Valley, Chenal, LRCC, and numerous golf courses at Lindsey apartment complexes. In fact, many golf courses are going broke because people have more entertainment alternatives than years ago. Also, the popularity of golf is fading fast because it takes too much time and money. Ray Winder Field also needs to go. Longer range, they should get rid of War Memorial Stadium and relocate the zoo.
In response to the article on Arkansas State University's proposal to demolish the home of the first president of the university, V.C. Kays:
Dr. Scott Darwin has performed an admirable service to the community by bringing awareness to the proposed demolition of the Kays house. It is one place on campus that speaks to the beginning of what eventually became Arkansas State University. I add my plea that this house be preserved in the memory of the first president of the institution, V. C. Kays.
Mary Lee Marcom
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